On the Floor
The Senate began the week by observing President’s Day this week. I took the time to reflect on some our nation’s greatest leaders and their work. While the work of the General Assembly has been disappointing at times, it is helpful to be reminded of the larger picture surrounding all of us. As former President Obama put it, “it is not often that you can bend the arc of history – don’t let it slip away.” I am determined to not let our chance slip away. Especially now with candidate filing open, many Missourians have filed for a chance at serving our state. I am grateful to everyone who has thrown their hat into the ring and entered the public arena. Public service is both an honor and an incredible responsibility, and I wish to impress that upon all who decide to run.
Back in the Senate, things were off to a slow start yet again due to more filibustering, but the chamber ended the week moving forward with several important pieces of legislation. Chief among them was House Bill 3014, a nearly $4.6 billion supplemental budget bill. The supplemental budget distributes billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief funds to local public school districts, provides a 5.5% pay raise to state workers and fully funds Missouri’s Medicaid program for the rest of the current fiscal year. After the Senate approved the bill, HB 3014 was sent back to the Missouri House of Representatives. The chamber approved it, and it was signed into law by the governor later that very day. The Senate also sent Senate Bill 672, dealing with the Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant Program, to the Missouri House for further consideration.
Lastly, I pray for safety for all of my constituents and the residents of St. Louis city and county as we face the possibility of more winter weather. Remember to check the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Traveler Map for road conditions and closures the inclement weather may cause.
Bills and Committees
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 about the budget needs of several state departments including the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development; the Department of Mental Health; and Department of Health & Senior Services. The committee also heard from the General Assembly as well as several statewide offices, including the governor, the lt. governor, the secretary of state, the state auditor and the state treasurer.
On Feb. 23, the Senate’s Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee heard testimony on four bills:
- Senate Bill 763, which modifies provisions relating to net metering, as well as establishing the Task Force on Distributed Energy Resources and Net Metering.
- Senate Bill 827, which allows certain records of municipally-owned utilities such as individually identifiable customer usage and billing records to be closed under the Sunshine Law.
- Senate Bill 994, which reclassifies stationary property used for transportation or storage of certain liquid and gaseous products as tangible personal property.
- Senate Bill 756, which modifies provisions relating to public utilities.
House Advances Proposal to Alter Medicaid Expansion to Senate
On Feb. 24, the House of Representatives voted to advance to the Missouri Senate a proposed constitutional amendment to allow the state not to fund voter-approved Medicaid expansion. House Joint Resolution 117 would empower the Legislature to block services to the expanded population by withholding funding. If the proposal clears both chambers of the Legislature, it would go on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot for voter ratification.
House Gives Initial Approval to Proposal Raising Ballot Initiatives Thresholds
On Feb. 24, the House of Representatives granted first-round approval to another proposed constitutional amendment raising the requirements to amend the Missouri Constitution through the initiative petition process. It marked the second time in as many weeks that the chamber endorsed legislation to modify the ability to enact legislation independently of the General Assembly.
The latest attempt, House Joint Resolution 91, would more than double the minimum number of signatures of registered voters required to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot. It also would require some proposals that qualified for the ballot to be approved by two-thirds of voters in order to be ratified, while others could still win ratification with a simple majority. A second vote is required to send HJR 91 to the Senate. If passed by the upper chamber, the measure would go the Nov. 8 statewide ballot and require just a simple majority for ratification.
Judge Upholds New Law Providing Raises to County Sheriffs
A Cole County judge on Feb. 22 ruled that a new state law providing automatic, annual pay increases to county sheriffs was constitutionally enacted. Lawmakers passed the challenged provision last year as part of Senate Bill 53, wide-ranging legislation that also limits police use of respiratory chokeholds and eliminates the residency requirement for Kansas City police officers, along with other provisions.
The County Commissioners Association of Missouri filed the lawsuit in November 2021, arguing that lawmakers violated state constitutional provisions prohibiting bills from being changed from their original purpose or containing multiple subjects or provisions that aren’t clearly reflected in the bill’s title. As originally filed, SB 53 was a single-page bill prohibiting Kansas City police officers from being required to reside in the city. An appeal in the case is expected.
Absentee Ballots Available Now for April 5 Election
This week marked the first day that St. Louis city residents may submit an absentee ballot for the April 5 special election. If you know you will be voting absentee or are worried about making it to the polls on election day, request an absentee ballot today. It is imperative that we all carry out our civic duty as Americans.
Find Employment with the State of Missouri
The State of Missouri is currently looking for dedicated individuals to fill a number of important job positions and help serve the residents of our great state. With a wide variety of career paths available across multiple departments, there’s an opportunity for everyone to make a difference in our state. For more information about current job openings within Missouri state government, please visit mocareers.mo.gov.