Weekly Overview: The House and Senate worked diligently this week after taking a week off for the legislative spring break. There are 7 weeks remaining in the 2021 Legislative Session and a number of high priority issues remain as unfinished business.
This week the Senate tackled a police reform bill that created a crime of doxing a police officer. The bill also bans chokeholds and removes residency requirements for officers working in Kansas City. The Senate also worked on a bill that would limit the authority of local officials to address public health emergencies. The bill sponsored by Sen. Bob Onder (R-St. Charles) was debated for eight hours on Wednesday. No compromise could be found and the bill was defeated by a bi-partisan vote of 11-19. This was the second major priority of the Senate’s Conservative Caucus that has been defeated on a Perfection vote.
The House worked a number of bills this week, but the main work was done on Thursday when the House Budget Committee finished its work on the budget bills. The House is expected to finish its version of the state’s $34.7 billion budget and send it to the Senate next week. This will give the Senate only five weeks to work out compromises on the budget before the constitutional deadline of May 7th for budget finalization.
In the news…
- In a mark-up session by the House Budget Committee on Thursday, committee members defeated HB 20, the separate appropriation bill dedicated to fund Medicaid expansion. Last August, voters approved a measure that would expand Medicaid coverage to approximately 275,000 additional Missourians with household incomes below 138% of the poverty guidelines. As proposed, HB 20 would have budgeted approximately 1.9 billion in state and federal monies to pay for the expansion. The bill was rejected by a vote of 9-20 along party lines. Republicans argued that the State simply cannot afford the price tag associated with expansion while Democrats argue that the State will save money in the long run by covering more individuals. It is expected that House Budget Chairman Cody Smith (R-Carthage) will introduce another Medicaid-specific funding bill next week.
- This week former Governor Eric Greitens and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt formally announced their intentions to run to replace U. S. Senator Roy Blunt who is not seeking re-election next year. Missouri Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe and Missouri Secretary of State Jay Aschcroft have announced that they will not seek the nomination and will most likely run for Governor in 2024.
- After narrowly passing in the House, the Senate Education Committee conducted a hearing this week on HB 349, sponsored by Rep. Phil Christofanelli (R-St. Peters). The bill would establish education savings accounts (ESAs) and allow taxpayers to claim a tax credit of up to 50% of their tax liability for contributions to educational assistance programs. Money contributed would be pooled in ESAs and used for tuition, books and other educational services. Proponents argue that ESAs will provide school choice for students while opponents argue that the bill will harm public schools by drawing students away from those traditional schools. The committee will likely take a vote on the bill next week. This bill is a high priority for House Speaker Rob Vescovo and Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden.
- Ameren received regulatory approval Wednesday to build its largest solar energy facility yet. As proposed last year, the utility plans to build a 6-megawatt solar facility in Montgomery County, along Interstate 70 about halfway between St. Louis and Columbia. The St. Louis-based energy company said construction is expected to begin this summer and finish by the end of the year. The facility is part of the company’s community solar program, which gives customers the option to pay an extra fee for “blocks” of solar energy offsets.