Legislative Actions and Information for the Week of March 9, 2020
|On the Floor
The Senate is no stranger to late nights, and on Monday, March 9, the Senate debated House Bill 1693 until around midnight. The legislation creates a statewide prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) that would allow doctors to access a patient’s prescription habits in the hope of cutting down on opioid abuse and misuse. This is an issue the state has been debating for years and has often stalled in the Senate over privacy concerns. After hours of debate, a compromise was reached on the bill, and the bill was allowed to be perfected. Perhaps the biggest change in the Senate version of HB 1693 is that the PDMP would be under the supervision of the newly-created Joint Oversight Task Force for Prescription Drug Monitoring rather than the Department of Health and Senior Services. On March 12, HB 1693 was voted out of the chamber and returned to the House of Representatives for approval.
On Wednesday, March 11, the Senate debated Senate Bill 648, regarding taxation. This legislation seeks to require online vendors to collect sales tax on the products they sell online. Described as a “revenue neutral” bill, the legislation also reduces Missouri’s top income tax rate, revises several tax credit programs and makes several other changes to our state’s tax laws. This is a complicated bill with many working parts and was the subject of much discussion. Ultimately, after several hours of debate, SB 648 was laid over for future debate.
While legislative work progressed on the floor, lawmakers began taking precautions against the spread of the coronavirus. Leadership from both chambers encouraged guests not directly participating in legislative business to refrain from visiting the Capitol. On Thursday, March 12, an additional step was taken to close the Senate, beginning March 13. The Senate will be closed at least until March 30 as a precaution against the coronavirus.
According to the Department of Health and Senior Services, Missourians across the state are encouraged to take the following steps to prevent the spread of illnesses like coronavirus:
Bills and Committees
This week, two pieces of Sen. Nasheed’s priority legislation moved closer to coming up for debate on the Senate floor. Senate Bill 542, also known as the “Missouri Restoration of Voting Rights Act,” would restore voting rights to non-violent felons who are on probation or parole. Senate Joint Resolution 61 is a proposed constitutional amendment which, if approved by voters, would enact similar provisions to SB 542. Both pieces of legislation are now on the Senate calendar for perfection.
The Senate’s Appropriations Committee heard two Senate bills this week. Senate Bill 936 establishes the Missouri Video Lottery Control Act, and would allow the State Lottery Commission to implement a system of video lottery game terminals across the state. Senate Bill 858, meanwhile, would create the Cash Operating Expense Fund. Money appropriated to this fund could then be used to help the state respond to emergencies and fund state government functions when revenues fall short of estimates.
While the Senate is closed next week, the Missouri House of Representatives will continue to conduct business in order to move its version of the $30.9 billion state operating budget for the 2021 fiscal year out of the chamber. The House Budget Committee plans to finish up its work on the budget, and the full House is then scheduled to meet March 18-19 to pass the various appropriations bills that make up the budget. Once the budget bills clear the House, the Senate can take them up upon its return. The Legislature’s only constitutional duty is to pass a balanced state budget, with that deadline being May 8. The last day of the 2020 legislative session is May 15.