The 2024 Legislative Session begins at 12 noon on Wednesday, January 3 and will run through Friday, May 17 at 6:00 p.m. On December 1, legislators began the annual ritual of pre-filing legislation. The pre-filed bills gave a telling look at the legislative priorities of our state representatives and senators. This year marked a near-record number of bills pre-filed, where well over 1,000 bills and resolutions were filed within the first week and throughout the month. This was a huge increase over the amount filed in the same period last year, where 769 legislative initiatives were filed. Legislators may continue to file bills until March 1.
As session gets under way, it marks the beginning of the end for two highly respected members of the Missouri Senate. Karla Eslinger, of the 33rd district, which covers six counties in southern Missouri, has accepted an appointment from the State Board of Education to be Missouri’s next Commissioner of Education. Eslinger will finish the upcoming legislative session, and then take the lead at her new position as current Commissioner Marge Vandeven plans to retire at the end of June. Eslinger holds a doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis and served in various capacities in public education before her service in the Senate. State Representative Brad Hudson (R-Stone and Christian Counties) had already announced plans to challenge Eslinger in next years’ primary election. At this juncture, he appears to be the only Republican candidate for the position.
Senator Elaine Gannan also recently announced her plans to forgo a second term as she will not seek reelection in 2024. Gannon currently serves in the 3rd Senatorial District which includes Crawford, Ste. Genevieve, St. Francios, Washington and southern Jefferson Counties. Gannon issued a press release stating that her Senate service has limited the time she is able to spend with her family, especially her grandchildren. At this juncture, it appears this race will have a crowded primary of three Republican candidates have announced their interest in running for this open seat, including current state representatives Michael Henderson and Cyndi Buchheit-Courtway.
In a recent hearing of a House appropriations subcommittee, Department of Transportation director Patrick McKenna told committee members that the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission has the authority to make expenditures regardless of the opinion and directives of the General Assembly. McKenna was referring to an October court ruling where Cole County Circuit Judge Cotton Walker ruled in favor of the commission after they filed suit when the Office of Administration refused to implement a pay increase for MoDOT employees. The pay plan was approved by the commission, but was never approved by the legislature, thus setting up a battleground over which branch of government controls MoDOT spending. Walker was slated to hear arguments on December 18 on a motion by the Attorney General’s office to reconsider his decision. Regardless of the decision made by Walker, one would assume the losing side will appeal the ruling. It appears the battle over who controls the purse strings of the road and bridge fund is far from over.
The far-right branch of Missouri Senate Republicans – formerly called the Conservative Caucus – has rebranded themselves into the Missouri Freedom Caucus. A number of former Conservative Caucus members recently issued a release with their updated name and several new members, including some House members. Included in the group are Senators Koenig, Hoskins, Brattin, Carter, Eigel, and Schroer. House members included Representatives Keathley, Boyd, and Sparks. It remains to be seen if the newly named group will be obstructionists as they were in past sessions, but they have already launched social media attacks at Senate leadership.
We will begin sending weekly legislative updates to ASA members shortly after the legislative session begins on January 3. These weekly updates will continue until the legislative session ends in mid-May. As a reminder, weekly legislative updates including information regarding the general activities of the legislature and also include updates on legislation that directly impacts ASA members during the week. We will continue to keep you informed as the legislative session progresses.