In the Final Hours
As I prepare this report, just two days remain in the 2020 legislative session. The final gavel falls at 6 p.m. Friday, May 15. Even with the loss of five weeks of legislative activity due to COVID-19, we were able to approve the annual state budget and pass several COVID-19 related bills.
So far, the Legislature has granted final approval to 32 bills. Included in that number are 19 appropriation bills, most notably the 13 bills that outline the 2021 budget. The low bill count is somewhat deceptive, however, because several of the bills truly agreed and finally passed include multiple provisions dealing with the same subjects that began as separate pieces of legislation.
Senate Bill 569 combines several proposals relating to sexual assault. The final bill includes a “Sexual Assault Victims Bill of Rights,” creates an electronic tracking system for rape kits and establishes “The Justice for Survivors Act,” which expands access to forensic exams through the telehealth network. A significant tort reform measure, Senate Bill 591 protects businesses from excessive punitive damage awards in lawsuits and modifies Missouri’s unlawful merchandising statues. Senate Bill 599 began as an expansion of the Missouri FIRST linked deposit program, which makes low-cost loans available to small businesses and farms. The final version incorporates 10 separate bills relating to credit unions, trusts, local government retirees, savings protections for seniors and other matters relating to finances. Senate Bill 739 forbids public entities from entering into contracts with companies engaged in boycotts against Israel.
Every provision of Senate Bill 656 relates to veterans. The bill streamlines the issuance of teaching certificates to military spouses, creates a veterans’ legal assistance program at the office of the attorney general, expands the role of the State Ombudsman for Long-Term Care Facility Residents to better serve veterans, expands developmental disability services for military families and creates a number of special designations in honor of veterans. Provisions related to service dogs, which I sponsored in separate legislation, are also included in this bill.
Senate Bill 676 contains provisions relating to the taxation of partnerships that I sponsored as part of Senate Bill 704, a measure that I hope makes it to the finish line this year. Among other provisions, SB 676 also exempts coronavirus stimulus payments from state income tax, modifies deadlines for receiving and appealing property tax assessments and provides a tax exemption for persons who die as a result of injuries suffered during the 9/11 attack.
The first bill approved by the Legislature this year, House Bill 1511 grants professional license reciprocity to military spouses living in Missouri. A related measure, House Bill 2046 includes several provisions relating to coroners, death registration records, psychologists and athletic trainers. House Bill 1467 deals with public employee retirement systems. House Bill 1711 allows food banks and other charitable organizations to distribute “shelf stable” foods, such as dried meat. House Bill 1768 increases accountability of programs to expand rural broadband internet services. House Bill 1896 updates the medical marijuana law, requiring industry employees to submit to background checks. House Bill 2456 extends the sunset on a variety of reimbursement allowances related to health care providers.
Another measure that received final approval, but does not require the governor’s signature, is Senate Joint Resolution 38. This resolution will appear on an upcoming ballot and provide voters the opportunity to eliminate lobbyist gifts, reduce campaign contributions and revisit legislative redistricting procedures in Missouri.
From my perspective, the remaining hours of the 100th General Assembly promise to be a whirlwind of legislative activity. Several closely watched measures are nearing the finish line and may pass at any time. How these proposals fare is anyone’s guess. I’ll be sure to provide a more complete update in future reports.
As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-4302. You may also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.