We are now in the final half of the 2023 legislative session.  The second half of the legislative session began when legislators returned to Jefferson City on March 20th from their spring break that began on March 10.  Lawmakers will spend long hours the final weeks of session as they complete their work on legislative priorities, as well as the FY2024 budget. The budget must be finalized and sent to Governor Mike Parson on or before May 5 and the 2023 Legislative Session will end on May 12.

The House has decided and passed their version of the FY24 budget.   During the process, they made several changes to the budget proposed by Parson. One of the changes deals directly with funding the Governor had earmarked for widening and improving Interstate 70. As of the writing of this newsletter, House Budget chairman Cody Smith has cut the entire $859 million proposal earmarked for the I-70 project. He did state however, that he wanted to revisit the issue when the Budget Committee discusses other large capital improvement projects. It is likely that much of the money will be restored, but some may be targeted for other highway projects, in particular the I-44 corridor through Springfield. The FY24 budget now moves across the building to the Senate, where members of the upper chamber will also have an opportunity to make adjustments to the budget. Other supplemental budget bills will soon move out of the House to the Senate as well.  The $51.6 billion state budget will see numerous changes as it moves through the legislative process.

The House Transportation Accountability Committee met recently to hear testimony on HB1366, sponsored by Representative Don Mayhew (R-Pulaski County). The bill attempts to align fuel tax refunds based on the tax year, instead of the current practice of issuing them based on the fiscal year. The measure would allow a taxpayer to apply for a standard refund in the amount of $30 for the 2023 tax year, $45 for the 2024 tax year, and $60 for the 2025 tax year. Opponents of the bill pointed out that under the bill, a driver may be able to claim more in refunds than they pay in fees, having an adverse effect on the state road fund. The measure could also impact the revenue stream that municipalities utilize to maintain local roads and bridges. It is doubtful that the legislation will advance, but definitely bears watching.

Governor Parson recently announced that he has named Evan Rodriguez to serve as his General Counsel. Rodriguez previously served as Deputy General Counsel to the Governor and also held a position as a legislative analyst for the Missouri House of Representatives. He takes the place of Parson’s previous General Counsel, Andrew Bailey, who was named as the new Attorney General for Missouri.

The House Special Committee on Election Contests recently ruled on a request for a recount in House District 105 in St. Charles County. The request came from Democratic nominee Cindy Berne, who lost her bid to oust incumbent Adam Schwadron by 99 votes in the November general election. State law allows for a recount if the margin in an election contest is less than 1%. Statute also allows for the committee to turn down the request if the person contesting the election hasn’t shown there were any irregularities in the results. On a party line vote, Berne’s request was denied, as Republican members of the committee stated they could find no irregularities in the election process. The decision is final, as the Missouri Constitution dictates that the House makes the judgement on election contests involving its members and there is no right to an appeal.

We will continue to provide updates as they occur regarding political happenings in Jefferson City through our weekly legislative updates. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group LLC