On the Floor
Congressional redistricting has begun to take center stage on the floor of the Missouri Senate. For those unfamiliar with this process, congressional redistricting is where the boundary lines for Missouri’s congressional districts are redrawn to reflect shifts in the state’s population based on data from the U.S. Census. Occurring once every decade, the responsibility of ensuring districts fairly represent the interests of Missourians now falls to the Legislature. So far, the Missouri House of Representatives has already passed its version of the congressional redistricting map and sent it over to the Senate. The Senate’s Select Committee on Redistricting heard the House’s proposal, as well as an accompanying Senate bill on Jan. 25. Both bills were then approved by the committee, but before they could be brought up for debate on the Senate floor, several senators voiced opposition to the maps as currently drawn. Several proposed significant changes to the map, such as possibly splitting Kansas City on the western side of the state across multiple congressional districts. After several hours of discussion, the Senate adjourned without taking up either one of the redistricting bills. I believe it is likely we will revisit the redistricting issue next week.
Bills and Committees
Senator May’s Legislation:
On Jan. 25, I presented Senate Bill 685 to the Senate’s Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee. This bill seeks to introduce due process into hearings regarding the suspension of a business, occupational, professional or other license for not complying with a child support order.
Additionally, my Senate Bill 772, which creates the Community Investment Corporation Development Commission within the Department of Revenue, was approved by the Senate’s Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee. This legislation now heads to the Senate floor for further consideration.
The Senate’s Appropriations Committee has started reviewing the governor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2022. We also heard from the Office of Administration and discussed the state’s obligations regarding employee benefits, public debt and real estate. Lastly, the committee received an overview of the governor’s recommendation for funds received through the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
The Senate’s Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee heard three bills on Jan. 24:
- Senate Bill 766 extends the length of time an individual arrested for a criminal offense involving a dangerous felony or deadly weapon can be held from 24 hours from the time of arrest to 48 hours.
- Senate Bill 799 adds escaping or attempting to escape from custody after being arrested for a probation violation to the offense of escape from custody.
- Senate Bill 850 seeks to enhance penalties for so-called “habitual” offenders. It also increases the penalties for unlawful possession of a firearm.
The Senate’s Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee met for the first time this session on Jan. 26 to discuss two bills. Senate Bill 745 creates provisions relating to accounting practices of electrical corporations. Senate Bill 820 prohibits homeowners associations from prohibiting the installation of solar panels.
Supreme Court Appoints Appellate Redistricting Commission
The Missouri Supreme Court has appointed a commission of six appellate judges to draw new state Senate districts after the bipartisan commission appointed by the governor was unable to reach a consensus on the issue. Under the Missouri Constitution, the Appellate Redistricting Commission has until April 23 to finalize 34 new Senate districts that reflect population shifts over the previous decade. As a practical matter, however, the commission needs to complete the job before candidate filing for the Aug. 2 party primary elections opens on Feb. 23.
Attorney General Sues 45 School Districts over Masking Rules
The Missouri attorney general has filed 45 separate lawsuits against local public school districts seeking to block mask mandates put in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among students and staff. Many districts, however, have pushed back, noting their actions are authorized under state law, while the attorney general claims otherwise. The courts have yet to take action on the lawsuits.
Utility Assistance Available
More customers than ever before are eligible for help paying their utility bills after Ameren Missouri and the state of Missouri have expanded several utility assistance programs. For instance, the Missouri Department of Social Services recently updated its federally funded Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to provide more funding and expand eligibility requirements. Here’s what that means for qualifying Ameren Missouri customers:
- A disconnection notice is no longer required.
- Energy assistance payments have doubled for both LIHEAP programs. The Energy Crisis Intervention Program (ECIP) payment is now $1,600 in the winter and $1,200 in the summer.
- Assistance is available year-round.
For more information on the state’s LIHEAP changes and to learn if you qualify, visit https://mydss.mo.gov/media/pdf/low-income-home-energy-assistance-program.
For Ameren customers with moderate incomes who don’t qualify for LIHEAP, but have been impacted financially by COVID-19, Ameren Missouri provides the Clean Slate program. This $1.2 million energy assistance fund has already helped thousands of Missouri families with their utility expenses. More than half of the funding is still available. To learn more and apply, visit Ameren Missouri’s website.
Prepare Now for the Next Blast of Winter Weather
Ameren Missouri is reminding customers to plan for severe winter weather in advance. This includes having proper supplies on hand for a winter storm. If you lose power during a winter storm, Ameren Missouri encourages customers to remember the following:
- Notify Ameren at 800-552-7583.
- Charge cell phones in advance if there’s a risk of severe weather. Consider buying a solar or battery-powered charger to use in case of an outage.
- Be cautious when using candles for light. Blow out lit candles before leaving the room or going to bed.
- If there is an electrical service interruption, turn off light switches and unplug appliances to prevent damage and overloading circuits once the power is restored.
- Block cold air from coming in by stuffing towels along windows or underneath doors.
- Prevent pipes from freezing by running faucets on a drip.
Additional steps you can take to keep your home safe, comfortable and efficient this winter include:
- Preparing an emergency kit (flashlights, radios, batteries, non-perishable foods, water, medicines, blankets, warm clothes, etc.) to use in the event of a storm.
- When you are asleep or out of the house, turning your thermostat down a few degrees. During the day, add more layers of clothing before raising the temperature on your thermostat.
- Taking advantage of the sun. Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day and close them at night.
- Turning down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting.
- Keeping your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning.
Ameren Missouri Expanding Clean Energy In Underserved Areas of St. Louis Through Partnership With Delmar DivINe
Ameren Missouri is joining forces with Delmar DivINe to install solar panels at the nonprofit’s Delmar campus in St. Louis. Energy generated by this project will benefit the surrounding community. The collaboration is part of Ameren Missouri’s Neighborhood Solar program, which takes advantage of underutilized land for solar energy generation – at no cost to the organization.