Missouri Lawmakers Attempt To Pass Auto Bill

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri lawmakers plan to make another attempt this week to pass legislation offering incentives to automakers and revamping the state retirement system.

Missouri's special legislative session ground to a standstill last week because of opposition from some senators to the automaker incentives and disagreement among House and Senate members over the pension bill.

But Gov. Jay Nixon held a conference call Friday with legislative leaders and said later that they had agreed on a general plan to try to pass the legislation.

House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, described the negotiations as productive and said he hoped the Senate would send the House new versions of the pension and automobile bills by the middle of this week.

Senate Majority Leader Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, said he believes there's a good chance that will happen.

The House and Senate previously passed different versions of the pension legislation. Although in agreement on the central point of requiring new employees to contribute money toward their pension plans, the Senate bill also sought to create a new pension investment board while the House version did not.

Nixon said he told lawmakers that the investment board goes beyond the agenda he set for the special session. The Missouri Constitution gives governors the power to limit the scope of special sessions.

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, the chief sponsor of the pension legislation, said Friday that he had not agreed to remove the investment board from the bill.

The automotive incentives are aimed primarily at retaining jobs at Ford Motor Co.'s assembly plant in the Kansas City suburb of Claycomo, and at the state's various automobile part suppliers.

A version passed previously by the House also would have offered tax breaks to computer data centers, elderly homeowners and various other transportation-related manufacturers. But that bill has been held up in a Senate fiscal oversight committee by its chairman, Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield.

Nixon has told lawmakers that the computer center tax breaks also go beyond his agenda for the special session.

Engler said that if there is agreement on the pension bill, he intends to get the automotive bill to the Senate floor for debate -- even if that means working around Purgason.

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