Sen. Karla May’s “May Report” for the Week of Feb. 7, 2022

On the Floor

As the General Assembly unthaws after last week’s snow storm, legislative action in the Missouri Senate has been frozen on a single topic – congressional redistricting. As I have mentioned in previous updates, the redistricting process is something which only occurs once every 10 years and involves redrawing congressional district boundaries to reflect the state’s current population layout. The Missouri House of Representatives recently approved a version of the new congressional map in House Bill 2117. Once this bill reached the Senate floor this week, however, a number of senators launched an over 30-hour filibuster in opposition to HB 2117. Even after the filibuster ended, continued opposition to HB 2117 has stalled much of the legislative happenings in the Senate. Senators remained in Jefferson City for a rare Friday session and, as of this writing, also have plans to work into the weekend.

As the Senate continues to work on the redistricting issue, it’s important to remember that several other major issues await on the horizon. There is still a supplemental budget bill, the state’s yearly operating budget, as well as a plethora of bills still awaiting their first hearing. I am earnestly awaiting a return to these important tasks, as we all work to move our state forward.

Bills and Committees

Sen. May’s Legislation:

While many of the week’s committees were cancelled due to the action on the Senate floor, next week, on Feb. 15, I plan on presenting three pieces of legislation to their assigned committees:

  • Senate Concurrent Resolution 26, which urges the U.S. Congress to enact the proposed Economic Democracy Act. This resolution will be heard by the Senate’s Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee.
  • Senate Concurrent Resolution 27, which recognizes a need for mental health awareness training for high school pupils in public schools and charter schools. I will also be presenting this resolution to the Senate’s Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee.
  • Senate Bill 684, which allows school districts to offer elective social studies courses on the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. This bill will be heard by the Senate’s Education Committee.

Appropriations Committee:

The Senate’s Appropriations Committee continued reviewing the governor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2022. This week, we heard from the Department of Commerce and Insurance as well as the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Other News

Committee Rejects Senate Bill 666

On Feb. 10, the Senate’s Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee voted 3-4 to defeat Senate Bill 666. This legislation would change state law to allow someone who used physical or deadly force to be presumed to have acted in self-defense and “immune from criminal prosecution or civil action.” Not only could that person not be prosecuted, the bill would prohibit suspects from being arrested, detained or charged with a crime unless authorities can prove “by clear and convincing evidence” that suspect didn’t act in self-defense.

House Approves $4.6 Billion Supplemental Spending Bill

On Feb. 10, the House of Representatives voted 114-11 with an additional 25 members voting “present” to pass a nearly $4.6 billion emergency supplemental spending bill that would distribute billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief funds to local public school districts, as well as fully fund Missouri’s Medicaid program for the rest of the FY 2022 fiscal year.

The House version of House Bill 3014 authorizes significantly less spending authority than the $5.27 billion the governor had initially requested, primarily by not appropriating as much federal funds. While the governor requested establishing a $15-an-hour base wage for state workers through the bill, the House’s proposal only included a $12-an-hour wage floor for most departments. Both plans, however, include a 5.5% pay bump for all state workers. The bill now advances to the Senate. Lawmakers must allocate about $2 billion in federal funding that is set to expire in late March or the state will lose the money.

House Advances Plan to Limit Initiative Petitions

The Missouri House of Representatives voted 98-53 in favor of a proposed constitutional amendment that would likely make it harder to use the initiative petition process to propose and enact laws and constitutional amendments independently of the General Assembly. House Joint Resolution 79 increases the number of signatures from registered voters required for an initiative petition to qualify for the ballot. Under the proposed constitutional amendment, proposals that make it to the ballot would also need approval from at least two-thirds of voters to pass, instead of the current simple majority. House Joint Resolution 79 now advances to the Senate. If it clears the General Assembly, the proposed constitutional amendment would still need to receive approval from the voters before becoming law.

House Panel Advances Proposal to Alter Medicaid Expansion

The House Budget Committee voted on Feb. 7 to advance a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at preventing the state from funding voter-approved Medicaid expansion. House Joint Resolution 117 would empower the Legislature to block services to the expanded population by withholding funding, and now goes to the full House of Representatives for further debate. If the proposal clears both chambers of the Legislature, it would go on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot for voter ratification.

Supreme Court Hears Challenge to Gun Nullification Law

On Feb. 7, the Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging a 2021 law that declares federal gun laws unenforceable in Missouri. The arguments primarily focused on procedural questions, with little discussion of the case’s merits. The court will issue its ruling at a later date.

In 2021, the General Assembly passed House Bill 85. Later that year, St. Louis City, St. Louis County and Jackson County filed a lawsuit claiming HB 85 violates the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which prohibits individual states from invalidating federal laws. An attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice appeared before the state high court to argue in support of striking down the new law, saying it has chilled cooperation between state and federal law enforcement officials in criminal investigations. In addition to purporting to nullify federal gun laws, HB 85 allows Missouri police departments to be sued for assisting federal authorities.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Two Laws Restricting Referendums

On Feb. 8, the Missouri Supreme Court struck down two state laws the secretary of state used to effectively prevent Missouri voters from having the final say on legislation enacted in 2019 that restricted most abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy.

In 2019, the General Assembly passed House Bill 126, which sought tighter restrictions on abortion. Opponents of the bill quickly filed a referendum petition, which forces a statewide vote on legislation passed by lawmakers and signed by the governor. The petition’s backers faced a 90-day deadline to collect the roughly 100,000 signatures from registered voters needed to put HB 126 on the ballot, but this effort was delayed as it faced legal challenges. Even after the secretary of state was ordered by the courts to certify the petition, he waited the full 51 days given to him by state law to complete the job. This gave petition backers just two weeks to collect the necessary signatures by the deadline.

To prevent a similar situation from happening in the future, petition supporters challenged the constitutionality of the law allowing the secretary of state to delay the certification process and a related statute prohibiting petitions from being circulated prior to that time. The high court’s 5-2 decision sided with a lower court’s holding that those statutes interfere with the state constitutional right to referendum.

Supreme Court Orders Disclosure of Medical Marijuana Information

The Missouri Supreme Court unanimously ruled the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) must disclose information submitted by successful applicants for medical marijuana licenses in an administrative challenge brought by an applicant who was denied a license.

Since Missourians voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2018, DHSS has faced accusations that an inconsistent scoring process allowed the department to grant licenses to certain recipients while denying them to others, leading to hundreds of appeals. One unsuccessful applicant sought other applicants’ information as part of its appeal, but the department argued it couldn’t disclose it because of a constitutional provision requiring such information to be kept confidential. However, the Supreme Court ruled the constitution expressly allows such information to be disclosed during the license denial appeals process and that DHSS must disclose the information in other pending appeals.