On April 7, history was made with the confirmation of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to sit on the United States Supreme Court.
This is an incredibly important moment in the history of our country and one that was long overdue. I hope Justice Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court will inspire countless young, black women and others to pursue their dreams and encourage all of us to continue working to build a more inclusive country for all.
On the Floor
As we enter the final four weeks of session, the nights on the Senate floor are starting to get longer. This week, the Senate had a slow start as legislators worked through Monday evening into Tuesday morning on a wide-ranging utility bill, Senate Bill 756.
In the end, the Senate was able to pass several other measures aside from SB 756, including
- Senate Concurrent Resolution 25, calls for a constitutional convention of states to propose term limits for members of Congress.
- Senate Bill 997, allows state workers to be paid every two weeks.
- Senate Concurrent Resolution 35 establishes the third full week in September as “Sickle Cell Awareness Week.”
Bills and Committees
Sen. May’s Legislation:
Several of my education-related bills were reported out of the Senate’s Education Committee this week:
- Senate Bill 684 allows school districts to offer elective social studies courses on the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament.
- Senate Bill 770 modifies provisions regarding employment information provided to graduates of institutions of higher education
- Senate Bill 1057 establishes a mental health awareness training requirement for high school pupils in public schools and charter schools.
These bills now head to the Senate floor for further consideration. I’m optimistic we’ll be able to get these important issues across the legislative finish line before the end of the legislative session.
This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee heard House Bill 3015, a supplemental budget proposal for the current fiscal year. Meanwhile, the committee will begin the markup process on the full state operating budget for the 2023 Fiscal Year on April 19.
Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee:
The Senate’s Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee heard three bills on April 11.
- Senate Bill 1018 allows circuit judges to decrease condemned property costs if cities can prove the property is in poor condition.
- Senate Bill 1131, known as the Ahmaud Arbery Act, reduces the opportunities for citizens’ arrest to occur in Missouri.
- Senate Bill 1219 establishes the Uniform Public Expression Protection Act, which provides procedures for dismissal of causes of action based on public expression.
Commerce Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee:
The Senate’s Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee had a packed agenda during its hearing on April 6, with the committee hearing four bills.
- Senate Bill 1069 creates provisions relating to the use of refrigerants.
- House Bill 1734 modifies provisions relating to utilities.
- House Bill 2485 enacts provisions governing advanced recycling.
- Senate Bill 1232 modifies provisions relating to video service providers.
Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee
The Senate’s Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee heard one bill this week. House Bill 1600 repeals the requirement for the House and Senate to adopt a resolution allowing employees of each body to continue in employment when the Legislature is not in session.
House Gives Approval to Wide-Ranging Elections Bill
On April 13, the House of Representatives gave preliminary approval to a wide-ranging elections bill. House Bill 2140 states that the Missouri Legislature, rather than Congress, has the authority to regulate both voter qualifications and the time, place and manner for state and local elections. In addition, the bill states that accepting federal election funding without approval from the General Assembly could result in a $1,000 fine, plus the amount of funding received. The bill also seeks to impose a photo voter ID requirement, which the Missouri Supreme Court has twice struck down as unconstitutional. While the bill was on the House floor, an amendment was added which would allow public school districts to put a measure on the local ballot that, if approved by voters, would ban transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports.
House Bill 2140 won initial passage on a voice vote. A second, recorded vote is necessary to advance it to the Senate.
Senate Panel Advances Proposal to Undo Medicaid Expansion
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 8-5 on April 13 to advance a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at undoing a voter-mandated expansion of eligibility for the state’s Medicaid program. The committee’s action puts the measure as close as one Senate vote away from going on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot for voter consideration.
Voters amended the state constitution in 2020 to expand Medicaid coverage to more Missourians, but some lawmakers tried to block its implementation the following year by refusing to provide sufficient funding in the state budget to cover the additional recipients. The Missouri Supreme Court later ruled the constitution still requires the state to provide services to the expanded population, and the Legislature later appropriated the necessary funding.
House Joint Resolution 117 would accomplish what the Supreme Court said isn’t currently allowed by amending the constitution to empower lawmakers to block services to the expanded population by withholding funding.
House Approves Limits on Teaching about Racism in Schools
On April 12, the House of Representatives granted first-round approval to legislation restricting how race and racism is taught in public schools, as well as creating a so-called “parents’ bill of rights,” granting parents’ access to certain information about their child’s education.
House Bill 1858 sparked extensive debate over the rights of parents to direct their children’s education versus the practical reality that in a classroom of two dozen or more kids, a teacher can’t customize lessons for each child based on what their parents want or don’t want taught. Some have criticized the bill for minimizing the teaching about the country’s racist past and continuing racial injustice as well. A second vote is required to advance the bill to the Senate.
Bill Cutting Unemployment Benefits Advances to Senate
On April 14, the House voted to send legislation to the Senate cutting the maximum number of weeks of unemployment benefits from the current 20 weeks to as low as eight weeks depending on the state’s unemployment rate. House Bill 1860 would allow for 20 weeks of unemployment benefits if the state’s unemployment rate is higher than 9% and scales down to eight weeks if the unemployment rate is at or below 3.5%.
Autism Awareness Month
April is Autism Awareness Month. With that in mind, I thought I would provide some information on Missouri Autism Projects.
These are five regional projects that provide autism programs and services to individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families including assessment, behavior management training and supports, occupational therapy, sensory integration therapy and more. Funded through the Missouri Department of Mental Health’s Division of Developmental Disabilities, the Autism Projects provide supports and services to approximately 4,000 families statewide. To learn more about Autism Projects, please visit dmh.mo.gov/dev-disabilities/autism/projects.
Department of Economic Development Now Hiring for ARPA-Funded Positions
The Department of Economic Development (DED) is now hiring for grant-funded positions to support initiatives through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
New staff members are needed for the operation of several initiatives, including grant programs for businesses, nonprofits, community development, broadband infrastructure and more. DED expects to hire more than a dozen ARPA-funded roles throughout the rest of Fiscal Year 2022 and additional roles in Fiscal Year 2023. These positions will assist in building programs, providing technical assistance and ensuring efficient deployment of funds. Positions will be located in Jefferson City, with potential for other locations across the state for some roles.
All who are interested are encouraged to view available positions and apply online at mocareers.mo.gov. Details on planned investments using ARPA funds are available at ded.mo.gov/arpa. For more information on DED, visit ded.mo.gov.
Find Employment with the State of Missouri
Interested in working for the state? Missouri has numerous career opportunities available for those interested. By visiting mocareers.mo.gov, interested applicants can search by agency or position or location. This week, I would like to highlight opportunities with the Missouri Department of Mental (DMH). Previously, I worked with individuals with disabilities as a DMH employee for six years, and it was rewarding work. If you enjoy working with others, this may be a good fit for you. To learn more about the department, please visit dmh.mo.gov.