The legislative session came to an end at 6:00 pm on May 15 and the halls of the Capitol are quiet again. In what was an historic session, the state Capitol sat empty for over a month due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The shortened session left little time for priority bills to work their way through the legislative process. Well over 2,000 bills and resolutions were filed by Senators and Representatives this year, but only 31 policy related bills were truly agreed and finally passed.
Once lawmakers returned to Jefferson City after the coronavirus shutdown, they had only three weeks to pass the budget and other priorities. Budget writers had to rethink their proposed spending plan for FY2021 because of the ongoing financial impact of COVID-19. They trimmed $700 million from their original proposal and warned that spending restrictions and withholds could be necessary as revenue numbers unfold throughout the year. The total of the spending plan for next year amounts to $35,291,459,657. General Revenue accounts for $10,011,743,473 of that amount, while $14,757,315,949 comes from Federal funds, and $10,522,400,235 comes from other funding sources.
Legislation that passed this year is now being reviewed by the Governor and his staff. Budget related bills must be signed or vetoed by June 30. He must take action on other legislation by July 14. Any bill signed into law will become effective on August 28 unless the measure contained a specific effective date or an emergency clause. Any bills vetoed by the Governor will be considered for an override by the legislature at the annual veto session in September.
Bills of interest to ASA that passed this session include HB2046 which deals with professional licensing in Missouri. The bill creates the “Expanded Workforce Access Act of 2020”, where licensing authorities are required to grant a license to any applicant that has completed the 8th grade, completed a federally approved apprenticeship program, and passed any necessary examination. The bill also establishes a procedure for professional licensing reciprocity for certain professionals licensed in other states.
SB591 also crossed the finish line. This legislation deals with civil actions and states that states that an unlawful merchandising practice shall not include any advertisement, merchandise, or transaction in which the merchandise consists of a new residence in a transaction in which the buyer is offered and accepts an express warranty in the sale contract by the builder or by a third party warranty paid for by the builder and the sale contract includes a disclaimer. The act defines “residence” as a single-family house, duplex, triplex, quadruplex, or unit in a multiunit residential structure in which the title to each individual unit is transferred to an owner under a condominium or cooperative system and includes common areas and common elements.
Now that the legislative session has ended, lawmakers will hit the campaign trail in full force. All 163 seats in the House of Representatives are up for election as are 17 of the 34 state Senate seats. The Primary Election will be held on August 4, with the winners squaring off in the General Election on November 3.
In the meantime, House and Senate leadership will be in discussions with the Governor regarding a possible special session(s). It is likely that the Governor will call lawmakers back to Jefferson City to address several policy issues such as the Wayfair tax and other economic development issues in addition to addressing the ongoing budget shortfall.