The Week of Jan. 25, 2021
|On Wednesday, Jan. 27, a joint session of the General Assembly was scheduled for the annual State of the State address given by the governor. Hours before the joint session was set to begin, however, it was announced that the address had been moved from its traditional venue in the Missouri House chamber to the Senate chamber and would forgo the formality of a joint session. All of this went on with a backdrop of growing concern about the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in both the House and Senate.
According to the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker, Missouri ranks near the bottom among states in administering a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine per capita. While the governor’s address did not provide much information on Missouri’s vaccine distribution plan, my office has been working closely with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the Office of Minority Health to ensure our federally qualified health centers, independent living centers and institutions housing our seniors have access to vaccines. We are also excited to mention that State Sen. Steven Roberts, in partnership with DHSS, distributed over 300 vaccines to seniors 65 and older at the Southside Wellness Center. We are confident that Missouri will catch up in vaccine distributions.
On the Floor
On Jan. 28, the Missouri Senate third read and passed Senate Bill 2. This bill applies the Missouri Works Program’s tax benefits to part-time as well as full-time military jobs in Missouri. Senate Bill 2 now heads to the Missouri House of Representatives for further consideration.
Bills and Committees
Senator May’s Legislation:
On Jan. 26, I presented Senate Bill 57 to the Senate’s Economic Development Committee. This legislation establishes the Economic Distress Zone Fund, and money from this fund would be used to support non-profits working to deter crime in high-crime areas. It’s no secret that our state has been battling a surge of violent crime in recent years. I believe this crime problem will not be solved by policing alone, but require a range of initiatives and efforts to address the root cause of crime. Ultimately, I believe SB 57 provides another tool in the toolbox to investing in crime prevention and making our state safer for all Missourians.
In the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, we heard testimony on Senate Bill 66, which I strongly oppose. According to the language of the bill, drivers who injure those blocking traffic would be not liable for those injuries. Among its other provisions, SB 66 also allows in certain circumstances the use of deadly force against protesters, places restrictions on local policing budgets and makes government workers who participate in certain assemblies ineligible for their employment benefits.
As SB 66 was being brought before the committee, I heard from numerous constituents who raised concerns about the bill. Many argued SB 66 undermines the First Amendment and the right to peaceful assembly. They are concerned that if this bill becomes law, it will stifle free speech, while opening up the opportunity for legally sanctioned violence against protesters. Listening to my constituents, I oppose this legislation and will do everything within my power to defeat it.
The Senate’s Rules Committee heard a resolution asking the Department of Revenue (DOR) to refund taxes paid by certain Missouri businesses. Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 calls on DOR to return sales and use tax it collected from some businesses and individuals as a result of audits conducted by DOR between 2005 and 2015. There has been a dispute as to whether these taxes should have been collected, and the resolution seeks to ensure the impacted taxpayers are refunded. It is worth noting that as a resolution, SCR 2 simply calls on DOR to provide the refunds and does not require them to do so.
The Senate’s Appropriations Committee discussed a proposal to expand gambling in Missouri. Senate Bill 98 would authorize video lottery terminals (VLTs) in places like fraternal organizations, veterans’ organizations, certain truck stops and bars. The bill would also allow individuals to legally participate in sports wagering. Much of the testimony centered on what is the right balance of regulating gambling, while ensuring its feasibility in Missouri. I’m supportive of this legislation and see it as a new opportunity to bring additional revenue into our state.
Later in the week, the committee also began discussion of the governor’s proposed budget for the 2022 Fiscal Year.
As of Jan. 28, 2021, the Missouri COVID-19 Dashboard reports an average of 1,311 new COVID-19 cases per day over the past week.
As of Jan. 27, the City of St. Louis Health Department has reported a total of 18,795 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the City of St. Louis.