- Associated Press - Saturday, March 26, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri lawmakers are about halfway through the 2016 session and a number of priority bills still are working through the legislative process. Here’s the rundown:

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ABORTION

A Senate proposal to ban donation of fetal tissue from abortions needs initial approval from the full Senate. The bill is a response to undercover videos released last summer that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of aborted fetal body parts; Planned Parenthood has denied such actions, and the Missouri attorney general’s office has found no evidence of wrongdoing in Missouri.

The House passed a budget that bars any entity that provides or counsels a woman to get a non-emergency abortion from receiving Medicaid reimbursements, as well as a measure that would require those under 18 who want an abortion in Missouri to tell both of their parents, with some exceptions.

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ETHICS

The 2015 resignations of two former lawmakers accused of inappropriate behavior with interns spurred the effort to tighten state ethics laws.

A House goal to send legislation to Gov. Jay Nixon before spring break fell through. A House bill to ban lobbyist gifts to lawmakers is pending in the Senate, and the House and Senate are hashing out differences on a measure to end the revolving door of lawmakers immediately becoming lobbyists.

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FERGUSON

Last year’s session saw little action on bills proposed in response to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a white officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, though Republicans and some Democrats touted the passage of a measure limiting the powers and revenues of municipal courts. Bills to require police to wear body cameras and measures mean to revamp state laws on police use of deadly force were proposed again this year but haven’t been debated by the full House or Senate.

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GUNS

Republicans are looking to relax gun laws and allow firearms on college campuses with several bills that would allow schools to apply for waivers if they have security guards and weapons-screening devices at every entrance to every building on campus. Committees have reviewed the proposals, but no measures have come up for discussion in either chamber.

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LAWSUIT LIMITS

The first bill to pass in the Missouri Senate this session tightens courtroom guidelines for expert testimony. It needs another House committee vote before it can go to the full House.

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UNIONS

Though both chambers quickly passed a bill to require public employees to annually reauthorize paying their union dues through paycheck withholdings, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the measure, saying it piles on unnecessary onto public unions. GOP House Speaker Todd Richardson said lawmakers will try to override Nixon’s veto.

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RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND GAY RIGHTS

A proposed constitutional amendment to protect some businesses citing religious objections while denying goods or services related to same-sex weddings passed the Senate after a failed 37-hour filibuster by Democrats. The measure, which has received opposition from a top state business association and several companies - including agricultural giant Monsanto and credit card company MasterCard, now needs House approval before it can be put on a ballot this year.

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TRANSPORTATION

Lawmakers are divided on how to pay to fix the state’s roads and bridges. The budget proposal passed by the House would see the Department of Transportation split costs with local governments, while a Senate proposal to raise the gasoline tax by 1.5 cents per gallon and the diesel tax by 3.5 cents awaits debate in the full Senate.

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UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI

Lawmakers started the session with a barrage of criticisms about how leaders handled student protests at the Columbia campus last fall over the former administration’s perceived indifference to issues of racial discrimination. The proposed budget passed by the House cuts more than $8 million from the University of Missouri System and its Columbia campus. The budget is under review in the Senate.

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VOTER PHOTO IDENTIFICATION

House proposals to amend the state Constitution and require voters to present a form of government-issued photo identification at the polls (with exceptions) await a final Senate vote. If approved by the Legislature, the constitutional amendment would go to voters.

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