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August 2022 Lobbyist Report

Governor Mike Parson has completed his review of legislation passed by the General Assembly and his job of signing and vetoing bills is now complete. The most notable of his actions are his decisions on the FY23 budget. The nearly $48 billion spending plan sent to the Governor by legislators, was left mostly intact, with Parson issuing 32 line-item vetoes totaling some $644 million.

The passage of the budget was hailed by both parties as a major success, as many priority items will be funded with the record amount of tax revenues in the state coffers. Projects receiving top billing in the budget include necessary maintenance on many college and university buildings across the state, as well as new construction on many campuses. Drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure will see major investments, along with a focus on broadband access statewide. The state’s Medicaid program will also see a boost in funding, as will funding for skilled care services for the elderly and disabled. In the area of K-12 education, there will be full funding of the transportation program and teachers across the state will see an increase in their compensation. The FY23 budget year began on July 1.

Other than the line item vetoes in the budget, the Governor issued vetoes on several policy related bills, most notably the tax rebate legislation approved by the General Assembly. That program called for a one-time tax rebate that would be available for some taxpayers based on income. Parson did not approve of the plan because he said many low-income Missourians and vulnerable populations would be entirely left out of the relief measure. Instead, the Governor proposed an across-the-board tax cut for all wage earners and said he would call a special session to address the idea. Parson also vetoed HB1720, which renewed several agricultural tax credits as well as enacting a handful of new ones. The renewal on the programs was approved by the legislature was for two years, which Parson sees as problematic and stated it needs to be for six years. In his explanation of the veto, he stated he would also call a special session to address the issue, since many agricultural related programs rely on the tax credits, and they have a far-reaching impact. No date has been set for the special session, but many believe it will run consecutive to the September 14 veto session.

The Missouri Department of Revenue reports that over 3,000 individuals have applied for refunds on the newly enacted gas tax. The Department began accepting claims on July 1 and must issue the refund within 45 days for properly submitted claims. If the claim is not paid within the specified timeframe, the Department is required to pay interest to the claimant.

Primary Election Day is August 2 and all will be watching to see the results of numerous Primary Election races, especially in the Missouri Senate, where numerous mainstream Republicans are being challenged by ultra-conservative Republicans. As we have mentioned in the past, should the far-right Republicans be successful, it will change the makeup of the Senate and have an impact on Senate leadership positions, as well as the Senate agenda for years to come.

Thank you for the opportunity to represent you in Jefferson City. We will continue to keep you updated on political happenings across the state as they happen.
Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group.

July 2022 Lobbyist Report

Members of the General Assembly that are seeking reelection this year have been in full campaign mode since the end of the legislative session. As we have mentioned previously, all 163 seats of the House are up for election, as are 17 of the 34 Senate seats. Many of those positions are currently held by members that are term limited and cannot seek reelection, while numerous incumbents are facing opposition from within their own party and must win their primary election in August before advancing to the general election in November.

Politicos will be watching a handful of Republican Senate primaries, where ultra-conservative candidates have challenged more traditional Republican incumbents. These races are all in safe Republican districts, so the winner of the primary election will determine who the next Senator will be in those districts. Those outcomes will dictate the makeup of the Missouri Senate for years to come. Should the far-right candidates win, it will grow the membership of the Conservative Caucus and could have an impact on leadership positions in the Senate, especially the positions of President Pro-Tem and Majority Floor Leader, which are two of the most powerful positions in the Capitol. If the Conservative Caucus is successful in growing their numbers, we could see more infighting within the Republican party and more days of stall tactics and filibusters next session.

Regardless of the outcomes of the elections, it is safe to say that Republicans will continue to hold a commanding majority in both the House and Senate for years to come. We will likely also see a Republican win the State Auditor’s race in November, which means Republicans will then hold every statewide position on the ballot.

In other Capitol news, Governor Mike Parson has begun the process of signing legislation that was passed in the last legislative session. Thus far, he has signed over a dozen of the bills sent to him by the General Assembly. One of those bills, HB2149, allows for occupational licensing reciprocity in Missouri for military employees and contractors participating in the Innovative Readiness Training program as long as they hold a professional license in another state. The bill also allows for the land surveyor exam to be taken by an individual at any point after high school graduation. Parson has also signed several public safety related bills, as well as a bill modifying the use of eminent domain proceedings for certain electrical corporations, especially in the cases of agricultural land.

The Governor and his staff will continue the process of reviewing legislation to determine which, if any bills will face the veto pen. Parson has until July 14 to make that determination. Should there be any bills where he declines to take any action, the bills will automatically become law.

In addition, the Governor continues to review the budget bills passed by the General Assembly.  He has until June 30 to sign or veto items in the budget.  This year’s budget action by the Governor is being watched closely because not only will the Governor be making decisions on the record high FY23 state operating budget, he will also be making decisions on the ARPA spending bill which contains close to $3 billion in spending across the state.  We expect there will be some vetoes in the ARPA bill as.

To review all legislative action taken by the Governor on the bills passed by the legislature, please go to the following link:  https://governor.mo.gov/actions/legislative-actions.  This link is updated in real time and will give you the most up to date information.

Looking ahead, the House Republican Campaign Committee will hold their annual summer caucus from August 10-13. The event is an opportunity for the lobbying corps to meet current and future House members, fundraising for the Republican caucus, and meetings to set the agenda of Republican House members for the next legislative session. The event is being held at the Hilton Convention Center in Branson, and regularly raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Republican Caucus.

We will continue to keep you posted on legislative and election news in Jefferson City and across the state as it occurs. Nikki Strong, Strong Consultants.

May 2022 Lobbyist Report

The Missouri Senate broke the log jam and started to move legislation, albeit at a slower pace than typical at this point in a legislative session.  To date, of the nearly 2,300 bills that were filed this session, only one has passed both the House and Senate, and been signed by the Governor. The FY 23 operating budget along with the budget that contains the spending authority for the nearly $3 billion in ARPA stimulus dollars must be passed by the legislature by May 6 at 6:00 p.m.  The 2022 legislative session ends on May 13 at 6:00 p.m.

While the Senate has been slowed all session by lengthy filibusters throughout the session, the House has continued their normal work and have sent numerous bills to the Senate for their consideration. As we have reported in the past, the House has passed a bill in committee which eliminates the new sales tax increase for gas and diesel fuel, but that measure has been stalled for the last month and has not seen any floor debate. Two similar bills in the Senate have been idle in the Transportation and Public Safety Committee where the chairman has thus far decided against moving the bills forward. Two additional bills in the House would enact a six-month holiday on the gas tax, but those bills have not moved for several weeks and don’t seem to be gaining any traction. We will continue our efforts in opposition of these bills. All other bills either supported or opposed by ASA have suffered the same fate as all other bills, including the Underground Damage Review Board, bills dealing with prevailing wage, and electric vehicle charging stations.

The House passed the state budget for Fiscal Year 2023 in mid-April and forwarded the numerous budget bills to the Senate. The plan gives spending authority of approximately $46 billion to various agencies necessary for the operation of state government. A huge focus was on the ramifications of COVID-19 and led House budget writers to include language in every budget bill which prohibits any department in state government, any agency that uses public funds, or any public school from holding an event that requires a vaccination or a negative Coronavirus test.

In a somewhat surprising departure from previous years, there continues to be a record surplus of revenue in state coffers. Some budget experts are expecting that amount to reach nearly $3 billion by the end of the current fiscal year. While the House only used a portion of the surplus on shoring up certain programs and one-time needs, the Senate appears poised to use additional amounts of the surplus to fund what they feel are necessary priorities. The differences between the House and Senate positions on the budget must be reconciled in conference committee before the spending plan is sent to the Governor for his signature. As stated above, the General Assembly is under the gun as the deadline for finalizing the budget by May 6.

As the final weeks of session approach, we will continue to watch for legislation that may be impactful to ASA members. With little time remaining, legislators will be looking for every opportunity to attach their priorities to any piece of legislation that is moving. We also anticipate a final attempt by Senate leadership to pass the new congressional district map. That has proved to be an impossible task thus far.  It will be interesting to see what legislation makes it across the finish line due to the slow place thus far in this legislative session as the May 13 deadline is quickly approaching.

April 2022 Lobbyist Report

The legislative session has reached the halfway point as Senators and Representatives have returned to Jefferson City after the annual legislative spring break. As far as legislative accomplishments, the first half of the session was unremarkable as only one bill made its way to the Governor’s desk. Republican infighting in the Senate continues to stand in the way of progress, just as it has since day one of the session.

Even though not many bills have seen floor time in the Senate, there are still a number of bills in the hopper that are of interest to ASA members. One of those bills is HB1584, filed by Representative Jim Murphy (R-St. Louis County), which mandates that any municipality or political subdivision that requires the installation of electric vehicle charging stations, must pay for the installation and maintenance of the station. The bill has made its way through the House Transportation Committee and was approved by the full House in early March and is now in the Senate where it will likely be assigned to committee in the near future.

Senator Dave Schatz has filed SB1236, which sets up the 9-member Underground Damage Prevention Review Board. We anticipate the bill will be sent to the Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee and we will continue to work with stakeholders to push the bill forward.

As we talked about in our last column, there are three bills we are opposing that would repeal the newly enacted gas tax. SB782, filed by Senator Mike Moon (Lawrence County), and SB811, filed by Senator Bill Eigel (St. Charles County), were both referred to the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee in late January, but have not been scheduled for a hearing. A similar version of the bill was filed in the lower chamber by Representative Sarah Walsh (R-Ashland). Her bill, HB1584, saw movement early in the session, but has languished on the House Informal Calendar since March 1.

Additional bills we are watching include HB2388, filed by Representative Kurtis Gregory (R-Saline County), which exempts higher education institutions from prevailing wage requirements for demolition or removal of buildings no longer in use, and HB2750 filed by Representative Allen Andrew (R-Atchison County), which exempts third and fourth counties and the cities therein, from prevailing wage requirements on projects of $500,000 or less. Neither bill has been assigned to committee or gained any traction thus far.

Many Representatives and Senators continue to jockey for position as candidate filing is in full swing and will remain open until March 29. All 163 Missouri House seats are up for election, as are 17 of the 34 state Senate seats. Several are also eyeing U.S. Senate or Congressional seats. While there have been no big surprises so far, the fact that a handful of current office holders will face each other in the upcoming primary election has made debate on the House and Senate floor interesting to say the least.

As session enters the final weeks, we will continue to monitor legislation that is impactful to ASA and the construction industry, as well as watch for last minute amendments House and Senate member will try to attach in order to push their priorities.

February 2022 Lobbyist Report


Legislators have once again descended upon Jefferson City as the 2022 legislative session began at noon on Wednesday, January 5. Capitol observers had predicted that this could be a contentious session, and that has turned out to be true thus far, especially in the Senate.

In addition to a bevy of controversial topics that must be debated, Senators spent the better part of the first three weeks sorting through disagreements that remain from the last regular session and special session. Numerous attempts have been made to change the rules of the Senate, in an effort to wrestle power away from Senate leadership and thus giving individual Senators more control over assigning bills to committee, placing bills on the calendar, making motions on bills, and ending debate when a filibuster occurs. All are hoping for a more functional Senate as the session moves forward.

As the upper chamber focused on rehashing old wounds, the House has moved a critically important piece of legislation forward by passing a new congressional district map. As we had mentioned in last month’s update, new maps are drawn every ten years based on the most recent census. Most observers think the new map maintains the current 6-2 republican advantage. Several House members however, had advocated for a 7-1 map. The proposal passed the House by an 86-67 vote, but the measure fell short of the requirement for enactment of an emergency clause. The emergency clause is necessary for the bill be in place before the August 2 primary election date. Absent the emergency clause, the new map would not be enacted until August 28, which is the date all new legislation takes effect, as mandated by the state constitution. The measure now moves to the Senate for their consideration, where several Republican Senators, all members of the “Conservative Caucus” are waging a public war voicing their opposition to House version of a 6-2 map, saying they will push for a 7-1 map.

Governor Mike Parson delivered the annual State of the State Address on January 19 to a joint session of the Missouri House and Senate. In his remarks, Parson outlined his spending plan for state and federal dollars, as well as his legislative priorities. The governor touted Missouri’s strong economy and kept with his theme of infrastructure and workforce development which has been his mantra since taking office. His plan calls for an immediate 5.5% cost of living increase for state employees and increasing the base salary for new teachers to $38,000 per year. The pay scale for both groups rank near the bottom nationally. Also included is $412 million for water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure projects, $100 million for improvements to low volume roads in the state, $75 million for the state’s cost-share program for road and bridge projects, $10 million to extend the MoExcels program for high-demand job training, $469 million for capital improvement projects at colleges and universities, and nearly $95 million in capital funding for small businesses. Much of the spending is one-time funding for one-time projects, as the state is flush with cash from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Parson’s spending plan must be approved by the General Assembly through the appropriations process before it can be enacted.

As we move into February, the General Assembly is still under the gun to pass a supplemental appropriations bill which will help fund local school districts, state employee pay increases, and domestic violence shelters. Funds necessary for the state’s Medicaid program, including expansion of the program are also part of the supplemental budget. All will be watching as legislators work through the budgeting process.

We will keep you updated on activity in Jefferson City and around the state through our weekly legislative update. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group

January 2022 Lobbyist Report

The legislative session is right around the corner.  The 2022 legislative session gavels in on Wednesday, January 5 at noon.  Bill pre-filing began on December 1 and we have seen a record number of bills pre-filed.  As is typical, pre-filed bills include issues that did not cross the finish line during the previous session and include new issues that have surfaced since the last legislative session ended in May.  Pre-filed bills include COVID related issues such as vaccine mandates to education reform to transportation including bills that would repeal the fuel tax passed last year.

Many are predicting that the 2022 legislative session will be one of the most controversial sessions yet, with not much getting across the finish line.  2022 is an election year and as is typical in most election years, very little legislation gets across the finish line.  However, this year will not be a typical election year and there are many issues that will put additional strain on the legislative process.

Every 10 years the legislative and congressional district maps are re-drawn based on the census.  The release of census numbers were initially delayed which delayed the redistricting process for the state.  The Governor did not call a special session to deal with redistricting during the interim; therefore, this issue will need to be one of the first issues the legislature deals with.  Redistricting will be controversial, and we anticipate will take up valuable floor time and test the degree of legislative in-fighting among the Republican Caucus and the Republican “Conservative” Caucus.

As you will recall, Medicaid expansion was passed by a vote of the people during the November 2020 General Election.  The Republican legislature did not put funding in the FY2022 budged passed last session claiming the ballot language passed by the vote of the people did not include a funding mechanism for expansion; therefore, the legislature was not required to fund the expansion.  The courts ruled last summer/early fall that the state was required to provide health coverage to the newly expanded Medicaid population; however, since the state did not include funding for Medicaid expansion in the budget passed during the 2021 legislative session, the state will need to act quickly to appropriate money to pay for Medicaid expansion before MO HealthNet runs out of money.  As a result, a supplemental budget bill will need to be passed within the first several weeks of the legislative session.  It is anticipated that MO HealthNet will run out of money in February without this supplemental appropriation which would impact all Medicaid services, not just the population covered by the expansion.  This will be controversial as the Conservatives in the Republican legislature are adamantly opposed to expanding Medicaid.

Two bills calling for the repeal of the newly enacted fuel tax were among the first to be prefiled. SB782, sponsored by Senator Mike Moon (R-Ash Grove) and HB1594 sponsored by Representative Sara Walsh (R-Ashland) both seek to eliminate the provisions of SB262 from last session. Both are also running for Congress.  Walsh is running in congressional District 4 to replace Vickie Hartzler who is running for U.S. Senate.  Moon is running in Congressional District 7 to replace Rep. Billy Long who is also running for U.S. Senate.  SB262 mandated an increase on the fuel tax in Missouri for the first time in nearly 30 years. Supporters of the tax at the time said the increase was needed to provide funds for maintenance and construction of the current aging system.  Opponents continue to tout their opposition to any tax increases combined with federal stimulus dollars for infrastructure will cover some of the costs and projects the tax was intended to cover.  At this time, we believe the repeal of this tax will make some headway through the legislative process but likely not pass.

We will begin sending our weekly legislative updates to the ASA membership once the legislative session begins.  If you have any questions during the 2022 legislative session, please do not hesitate to reach out. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group.

December 2021 Lobbyist Report

With the recent passage of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Missouri is in line to receive over $9 billion over the next five years. The money headed to Missouri will be slated for repair and improvement of many of the state’s infrastructure needs. Highlights include $6.5 billion for roads, $484 million for bridges, $866 million for water infrastructure and safety, $246 million for airport development, $100 million for broadband internet expansion, $99 million for electric vehicle charging stations, and $674 million for public transportation needs. The federal money, coupled with the recently enacted increase in Missouri’s fuel tax, will mean a significant investment in the state’s infrastructure over the next several years. Seven of Missouri’s eight U.S. House members voted no on the measure, with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver casting a yes vote. Also voting yes on the legislation was U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, while Senator Josh Hawley voted no.

Missouri Senate Republicans recently held their annual fall caucus meetings at Big Cedar Lodge in Branson. Many political observers considered this to be an opportunity for the caucus to “right the ship” before session begins in January, but it seems that hard feelings are still lingering from last session. The biggest rift seems to be between the members of Conservative Caucus and the remaining Republicans over some core issues. Unless the members can reach a compromise, it looks like the upcoming session may slow going as a handful of unhappy senators throw up roadblocks to stall progress on legislative action.

The fact that several senators are eyeing higher office could also impact the dynamics in the upper chamber as session begins. Senators Mike Moon and Eric Burlison have both announced a run for Missouri’s 7th Congressional District, and Rick Brattin has stated he may jump into the race for the 4th Congressional district. Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden had also hinted at running for Congress in the 4th but has instead opted to serve his remaining time in the Missouri Senate. Rowden will be a top contender for President Pro-Tem of the Senate when Dave Schatz exits after the 2022 session.

Highly respected, kind, and unrivaled integrity were terms used to describe Representative Tom Hannegan (R-St. Charles), as colleagues learned of Hannegan’s passing on October 20. Hannegan was chairman of the House Local Government Committee and was first elected to his seat in 2016. He worked with family-owned Hannegan Real Estate and Construction, and was also the publisher and editor of Street Scape Magazine. Members from both sides of the aisle expressed their affection for Hannegan, as he consistently championed legislation for the betterment of others. The 51-year-old Hannegan suffered a stroke on the morning of October 20 and passed away later that day. In an email to colleagues, House leadership stated, “Tom will forever be remembered for his determination to serve those in need as well as his great love for all people. We extend our thoughts and prayers to the many friends and family who loved Tom. He will be greatly missed.”

Next on the legislative calendar is prefiling of legislation, which began December 1.  We will review all bills and keep you updated on any political happenings affecting ASA and the construction industry.  Finally, the 2022 legislative session will begin on Wednesday January 5. 2022. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group.

 

November 2021 Lobbyist Report

The biggest news coming out of Jefferson City in the last month is a major shakeup in Governor Mike Parson’s cabinet. On October 12, Governor Parson announced several changes to the heads of various state departments and the Office of Administration.

The Office of Administration Commissioner, Sarah Steelman, was abruptly asked to resign early on October 12. The commissioner post is one of the top-level positions in state government and oversees most aspects of day-to-day operations of the state including the budget and construction projects. Steelman had been in the position since early 2017 when she was appointed by then-Governor Eric Greitens. She is a former state Senator and state Treasurer and has been a political fixture in Jefferson City and across the state for many years. The Department of Revenue Director Ken Zellers will take Steelman’s place as the interim commissioner, while Revenue’s general counsel Joseph Plaggenberg will take over for Zellers as the Director of the Department of Revenue.

Jennifer Tidball, the acting director of the Department of Social Services, is also out.  Gov. Parson announced that his Deputy Chief of Staff Robert Knodell will take the helm of Social Services effective October 18. Tidball, who had stepped into the vacant position in 2019, will become the department’s chief operating officer. She had been mired in controversy as several lawmakers laid blame on her for the department’s handling of missing children in foster care and alleged abuses at unlicensed reform schools in the state.

The Department of Mental Health Director Mark Stringer announced his retirement, effective at the end of the year. Stringer had been in the post since 2015 and had served more than 34 years in the mental health field, with 24 years at DMH. He has received numerous awards for his innovation and leadership, serving on national boards, testifying before Congress, and advocating for those with mental illness and developmental disabilities. The department’s Deputy Director, Valerie Huhn, will temporarily take the helm at the end of October as Stringer takes leave until his official retirement date at the end of the year.

Also departing state government is Department of Economic Development Director Rob Dixon, whose last day was October 22. Dixon left for a position with Ameren as the Director of Community and Economic Development. He has been in his current position since 2017. Deputy Director Maggie Kost will become acting director upon Dixon’s departure.

In other news, the first phase of the new fuel tax in Missouri is now in effect, marked by a 2.5 cent increase per gallon at the pump. There will be subsequent increases each fiscal year until the total additional tax reaches 12.5 cents per gallon on July 1, 2025. The increase is a result of the passage of SB262 from the last legislative session. Once the tax is fully implemented, the measure is expected to raise an additional $375 million per year for state highways, as well as an additional $138 million per year for cities and counties to deal with transportation issues. Taxpayers will have an opportunity to recoup the extra taxes they have paid by filling out a form from the Department of Revenue, which will include the number of gallons purchased, details on the vehicle, and amount of extra taxes paid. Refund applications must be submitted between July 1 and September 30 each year. The Department of Revenue will have 45 days to process the form before having to pay interest to the taxpayer. The Missouri legislation mirrors a similar measure from South Carolina which was passed in 2017.

New applications for Missouri’s expanded Medicaid program are beginning to be processed through the Department of Social Services. Over 4,000 low-income applicants have been enrolled thus far. Over 17,000 new applications were initially received under the expanded program. Officials estimate approximately 275,000 Missourian’s are eligible. The expansion comes after the voter approved ballot measure was tied up in a legislative budget fight last session. That led to the courts issuing an order that the measure was indeed constitutional, and the state must allow the expansion to move forward. The measure provides health care coverage for single individuals who make less than $18,000 per year of a family of four who makes up to $36,750 per year.

Lawmakers are still busy in their home districts with fundraising events and preparing for the next legislative session. Prefiling of legislation will begin on December 1. We will continue to keep you updated on all political happenings in Jefferson City and around the state. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group.


 

October 2021 Lobbyist Report

The top headline for the month of September was the annual veto session held in Jefferson City on September 15. Lawmakers returned to the Capitol as mandated by the constitution and attempted to override several vetoes issued by Governor Mike Parson on bills from the last regular session. Of the sixteen vetoes issued by the Governor, the General Assembly attempted several overrides. Although four override attempts passed easily in the House, that was not the case in the upper chamber and in the end, all the vetoes issues earlier this year by Governor Parson will stand.

Tempers flared and finger pointing occurred in a showdown between Republicans. At the center of the controversy was whether a Senator could make an override motion on a bill he or she did not sponsor or handle. Senator Mike Moon (R-Lawrence County) attempted to seek recognition to override a veto on one of the budget bills.  Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe, who presides over the Senate, would not recognize Moon for the motion. Senate rules do not address who can make a motion for an override, but Senate tradition held that only the sponsor can make the motion, which in this case was, Senator Dan Hegeman (R-Andrew County). Several hours of heated debate ensued, pitting members of the Conservative Caucus against more traditional Republicans. In the end, and in an effort to keep peace in the chamber, Hegeman made the override motion, but it failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority to pass. Many Capitol observers believe the infighting between Republicans will spill over into the next regular session which begins in January.

While lawmakers were gathered in Jefferson City for veto session, Republican House members took advantage of the opportunity to select their next speaker of the House. Representative Dean Plocher was unanimously chosen by his colleagues to lead the chamber beginning in January of 2023 after current Speaker, Rep. Rob Vescovo terms out. Plocher must still be approved by the full body, but the result is a foregone conclusion since the Republicans continue to hold a super majority. Plocher represents House District 89 in St. Louis County. The district encompasses Town and Country, Des Peres, Frontenac, and surrounding areas. He currently serves as majority floor leader and will continue in that role until 2023.

Aside from the controversy in the Senate during veto session, another battle continued to brew in the Capitol, but this time it was in the state museum. The museum, housed on the first floor of the Capitol building, is operated by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). On September 1, several Republican state representatives and at least one staff member inquired of the DNR, as to the reason for a gay rights banner and a LGBTQ exhibit in the state museum. The exhibit, “Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights,” had been scheduled to be in the Capitol from the end of August through December. It was removed shortly after the complaints were received and relocated to a museum in the Lohman Building, which sits next to the Capitol. The move angered Senator Greg Razer (D-Kansas City), who is the only openly gay member of the Senate and also garnered national attention. A spokesperson for DNR stated the display was removed because the Board of Public Buildings, who oversees displays in the Capitol museum, had not approved the exhibit. Senator Razer and other Democrats pointed out that other exhibits in the museum have also not been pre-approved, but they continue to be on display.

Last year the Governor called multiple special sessions in between the 2020 and 2021 legislative sessions.  Since the 2021 Legislative Session ended in mid-May, many legislators called on Governor Mike Parson to continue that trend and call special sessions on various topics during the interim.  The most recent request from several Republican legislators has been for a special session to deal with the vaccine mandate recently announced by President Biden.  Despite these requests, we do not expect the Governor will call a special session to address the vaccine mandate or any other topic.  Should the state desire to challenge the vaccine mandate, that will need to be done in the courts as legislative action cannot overturn federal mandate.  As far as the other topics the Governor has received requests for special session, those will likely be addressed during the regular 2022 legislative session that begins in January.

Next on the political agenda is the Senate Republican Caucus, to be held in Branson from November 9th through the 11th.  Until then, senators and representatives will be in their home districts as they prepare their legislative agenda for the next regular session which begins in January. Prefiling of legislation for the 2022 session will begin on December 1.


 

August 2021 Lobbyist Report

In last month’s update we mentioned the controversy in the Capitol regarding the FRA tax, which is a critical funding source for hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies, and ambulance services that care for Medicaid patients. The funding was set to expire unless legislators agreed to an extension, We are happy to report that during a special legislative session that concluded on June 30, the General Assembly sent their approval to the Governor for his signature. The passage of the measure ended a showdown between legislators that had lasted since the beginning of the regular legislative session in January.  The passage of the renewal of the FRA also averted the Governor from making major budget withholds or vetoes he had threatened prior to the start of the special session.  Upon the passage of the renewal, with just hours remaining in the fiscal year, Parson promptly signed the measure. Senators and Representatives agreed to a three-year extension of the tax, meaning that the controversial topic will be put to rest for the next couple years.

Also making news regarding Medicaid dollars is the continuing battle over Medicaid expansion in the state. As you will recall, Missouri voters approved expansion of the health care program in August 2020, which would cover an additional 270,000 people who are at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty level. However, the Republican controlled legislature opted not to enact the expansion, saying that voters did not approve a funding mechanism for the expansion. The measure quickly landed in Cole County Circuit Court, where judge Jon Beetem issued a ruling in favor of the state’s argument, that without a funding mechanism, the state is under no obligation to expand the program. The case then moved to the Missouri Supreme Court, where arguments were heard on July 13. As of the writing of this report, no decision has been handed down from the high court, but we expect that to happen soon.

Governor Mike Parson recently completed signing the remaining bills from the 2021 legislative session, signing the final round of bills on July 14. A full report of the Governor’s actions were sent in an emailed report to the membership in mid-July.  As a recap, Parson signed numerous bills throughout June and July at events in Jefferson City and around the state. All signed bills will become law on August 28 unless they contained an emergency clause or a specific date for enactment.  Of particular interest to ASA is SB262, which we have supported over several legislative sessions. The bill adds much-needed funding for road and bridge projects in the state, by allowing an additional tax of 12.5 cents per gallon on fuel purchases to be phased in over a five-year period. The Governor held several ceremonial signings of the bill across the state in mid-July.

Parson also issued several vetoes of bills recently passed, including SB226, which is a tax related measure which changed the threshold for sales tax filing periods, and allowed for certain property tax and income tax credits. He also vetoed HB661, a transportation related bill that dealt with a vehicle towing committee, a fee increase for obtaining certain records from the Highway Patrol and repealing vehicle emissions testing in certain areas. Legislators will have the opportunity to override any veto issued by the Governor at the constitutionally mandated veto session on September 15.

We anticipate the Capitol will be relatively quiet over the next month and leading up to the September 15 veto session.  We will continue to keep you updated on political news in Jefferson City and around the state as it happens. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group

 


 

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