During most years, the month of June is usually quiet as far as legislative activity goes, however, this year is an exception. There has been no shortage of controversy in Jefferson City as the showdown over the FRA tax continues. As we noted in last month’s newsletter, the FRA tax is a vital piece of legislation that the General Assembly failed to renew before the end of session in May. Without it, hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies and ambulance services will lose a critical funding stream that enables them to care for Medicaid patients leaving many facilities unable to continue operation.
As of the writing of this report, an agreement has not been reached between Governor Mike Parson and legislators on the renewal of the tax. Absent an agreement, Parson stated he will not call for a special session to renew the tax and will begin the process of budget cuts to make up the $1.4 billion funding shortfall caused by the non-renewal. At the center of the disagreement is a provision that pro-life Senators want inserted in the tax extension to prohibit tax dollars from going to abortion services and certain contraceptives. All are hopeful that an agreement will be reached before the deadline is reached and the slashing of the budget begins.
In other news, the Governor has recently signed several bills that were passed during the legislative session, including HB271. The legislation is a wide-ranging local government bill, which includes a provision dealing with the competitive bid process for county governments, allowing them to increase the no bid required threshold from $6,000 to $12,000 on purchases or expenditures.
Other legislation approved by the Governor includes SB63, which establishes a statewide prescription drug monitoring program, and is designed to help with the ongoing opioid drug overdose crisis. Missouri had been the only state without such a program.
HB85, also signed by Parson, is a bill designed to prevent the enforcement of certain federal gun laws in the state. The sponsors of the legislation say the measure is designed to prevent federal government overreach, while opponents question the constitutionality of the bill. The City of St. Louis and St. Louis County have filed suit in Cole County Circuit Court to place an injunction on the bill and block its implementation. A hearing date on the suit has not yet been set.
We are still awaiting action by the Governor on the majority of the bills passed during the recent session, including SB262, which is the bill to increase fuel taxes in the state. Parson has until June 30 to make decisions on budget items, and July 14 on policy related bills. The situation remains fluid as everyone waits for the outcome of the above-mentioned FRA tax. Should no agreement be reached, the Governor will likely veto any new budget expenditures and any bills that contain a fiscal note.