The Missouri General Assembly returns to Jefferson City this week for a special session called by Gov. Bob Holden. It should be interesting in the capital city as lawmakers discuss massive cuts in state spending and a proposal to revamp a state drug prescription policy to help low-income elderly residents. But the atmosphere in Jefferson City will be chilly given the political fallout from the Governor's collective bargaining executive order that now appears to be a direct agreement between Holden and organized labor.
Special sessions are notoriously wasteful ventures. Let me explain the nature of a special session. Let's say you work Monday through Friday but make a mistake and fail to get your work completed. So you come to work on Saturday - with full pay - to correct the mistake you made during the week. That describes a special session of the state legislature.
And here's the real reason for the costly special session. Three years ago the General Assembly approved legislation that would have the state pay about half of the prescription cost of medicines for low income Missourians who make just above the Medicaid guideline levels. It's hard to argue with a program that helps those most in need. But the problem is the program was projected to cost $20 million and ended up costing about $85 million.
So Gov. Holden appointed a task force to offer a solution. Well the task force stalled and waited until mid-summer to begin hearings. And on the day before the special session is to begin, the task force will provide the Governor with their new program. The cost? About $85 million a year.
That's right. Given a chance to correct an error, the task force will propose a new program that will cost just about what the current program is costing. How the Governor hopes to pay for this program at the same time he is cutting all other programs should be interesting.
But behind the scene in Jefferson City next week will be the ongoing political battle over Holden's executive order unionizing many state workers for collective bargaining purposes. An investigation by Sen. Peter Kinder uncovered an agreement between the unions and Holden to strike the collective bargaining deal long before Holden took office.
Kinder has appointed a special committee to look into the deal but the Democrats are apparently boycotting the committee assignments. That strained atmosphere will virtually assure little to nothing positive occurs in Jefferson City.
But then again, what else is new?