The controversial Voter ID debate came to a head this week as the Majority Party forced it through the Senate on Monday. The debate over House Bill 1631, stretched nearly 17 hours over several weeks.
Senator Jamilah Nasheed led the charge in opposition to the bill, holding the floor for almost 14 hours over the course of the debate. “It is absolutely shameful that so much time and money is being spent on the systematic disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of Missouri voters. This bill is a major step backward at a time when we need to focus on moving forward,” Sen. Nasheed said.
The final version of the bill passed by Senate included a provision that would continue to allow people without a photo ID to cast a regular ballot provided that they can show one of the forms of non-photo ID required by existing law and sign a statement affirming their identity.
This year marks the 11th straight that majority party has pushed for a photo voter ID requirement. While they claim it is necessary to combat voter fraud, voter impersonation – the only type of fraud a photo ID requirement could prevent – is basically non-existent. Democrats note that the real purpose is to disenfranchise large number of minority, elderly and disabled voters, since members of these groups are the most likely to not have a photo ID and tend to vote Democratic.
The governor is expected to the veto the bill, which sets up a possible override attempt during the September veto session. However, because the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that lawmakers have no constitutional authority to impose a photo ID requirement, HB 1631 still wouldn’t take effect unless a companion measure to change the state constitution goes on the statewide ballot and is ratified by voters.
That measure, House Joint Resolution 53, is pending in the Senate. Once approved there, it must return to the House for a final vote. As a proposed constitutional amendment, HJR 53 would bypass the governor and automatically go on the Nov. 8 ballot.
On the other side of the building, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted 109-47 in favor of overriding the governor’s veto of legislation which seeks to make it more difficult and costly for labor unions to collect membership dues. A final Senate vote is necessary to complete the override on the measure, House Bill 1891.
The governor vetoed the bill on March 18, but Republican House leaders delayed pursuing an override for seven weeks while they sought to secure the necessary two-thirds majority. In the end, they mustered the bare-minimum number of votes needed.
House Bill 1891 would impose new procedural barriers to the efficient and timely collection of union dues. Although supporters claimed the bill only would apply to government employee unions, its broad language extends to private sector unions as well.
The final week of the 2016 Legislative Session begins on Monday.
On the Floor
An extremely busy week on the floor continued into a rare Friday session during which the Senate took up more than a dozen bills. After the voter ID debate, perhaps the most notable floor vote of the week was an override of the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 586.
On May 4, the governor rejected Senate Bill 586 and the Senate voted 25-7 in favor of the override just hours later. The House of Representatives later voted 113-43 to complete the override.
Majority Republicans enacted the existing statutory formula for distributing state funding to local school districts in 2005 but have never fully funded it. Under SB 586, only $140 million – about a quarter of what the current law requires – would be necessary to declare full funding in Fiscal Year 2017. But even with the lower mark, the state still wouldn’t hit full-funding next year since lawmakers have appropriated only $71 million in additional spending for K-12 education in the upcoming budget.
Bills & Committee
This week saw major progress on several pieces of Senator Nasheed’s legislation:
- Senate Bill 618 – Anti-Shackling – Prohibits the shackling of children and pregnant women during court appearances and during labor. Senator Nasheed’s Bill, Senate Bill 977 was added as an amendment to SB 618, including language that would specifically prohibit the use of shackles for pregnant women during labor and post-partum. Senate Bill 618 has been placed on the House Calendar to be voted on before the end of the legislative session.
- Senate Bill – 588 – Expungement – Allows residents of Missouri to petition to have their record expunged after a given period of time. Senator Nasheed’s language ensured that convictions for non-violent offenses like drug possession and prostitution were included in the list of offenses that could be expunged. “I see my expungement legislation as an economic development bill,” Sen. Nasheed said. “Individuals who have paid their debt to society deserve a second chance to uplift themselves and contribute to their communities.” The bill was heard and passed by the House Civil and Criminal Proceedings Committee on Thursday, May 5. Senate Bill 588 will now be considered by the House Select Committee on Judiciary, a final hurdle before reaching the House floor.
- Senate Concurrent Resolution 50 – Suicide Prevention Month – Designates September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. “We have a long way to go in this fight, but awareness is a good first step,” said Sen. Nasheed when introducing the bill. This resolution was voted out of the Select Committee 8-0 on Thursday and should be voted on by the House promptly.
Action Demanded on the Pruitt-Igoe Site
Senator Nasheed wrote a letter to the governor last week asking him for help in addressing the Pruitt-Igoe site in north St. Louis. The site is seen by many as a symbol of the failure of federal housing policy. Senator Nasheed’s letter requested that the governor do all in his power to authorize incentives for redevelopment of the site.
Here is the St. Louis American article about Sen. Nasheed’s letter and concerns about Pruitt-Igoe.
Amtrak Student Discount
College students across Missouri are completing semester projects, studying for finals and preparing for graduation ceremonies. With the end of the school year, students can choose Amtrak as an inexpensive option to travel home when school ends the first two weeks of May.
With the Amtrak Student Discount, students 17-25 years old can travel for 15 percent off the lowest value rail fare and flexible rail fare year-round on all routes. Valid student identification is required to receive the discount. Missouri’s Amtrak Missouri River Runner, is active between St. Louis and Kansas City including stops in Kirkwood, Washington, Hermann, Jefferson City, Sedalia, Warrensburg, Lee’s Summit and Independence.
When riding Amtrak, passengers enjoy free Wi-Fi on many routes, outlets to keep computers and phones charged; as well as a generous baggage allowance of up to two carry-on bags and two checked bags where checked baggage is available.
BARC St. Louis, Carol House Quick Fix, and the City of St. Louis Animal Care and Control (ACC) have extended this year’s “FREE Pit Fix” event through May. “This is a great chance for low-income pit bull and pit mix owners to get their animals spayed/neutered, vaccinated, tagged, and microchipped for free” said Melba Moore, the acting director and commissioner of health for the City of St. Louis Department of Health.
Complaints received by the ACC often include pit bulls and pit mix breeds. These breeds also stay the longest at the City’s animal shelter. Any dog impounded by ACC cannot leave the shelter without being spayed or neutered.
Legislature Blocks Raise for Home Care Workers
On May 3, the House of Representatives voted 119-36 to complete a veto override on a resolution blocking a modest wage increase for home health care workers employed by companies under contract with the state. The House’s action on Senate Concurrent Resolution 46 came nearly a month after the Senate voted 24-8 to overrule the governor’s veto of the measure.
Under the now-rejected rule proposed by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, pay for home care workers would have increased from the current rate of $7.65 an hour to between $8.50 and $10.15 an hour. Such workers provide in-home care to elderly and disabled Missourians.
Republican supporters of the resolution said the department exceeded its legal authority in enacting the rule. In his veto message, the governor, a Democrat, said that rationale “is wrong on the law and is a pretext for denying a wage increase to personal care attendants.”
House Advances Proposed ‘Personhood’ Amendment
The House of Representatives voted 110-37 to advance a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to grant full constitutional rights to the unborn at all stages of prenatal development. The Republican-sponsored measure, House Joint Resolution 98, now heads to the Senate, where it is unlikely to win final approval with just one week remaining in the 2016 Legislative Session.
If it did clear the, legislature, HJR 98 would go on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot. So-called “personhood” amendments have appeared on the ballot in several other states, including Mississippi, North Dakota and trice in Colorado, and have been overwhelming rejected on every occasion.
Fiscal Year 2016 Revenue Growth Slips to 2.7 Percent in April
Net state general revenue collections increased 2.7 percent during the first 10 months of the Fiscal Year 2016 (FY 2016) compared to the same period in Fiscal Year 2015, going from $7.22 billion last year to $7.41 billion this year. Year-to-date collections had been running 4.2 percent of the previous year through the first nine months of FY 2016.
Net general revenue collections for April 2016 decreased by 4.6 percent compared to those for April 2015, going from $1.26 billion to $1.21 billion. FY 2016 ends June 30.
May 2016 Orientation Schedule
High School Equivalency Classes
SLATE Missouri Career Center
1520 Market St. 3rd Floor, 63103
Tuesday May 17 9:00am to 12:00pm
Wednesday May 18 9:00am to 12:00pm
Thursday May 19 9:00am to 12:00pm
STL Workforce Center @ Cherokee & Ohio
2715 Cherokee St., 63118
Monday May 2 8:30am to 12:30pm
Wednesday May 4 8:30am to 12:30pm
Monday May 9 8:30am to 12:30pm
STL Workforce Center @ Prince Hall
4411 N. Newstead Ave., 63115
Tuesday May 3 9:00am to 12:00pm
Wednesday May 4 9:00am to 12:00pm
Thursday May 5 9:00am to 12:00pm
Those wishing to participate must be registered with SLATE before orientation. For more information or to schedule, call SLATE at (314) 589-8000
Adult Education & Literacy (AEL) Orientation sessions are three days. Due to limited seating, the sessions are first come, first served. Students must arrive no later than 8:30 a.m.
For high school equivalency or AEL class locations close to your home, call SLPS Adult Education and Literacy at (314) 367-5000.