On the Floor
The Senate has lined up several bills this week to be sent over to the Missouri House of Representatives in the near future. For instance, my Senate Bill 323 was given an initial round of approval by the Senate. This legislation allows school districts to offer an elective social studies unit on the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament of the Bible or the Bible’s New Testament. Senate Bill 323 requires only one more round of approval to move over to the House. Other bills in a similar position:
- Senate Bill 45, creating new provisions relating to certain firefighters who contracted certain types of cancer as a result of employment as a firefighter.
- Senate Bill 272, prohibiting the publishing of identifying information of lottery winners, unless authorized by the lottery winner.
- Senate Bill 36, establishing the Capitol Complex Tax Credit Act.
- Senate Bill 202, modifying provisions relating to electrical corporations.
- Senate Bill 78, modifying the hiring process for state employees.
- House Bill 476, modifying provisions relating to occupational license reciprocity for military members.
Additionally, the Senate approved and sent two resolutions over to the House:
- Senate Concurrent Resolution 15, establishing June as “Scoliosis Awareness Month” in Missouri.
- Senate Concurrent Resolution 16, urging the president and his administration to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.
While progress is being made on some legislation, other important issues remain unresolved. For instance, the Senate once again discussed Senate Bill 1, which extends Missouri’s federal reimbursement allowance (FRA) program. The FRA program is an important funding mechanism for MO HealthNet, the state’s Medicaid program, which brings in over $1 billion annually. Because of its financial significance, it is essential the FRA program be extended before it expires later this year, but accomplishing that has been difficult. Earlier in session, an amendment was added to SB 1 that would prevent MO HealthNet from covering certain family planning drugs and devices. This raised concerns that Missouri could become out of compliance with federal regulations and lose additional funding for MO HealthNet. This week, a compromise on this provision was worked out, but a new amendment essentially preventing Planned Parenthood from receiving any funding through the MO HealthNet has since been proposed. Ultimately, SB 1 with this pending amendment was laid over for further debate. Without legislative action, the FRA program is set to expire on Sept. 30, 2021.
Two other bills were brought up, but ultimately stalled on the floor this week. Senate Bill 254 limits who can inspect certain agricultural facilities across the state. The bill does not apply to inspections performed in charter counties or the City of St. Louis. The other bill was Senate Bill 94, relating to joint employers. An amendment was proposed to this bill which would add protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to Missouri’s statutes. After some discussion on both SB 254 and SB 94, they were both laid over for future consideration.
Bills and Committees
Senator May’s Legislation:
I presented my Senate Bill 57 to the House Crime Prevention Committee this week. The bill creates the Economic Distress Fund to support nonprofits working to combat crime in high-crime areas. It also includes a fund to support law enforcement officers dealing with stress and trauma while working on the job. I’m hopeful the committee will vote it out next week.
The Senate’s Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee continued hearing House bills this week:
- House Bill 744 allows pets to be included in orders of protections.
- House Bill 1242 modifies provisions relating to court proceedings.
The Senate’s Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee discussed four bills this week:
- Senate Bill 611, which I sponsored, allows the Public Service Commission to regulate broadband and internet providers.
- House Bill 767 prohibits certain charges to customers by public water supply districts and metropolitan water supply districts.
- House Bill 488 changes provisions relating to utilities.
- Senate Bill 508 works to prevent the construction of the Grain Belt Express electric transmission line in Missouri.
The Rules Committee heard several proposals this week:
- Senate Concurrent Resolution 18, which I sponsored, calls on the U.S. Congress to enact the Economic Democracy Act.
- Senate Concurrent Resolution 20 urges the U.S. Congress to end Major League Baseball’s federal antitrust law exemption.
- House Concurrent Resolution 4 & 5 calls on the General Assembly to condemn the 1852 Missouri Supreme Court Dred Scott decision.
The Appropriations Committee met this week to do mark-up on the state operating budget sent over from the House of Representatives. During this process, the committee goes through the budget line-by-line and decides how much funding to allocate to each budget item. Perhaps the biggest issue of this year’s budget is funding for Medicaid expansion, which was approved by voters in 2020. When the House sent its version of the budget to the Senate, it did not include additional funding for the program’s expansion. Unfortunately, as the Senate Appropriations went through the budget, it too failed to include additional funding for the program. Attempts to provide additional funding were voted down 7-7. As the Senate’s proposed budget now heads to the full chamber, I’m certain funding Medicaid expansion will be brought up again.
As of April 22, 2021, the Missouri COVID-19 Dashboard reports an average of 313 new COVID-19 cases per day over the past week.
As of April 21, the City of St. Louis Health Department has reported a total of 21,335 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the City of St. Louis.