SB 430 sounds like something any reasonable Missourian could support.
In the first place, it is titled "Creates the Start Smart Scholarship Program" and who can argue with scholarships?
The bill summary reads:
This act establishes the Smart Start Scholarship Program. The program will offer grants for educational expenses incurred while attending a qualifying institution for no more than two academic years to each person who attends a Missouri high school for three consecutive academic years immediately prior to being graduated from the institution, and who, within two calendar years from the date of graduation, applies for a grant under this act.
It's at the bottom of the summary that the true objective of Sen. Charlie Shields' bill comes into play:
Repeals the maximum loss limit of five hundred dollars per individual player per gambling excursion;
This repeal is something that Missouri gambling interests have wanted ever since the state had the wisdom to put it into place when gambling was legalized here to protect families from being devastated by the acts of problem gamblers. Obviously, such a limit cuts into the casinos' profits.
And Charlie Shields, a St. Joseph Republican, always has the best interests of the casinos at heart.
During 2006, Shields received $3,350 in direct campaign contributions from casino interests and an additional $1,795 from lobbyists representing casinos.
That may not sound like much, considering some of the figures that have been tossed about on this blog over the last three years, but Shields represents the 34th Senatorial District and the 34th Republican Senatorial District Committee has been swimming in casino cash.
Missouri Ethics Commission documents show casino interests poured more than $70,000 into the committee, which made numerous contributions into Shields' campaign fund.
Included in that total was $55,700 from Ameristar Casinos, $10,000 from Harrah's, $3,725 from Isle of Capri and $1,275 from Penn National Gaming.
I suspect more contributions from casino interests can be found in the Shields for Pro Tem Committee, but that name has been changed since the beginning of the calendar year, and once committee names have been changed, the inadequate search system on the Missouri Ethics Commission website does not allow a searches under the former name. Again, I ask for anyone with information about what that committee has been called, or access to the committee's disclosure reports, to contact me.
The perfected bill was approved 17-16 with area senators Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, and Norma Champion, R-Springfield, voting to remove the loss limits, and senators Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, and Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, voting no.
The bill is scheduled to have its final Senate vote Monday.