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