The 2024 legislative session is underway as lawmakers gathered in Jefferson City at noon on January 3 for the opening day ceremonies. The prediction of a dysfunctional year in the Senate by most Capitol observers seems to be coming true, at least during the first few weeks.
At issue again, and in a repeat from previous years, is in-party fighting between far-right conservative Republicans and “regular” Republicans. The far-right faction, who had previously called themselves the Conservative Caucus, have rebranded themselves into the Missouri Freedom Caucus and appear to be a sub-group of the Washington, D.C. based House Freedom Caucus. While the session started with Freedom Caucus members stating they wanted to move forward with important legislation, that came to a sudden halt on January 18, when they mounted a nine-hour filibuster to block a slate of gubernatorial appointments that needed Senate confirmation. At issue was their complaint that Initiative Petition (IP) reform hasn’t moved through the process quickly enough. The discussion on the Senate floor quickly turned into hours of angry debate and name calling. As of the writing of this newsletter, there has been no resolution to the standoff and the Freedom Caucus has promised to continue blocking all of Governor Parson’s appointments until they get their way.
The in-fighting has not slowed members of the General Assembly from filing record numbers of bills. To date, nearly 1,800 bills and resolutions have been filed by House and Senate members. While numerous bills will be heard in the committee process, we will see how floor debate shapes the progress and how many of these bills actually get across the finish line.
Filing for elected office in the August primary election begins on February 27. While many questions remain about who will be on the ballot, a handful of candidates have already announced their intentions. Especially noteworthy is the fact that several members of the Missouri Senate will be running for higher office. Senator Holly Rehder has launched her campaign for Lt. Governor, while Senator Mary Elizabeth Coleman has announced she will be running for the 3rd Congressional District to replace retiring Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer. Also in the mix is Senate President Pro-Tem Caleb Rowden and Senator Denny Hosking who are both running for Secretary of State. The fact that numerous Senators are seeking higher office will certainly add to the drama in the chamber as session unfolds.
In other legislative news, the House Committee on Transportation Accountability met earlier in session to get a general update from MoDOT officials on all thing’s transportation related. Committee members learned that the first bid in the series of projects to improve Interstate 70 will be awarded on February 14th. The $340 million project will focus on the much needed replacement of the 63/70 interchange in Columbia.
The Governor gave his state of the state address on January 24 outlining his budget priorities. Now the House and Senate budget leaders will meet to determine the scope of the Governor’s recommendations and how they will revise or follow through with his request for the FY25 state budget. The Governor and legislative leaders are preparing for relatively flat revenue growth during the next fiscal year, as they are predicting an uptick in collections of only 0.2 percent. The spending plan must be approved by May 10. The low revenue growth number will cause a slowdown of the spending on new decision items we have seen the past couple years.
We will continue to keep you updated with political happenings in Jefferson City and around the state that impact ASA and the construction industry. If you aren’t receiving your weekly ASA Legislative Update via e-mail, please contact [email protected] to be added to the list. Thank you Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group.