In a normal year, there would be little news coming out of Jefferson City in the middle of the summer months. As we all know, this has been anything but a normal year.
As the coronavirus fallout continues, Governor Parson announced his first round of budget withholds for the current fiscal year which began on July 1. In his June 30 announcement, the Governor placed restrictions on nearly $450 million, affecting most every department in state government. Parson said he hopes to restore many of the cuts if the economy rebounds during the coming months.
In addition to the coronavirus affect, a rise in violent crime, protests, and clashes with police have been at the forefront of topics at the Capitol as well as across the state and nation. St. Louis and Kansas City have made national headlines because of a steady increase in murders and shootings in recent months. This has led to the Governor to call for a special legislative session to begin on July 27, in an effort to combat the rising crime rate. Parson outlined six items in his call, including police residency requirements, juvenile court certification, witness statement admissibility, establishment of a witness protection fund, strengthening the endangering the welfare of a child statute, and strengthening the unlawful transfer of weapons statute. While discussions are underway with legislative leaders, many of the Governor’s priorities appear to have a bumpy road ahead, at best.
The Governor and his staff have completed their review of bills that passed during the 2020 legislative session which concluded on May 15. Pursuant to the constitution, Parson was required to take action on all appropriations bills prior to June 30. Additionally, he was required to either sign or veto all policy related bills by July 14. In the end, the Governor signed 42 bills into law this year, including 19 appropriations bills. While the Governor made several line-item vetoes in the appropriations bills, he only vetoed two policy bills. The two bills vetoed were HB1854, which covered 37 different provisions dealing with local governments, and SB718, which deals with several provisions regarding military service members.
One of the primary reasons for the veto of HB1854 was language that would have modified the establishment of TDD’s and CID’s. Numerous local government officials expressed concerns that the provision would have likely ended new projects in these areas. Legislators will have the opportunity to override any vetoes during the annual veto session in September. There has been no word if any overrides will be attempted.
Rounding out the news is the upcoming Primary Election to be held on Tuesday, August 4. There are many close primary races being watched around the state. However, there are several in the St. Louis area.
Currently, one of the most closely watched races is the Democratic primary in Senate District 5 in St. Louis, where current Representative Steven Roberts is facing Alderwoman Megan Green and Michelle Sherod are battling it out to replace Sen. Jamilah Nasheed who is termed out.
Also worth watching, is the Republican primary in Senate District 3, covering Jefferson, Washington, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Iron, and Reynolds Counties. The race pits current State Representative Elaine Gannon against political newcomers Kent Scism and Josh Barret. This seat was previously held by termed out Sen. Gary Romine who resigned early to take an appointment.
Regardless of the results in the August Primary and the subsequent General Election in November, Republicans are expected to maintain a large majority in the State House and Senate. The outcome of some races, however, could alter the personality of the Senate going forward.
We will continue to keep you updated on election results, special session news, and other political happenings in Jefferson City and around the state. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group.