With the General Election behind us, lawmakers are now focusing on their legislative agendas for the upcoming 2021 session which is right around the corner and beings January 6, 2021. When the new session begins, the landscape will be much the same in the Capitol as Republicans were successful in holding their super majorities in both the House and Senate. In a year that Missouri Democrats were hoping to ride a blue wave to gain ground in the General Assembly, their efforts did not materialize.
Only one incumbent Republican House member was defeated, and the margin was razor thin. Newcomer Betsy Fogle of Springfield narrowly won over Representative Steve Helms by an initial count of 80 votes. The margin was within one half of one percent, triggering an automatic recount. At the end of the day, the final count was 8,548 to 8,472, a margin of 76 votes. This means Republicans will continue to hold a 114-49 advantage over Democrats in the lower chamber for the next two years. The Senate will largely look the same as well, with Republicans holding a 24-10 supermajority as Democrats failed to capitalize on a couple of competitive races. Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden from Boone County will return as will Senator Andrew Koenig from St. Louis County. Both held off challenges from their Democratic opponents and will now begin their second terms.
The Capitol has not been entirely quiet as House members returned in mid-November for another special session called by Governor Mike Parson to address supplemental budget concerns as they relate to COVID-19. After House members approved the budget measure, Parson announced he would expand his call to include COVID-19 liability legislation, which is meant to provide liability protection for health care providers, manufacturers, businesses, schools, churches, and nonprofit organizations. The Senate was slated to take up the liability package and supplemental budget items the week of November 16th, but ironically, that has been postponed indefinitely because several staff members and senators have recently tested positive for coronavirus.
The ongoing saga of the pandemic has continued to take its toll on many small businesses, especially in the food service industry. With the numbers of cases continuing to grow, cities and counties throughout the state are once again closing or severely restricting activities at bars, restaurants, gyms, and other places of gathering, leading many to worry about job losses. Unemployment numbers for the week ending 11/14/20 were at 8,320, which is slightly up from the week before, but much lower than in the spring when numbers soared to over 104,000. Governor Parson has faced ongoing criticism from many in the health care field, but he has stood firm stating once again that he will not order a statewide mask mandate or a stay at home order. Parson reiterated in a recent press conference that, although he encourages mask wearing and social distancing, such orders should come from local government entities and not from his office.
The Governor also recently announced that he was extending the state of emergency related to the pandemic through March 31, 2021. His press release noted the extension would allow for continued flexibility in deploying critical resources around the state as well as the continued utilization of the Missouri National Guard.
Bill pre-filing for the 2021 legislative session began on December 1. We will review and identify any bills filed that impact the construction industry. In addition, we will continue to keep you updated on when the legislature resumes activities for the current special session and other political happenings in Jefferson City and around the state. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group.