2022 Session Ends
The Missouri Senate ended its participation in the 2022 legislative session nearly a day before the constitutional deadline after passing a hastily presented congressional redistricting map late Thursday afternoon. Invoking a rarely used parliamentary procedure, the Senate bypassed the redistricting committee and brought House Bill 2909 directly to the floor. The cards appeared to be stacked in favor of the new redistricting map, which was passed by the House of Representatives just three days prior. Senators were provided only a perfunctory opportunity to debate the measure before voting on the revised districts, which are expected to maintain the status quo 6-2 partisan balance in Missouri’s congressional delegation. A number of conservative members of the Senate, myself included, had argued for a 7-1 map that could potentially send one more conservative to Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, we squandered the opportunity. If there’s any good news to come out of the hard-fought redistricting battle, the map we sent to the governor’s desk keeps both of Missouri’s major military bases in the same congressional district. This was a red line for me, and I was committed to preserving our state’s influence on the powerful U.S. Armed Services Committee. The fact we achieved this goal makes the entire conflict over the map worthwhile, in my opinion. I believe Missouri would have been ill-served by the map originally passed by the House, but we managed to fix at least this one critical flaw.
The surprising early adjournment of the Senate left the House of Representatives to toil alone for the final day of the 101st General Assembly. Without the Senate in session, all the House could do is vote on versions of bills approved by the Senate. Before our premature departure, the Senate did manage to advance a number of measures – some of which were actually good bills, in my opinion.
Probably the greatest success of the 2022 legislative session was passage of House Bill 1878, a major package of legislation to increase election security and help prevent voter fraud. The bill, which is now before the governor, will require voters to establish their identity with a photo ID. Also included is a prohibition against electronic voting machines. In the future, voting will be done with hand-marked paper ballots, and none of the machines used to tabulate those ballots will be connected to the internet. To prevent the kind of election interference attempted by partisan special interest groups during the last election cycle, election authorities will not be allowed to accept donations from outside groups. In 2020, Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg, along with other left-leaning political organizations, gave money to election officials in heavily contested swing states to try to sway voter turnout. So-called “Zuckerbuck” donations will not be allowed in Missouri under HB 1878. The bill also bans ballot harvesting by outside groups and eliminates drop boxes for absentee ballots.
In a partial legislative victory, House Bill 1720 crossed the finish line and now awaits the governor’s signature. An omnibus package of legislation related to agriculture, HB 1720 includes a number of important incentives to spur economic activity in our rural counties. Among the provisions of this bill I supported (and sponsored in separate legislation) are incentives for ethanol retailers, biodiesel production, meat processing facilities and the repurposing of timber product waste as an energy source. The bill also extends critical agricultural economic development programs to support new generation cooperatives and the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority, or MASBDA. Unfortunately, omitted from the bill was the establishment of the Missouri Rural Workforce Development Act. I had argued strenuously for this incentive program to grow jobs in rural areas, but opponents of the act threatened to scuttle the entire bill if it was included. Despite sponsoring this provision, I agreed to remove the program so the bill could pass. I’ll try again next year.
The tally sheet of the bills truly agreed and finally passed this year doesn’t appear impressive at first glance, as only a few dozen non-appropriations bills crossed the line. A deeper look, though, shows many of the bills included multiple provisions. A number of worthwhile pieces of legislation crossed the line as amendments to other bills. The agricultural tax incentives I sponsored were moved forward as amendments to the ag bill, for example. My Senate Bill 806, which expands advanced educational opportunities for gifted students, was included in the omnibus education bill passed by the Legislature.
While we can claim some successes this year, there are also a number of disappointments. By failing to pass a sports gaming bill, we ceded a tremendous economic opportunity to our neighbors. With Kansas now joining the growing list of states allowing bets on sporting events, Missouri will become a sportsbook desert. Dollars that should be funding education programs and veterans homes in Missouri will be flowing out of state. I’m committed to finally getting a sports betting bill passed next year. We also failed to pass legislation banning “critical race theory” curriculum in our schools, or preventing transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports.
As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-4302. You may also email me at email@example.com.