- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 6, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri lawmakers arrived at the Capitol on Wednesday to start the 2016 session, during which they are expected to discuss changes to the Legislature’s ethics policies, how to come up with the money to fix aging roads and bridges, changes to laws on abortion and whether to require photo identification for voting.

Here are some of the top issues to watch:

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ABORTION

Proposals so far in the GOP-led Legislature include a ban on fetal tissue donation from abortions, which comes amid a backlash over undercover videos released last summer showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the transfer of aborted fetal body parts.

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ELECTIONS

At least seven lawmakers are running for either U.S. Congress or a statewide elected office in 2016, which some legislative leaders have said could mean longer debates and more speeches.

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ETHICS

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who will leave office after this session, and the Republican legislative leaders all say tightening state ethics laws is a priority. The push follows the resignations in 2015 of two former lawmakers accused of inappropriate behavior toward interns.

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FERGUSON

Missouri’s 2015 legislative session ended with little action on bills proposed in response to black 18-year-old Michael Brown’s fatal shooting by a white officer, although 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 to revamp the state’s laws on police use of deadly force were proposed again this year.

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GUNS

Bills on firearms include measures that would allow guns on college campuses. One would allow for schools to apply for waivers if they have security guards and weapons-screening devices at every entrance to every building on campus.

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LAWSUIT LIMITS

Though they passed limits last year on how much victims could win in medical malpractice cases, Republican leaders are still pushing for additional restrictions on liability lawsuits. That’s after the state Supreme Court overturned previous limits.

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RAMS

Lawmakers upset by efforts to lure the Rams to stay in St. Louis by building a new football stadium without a public or legislative vote likely will continue to vent frustrations if such plans move forward. One proposed bill would require approval from the Legislature for the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority to extend or issue new bonds that would financially obligate the state. GOP House Speaker Todd Richardson said concerns center on how Nixon is proposing to build the new stadium and that if the governor continues with plans “you’re going to see a robust legislative response.”

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RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND GAY RIGHTS

While Senate Minority Leader Joe Keaveny proposed legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, both Republican Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard and Richardson cited concerns with religious freedom.

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TRANSPORTATION

Lawmakers will again try to find additional funding to help repair the state’s aging roads and bridges. One potential fix that’s been proposed is a measure to raise the gasoline tax by 1.5 cents per gallon and the diesel tax by 3.5 cents.

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UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI

Primarily Republican lawmakers already have criticized how leaders handled student protests at the Columbia campus over the former administration’s perceived indifference to issues of racial discrimination. Protests that drew national attention to Mizzou, along with administrators’ response, likely will come up again in the Legislature. House Minority Leader Jake Hummel said it’s the Legislature’s job to fund the university and not “meddle in their affairs.”

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VOTER PHOTO IDENTIFICATION

Proposals would require voters to present a form of government-issued photo identification at the polls in order to vote, with exceptions.

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Associated Press writer Adam Aton contributed to this report.


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