As 2020 draws to a close, we find that members of the General Assembly, the Governor’s staff, and special interest groups are all busy finalizing their respective agendas for the 2021 Legislative Session which begins on January 6.
COVID-19 concerns will still be at the forefront when legislators return to Jefferson City. We are certain that precautions will remain in place in and around the Capitol, with limited access to hearings and floor proceedings in order to keep legislators, staff, and visitors as safe as possible. Live streaming of Capitol events along with Zoom meetings and the like will probably be the new normal for the foreseeable future. In addition, all groups are discouraged from holding big gatherings or lobby days at the Capitol this session.
As we are all aware, the pandemic has been devastating to many businesses around the state. That devastation equates to job losses and an anticipated loss in local and state tax revenues. With that in mind, the Governor and legislative leaders recently announced their consensus revenue estimates (CRE) for Fiscal Year 2022, which will begin July 1 of next year. The CRE is the starting point for preparing the state operating budget for the coming fiscal year. As announced in Governor Mike Parson’s recent press release, the key figure in preparing the budget is general revenue collections. Net general revenue collections for FY22 are projected to decrease by approximately $419 million. House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith remarked that we are in the “midst of the most trying economic times in a generation.”
Despite the projected shortfall, the state released some good news for the month of November. General revenue collections for the month came in at $811.1 million compared to $708.5 million for the same period last year. The revenue numbers combined with the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations arriving in the state have many hoping that a full recovery could be coming in the very near future.
At least two lawmakers will find themselves at odds with their colleagues when the new session begins. Representative-elect Rick Roeber (R-Lee’s Summit) had been accused of physical and sexual assault by his children, who are now adults, prior to the November election. Roeber has denied the allegations, and narrowly won his election, squeezing out a 1.7 percent margin of victory. Although he will be in Jefferson City for the opening of session, House leadership recently announced the Roeber would be barred from sitting with the Republican Caucus and the allegations would be investigated by the House Ethics Committee when the session commences.
Additionally, it appears that House leadership will pursue censure of Representative Wiley Price (D-St. Louis), after he was accused of an inappropriate relationship with a Capitol intern, followed by threatening and intimidating a staff member for reporting the relationship. The House Ethics Committee, comprised of five Democrats and five Republicans, unanimously found that Price committed perjury, obstructed their investigation of the matter, and compromised the ability of the House to provide a respectful, professional work environment. To date, Price has not resigned, denies the allegation and states he will be attending the opening of the next legislative session.
Pre-filing of legislation for the upcoming session continues at a rapid pace. Nearly 900 bills and resolutions have been filed by Senators and Representatives as of the writing of this report. As expected, bills have been pre-filed that impact the construction industry including but not limited to right-to-work, repeal of prevailing wage, changes to workers compensation, and transportation taxes just to name a few.
As stated above, the 2021 legislative session will begin on January 6. Throughout the entire 2021 session, we will be in the Capitol advocating on your behalf. Our weekly legislative reports will also begin once session starts. You can expect weekly legislative updates to be emailed to you every Friday or Saturday during the 2021 legislative session. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group.