On the Floor
It was another busy week in the Missouri Senate as we approach the final few weeks of the 2022 legislative session.
For starters, the Senate passed its version of the state operating budget for the 2023 fiscal year. The Senate version of the budget includes $45.1 billion in spending authority. It provides full funding for the Foundation Formula for our K-12 schools, an additional $214 million to fully fund the state’s share of local public school districts’ student transportation costs, plus $27 million to increase minimum pay for public school teachers to $38,000 a year. In the coming week, differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget will be worked out in conference committees. The General Assembly has until May 6 to pass a balanced state operating budget.
Another piece of legislation the Senate debated this week dealt with food stamps. Senate Bill 798 allows seniors, people with disabilities and unhoused Missourians to use food stamps for warm meals, in addition to grocery items. Some criticized the legislation, saying it was an expansion of the food stamps program, while supporters of the bill, including myself, saw the legislation as another way to feed some of our state’s most vulnerable. Despite vocal opposition to SB 798, it was approved by the Senate and sent over to the House of Representatives for further consideration. The Senate also gave approval to House Bill 1606, a local government omnibus bill.
Meanwhile, other pieces of legislation stalled this week. The Senate debated House Bill 2502, a gambling bill on April 27. This bill would allow video lottery terminals (VLTs) to operate in select areas across the state as well as legalize sport wagering. Eventually after several hours of debate, HB 2502 was laid over and it remains unclear whether senators can find a path forward on the bill. On April 28, the Senate began to debate Senate Bill 781, which would ban transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports. As soon as this legislation came up, it prompted an immediate filibuster in opposition. Several hours into the filibuster, the Senate adjourned for the week.
Bills and Committees
Sen. May’s Legislation:
This week, my Senate Concurrent Resolution 27 was heard by the House Committee on Health and Mental Health Policy and later approved by the committee. This resolution recognizes a need for mental health awareness training for high school students in public and charter schools. Senate Concurrent Resolution 27 now heads to the House Rules – Administrative Oversight Committee. Once it passes there, it will head to the House floor for further consideration.
Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee:
The Senate’s Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee continues reviewing House bills, hearing three on April 25:
- House Bill 1699 modifies and establishes provisions relating to domestic violence.
- House Bill 1705 establishes procedures for a violent offender registry, which will include any person on probation or parole for first or second degree murder.
- House Bill 2088 establishes the Earning Safe Reentry Through Work Act of 2021
Commerce Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee:
The Senate’s Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee met on April 27 to discuss House Bill 1684, which modifies provisions relating to construction costs for certain new electric generation facilities.
House Advances Elections Bill
On April 28, the House of Representatives voted to advance a wide-ranging elections bill to the Senate. 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 school-sponsored girls’ sports.
House Approves Allowing Workers to Sue Over Vaccinations
On April 25, legislation that would allow workers to sue their employers over required vaccinations passed the House of Representatives on a vote of 84-58, winning just two more “yes” votes than required to advance to the Senate.
House Bill 1692 would create a legal cause of action for workers to sue their employers if they suffer a negative reaction to any vaccine there are required to take as a condition of employment. Although legislation targeting COVID-19 vaccine mandates have been popular among some members of the Missouri General Assembly this year, HB 1692 is unusual because it would allow lawsuits over vaccinations against any disease, including those that have been commonly required for decades.
Supreme Court Revives Challenge to Controversial Gun Law
On April 26, the Missouri Supreme Court revived a lawsuit challenging a controversial state law that purports to declare federal gun laws unenforceable in Missouri and punishes local police departments for assisting federal authorities in criminal investigations.
In its 6-1 ruling, the state’s high court said a Cole County circuit judge erred when he determined the plaintiffs’ legal claims weren’t ripe for consideration. The majority ordered the lower court judge to consider the merits of the plaintiffs’ arguments.
At issue is House Bill 85, often referred to as the “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” which the General Assembly passed in 2021. In addition to purporting to nullify federal gun laws, HB 85 allows those who have had their Second Amendment rights violated to sue Missouri police departments for a minimum $50,000 per occurrence, plus attorney fees, for assisting federal authorities. The bill also subjects any local government agency to similar fines merely for hiring a former federal agent who previously enforced gun laws, regardless of whether that person is hired in a law enforcement capacity.
The City of St. Louis, St. Louis County and Jackson County jointly sued to stop enforcement of the law, claiming it violates the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which prohibits individual states from invalidating federal laws. In an uncommon move, the U.S. Department of Justice later joined the case in support of the plaintiffs, arguing HB 85 has chilled cooperation between state and federal law enforcement officials in criminal investigations.
High Court Says Municipal Provisions Still Unconstitutional
The Missouri Supreme Court on April 26 unanimously ruled that statutes to impose special limits on fine collection and municipal operations in St. Louis County found unconstitutional by the court in 2017 are still unconstitutional, despite a trial judge’s attempt to revive them in 2020.
At issue are provisions of a 2015 law, Senate Bill 5, which contained sweeping reforms aimed at reducing abusive municipal court and policing practices focused on generating revenue. Although most of the reforms apply statewide, some key provisions affected only municipalities in St. Louis County, including one capping the revenue cities in the county can collect from fines and fees at 12.5% of a municipality’s operating budget, instead of the 20% cap imposed on other Missouri cities.
Several of those cities challenged the provisions for violating a state constitutional prohibition against “special laws” that apply only to certain jurisdictions without good cause. A Cole County judge agreed and blocked enforcement of them in 2016. The State Supreme Court upheld the ruling in 2017, however, the high court in 2019 overhauled its standard for reviewing special laws and invalidated much of its prior precedent on the subject. That prompted the attorney general, who sponsored SB 5 while serving in the Missouri Senate, to ask for the 2016 injunction to lifted, which it was in 2020.
In its latest ruling, however, the Missouri Supreme Court said while the court may rule differently under the updated standards, final decisions made under the old standard cannot be reopened or relitigated. A footnote to the opinion did however state the Legislature could overcome the court’s 2017 ruling by repealing and reenacting the statutes in question so the new standards the court adopted for special laws in 2019 would govern.
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.