On the Floor
This week, the Missouri General Assembly passed a more than $35 billion state operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year. This funding covers various departments of government, service on debt, maintenance and capital improvement projects. While the budget provides resources for a wide range of state services, the budget most notably fails to include additional funding for the expansion of Medicaid, which Missouri voters approved in August 2020. I believe it is likely the General Assembly will be back to address this issue, due to a likely court challenge.
Beyond the budget, the General Assembly this week also approved several other bills, which now head to the governor to be signed into law:
- House Bill 349, establishing the “Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program.
- House Bill 476, modifying provisions relating to occupational license reciprocity for military members.
- House Bill 362, modifying provisions for Missouri’s sunshine law.
- Senate Bill 71, allowing pets to be included in orders of protections.
- Senate Bill 176, enacting provisions relating to emerging technologies.
- Senate Bill 49, modifying provisions relating to public safety.
- Senate Bill 6, enacting provisions relating to insurance.
- House Joint Resolution 35, modifying provisions for the state treasurer’s ability to invest.
- House Bill 685, changing certain requirements to run for certain public office.
Back in the Senate, we passed my Senate Bill 317. This bill seeks to incorporate due process into hearings determining whether or not it is appropriate to suspend a business, occupational or other license for individuals who have not paid their child support. This legislation now heads to the Missouri House of Representatives for its consideration.
Another important issue the Senate discussed this week dealt with unemployment overpayments. House Bill 1083 would allow the state to waive the repayment of non-fraudulent unemployment benefits that were mistakenly given out. While this aspect of the bill enjoys broad bipartisan support, a new version of the bill was introduced adding language to reduce the length of time Missourians could collect benefits. In my opinion, Missouri is already one of the least generous states when it comes to unemployment benefits, and I, as well as several of my colleagues, do not believe we need to be restricting these benefits further. Ultimately, the bill was laid over for further debate.
Next week is the last week of session. There are currently several bills awaiting conference committees and additional votes in the Senate before they can be passed out of the Legislature. I expect several of these bills to come up again next week, including:
- House Bill 542, establishing the Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact.
- House Bill 604, modifying provisions regarding the regulation of insurance
- House Bill 59, establishing provisions to protect personal information of active and retired first responders.
- House Bill 604, modifying provisions regarding the regulation of insurance.
- House Bill 529, establishing a minimum biodiesel fuel content mandate for diesel fuel sold or offered for sale in Missouri.
- Senate Bill 226, modifying the filing periods for the remittance of sales taxes.
Bills and Committees
Senator May’s Legislation:
My Senate Bill 57 , which creates the Economic Distress Fund, continues to move through the Missouri House of Representatives. This week, the bill was approved by the House’s Administrative Oversight Committee. It now heads to the full House chamber for debate.
Meanwhile, my Senate Bill 323, which allows school districts to offer elective social studies courses on the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, has been approved by the House’s Legislative Oversight Committee.
The Senate’s Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee discussed House Bill 242 this week. This legislation modifies provisions regarding telecommunication practices.
Conference committees met for over eight hours on May 5 to work out differences between House and Senate versions of the state’s operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year. I had the opportunity to serve on the conference committees for House Bill 3, House Bill 8 and House Bill 11. I was also successful in adding money into the budget for key programs in the City of St. Louis. Look for our complete breakdown in the End of Session Report in the coming weeks.
As of May 6, 2021, the Missouri COVID-19 Dashboard reports an average of 366 new COVID-19 cases per day over the past week.
As of May 5, the City of St. Louis Health Department has reported a total of 21,863 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the City of St. Louis.