February 2023 Lobbyist Report
Lawmakers gathered in Jefferson City on Wednesday, January 4 at noon to begin the 2023 legislative session. The day was ceremonial in nature, with newly elected members taking the oath of office, followed by an evening of receptions and ending with the Legislative Ball. Opening day speeches were given by the new leadership in both the House and Senate. Representative Dean Plocher was elected by his peers to be the Speaker of the House for the next two years. Joining Plocher in leadership will be Representative Jon Patterson, who was selected as Majority Floor Leader. In the upper chamber, Senator Caleb Rowden assumes the top spot as President Pro-Tem, and Senator Cindy O’Laughlin serve as Majority Floor Leader.
Little legislative activity occurred during the first several weeks of session, as committee assignments were made, and bills were referred to committee for consideration. Several bills have been filed to repeal any future increases in the fuel tax, but to date there has not been any discussion on moving any of the bills forward. Other legislation impacting ASA has not yet moved forward.
On January 18, Governor Mike Parson delivered his State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly. Parson stressed workforce development and infrastructure, which has been his signature items since taking office. The Governor laid out several priorities as he put forth his legislative agenda and budget proposal to lawmakers. Included in his package was $859 million to make improvements to Interstate 70 across the state. The multi-year project would include widening and safety upgrades, focusing primarily on the St. Louis, Columbia, and Kansas City areas. Parson also proposed $35 million for safety upgrades to railroad crossings across the state, and $272 million for higher education building projects. Other proposals include an additional $78 million to subsidize childcare, in order to make it easier for parents of young children to enter the workforce. Also in Parson’s budget request is an 8.7% pay increase for all state employees. The total cost of the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2024 is $57.3 billion.
Additional political highlights in January included the inauguration of two statewide officials. On January 9, Scott Fitzpatrick was sworn-in as the new State Auditor. He takes the place of Nicole Galloway as she decided to not seek reelection. Fitzpatrick had been serving as State Treasurer. In his remarks during his swearing in ceremony, Fitzpatrick vowed to look at the spending of federal COVID dollars and promised an increase in the auditing of Missouri’s schools. The inauguration of Fitzpatrick left a vacancy in the office of State Treasurer, which was filled as Governor Mike Parson appointed Vivek Malek to fill out the remainder of Fitzpatrick’s term. Malek was sworn-in on January 16 during a ceremony in the House chamber. Malek immigrated to the United States in 2001 from India and attended Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. He owned a law firm in St. Louis before becoming Treasurer, specializing in immigration law. Parson has now made more appointments than any Governor in history, having appointed two treasurers, two attorneys general, and a lieutenant governor.
The pace of legislative activity will continue to increase as the session moves forward, and we will continue to provide you weekly email updates on the political activity that impacts ASA and the construction industry. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group