The 2023 legislative session came to a close at 6:00 pm on Friday, May 12, and will likely be remembered as being filled with missed opportunities. Many bills that were close to passing became casualties of dysfunction in the Senate during the final days of session. While House members spent the final hours of session passing numerous pieces of legislation, the Senate became a place of drawn-out theatrics that plagued the passage of many bills in the final hours. Each senator has substantial power to hold the floor for an extended period of time, but the final week saw this practice taken to the extreme as a handful of senators used this power to hold the entire body hostage in order to pass their own policy objectives.
The result was another year where very few policy-related bills found their way to Governor Mike Parson’s desk. Of the over 2,000 bills that were filed this session, only 41 policy bills await the Governor’s signature.
Several priority bills fell victim to the delay tactics, including initiative petition reform, which was a priority of the Speaker of the House, legislation to limit the ownership of Missouri farmland by foreign investors, and a provision to legalize sports betting in Missouri. We are certain each of these topics will be revisited next session.
The Fiscal year 2024 budget is probably the highlight of the legislative session, as many big-ticket capital improvement projects found their way into the budget as a result of the massive cash surplus currently in the state coffers. At the top of this list is the $2.8 billion earmarked to widen and improve Interstate 70 across the state. Also included is $25 million for environmental impact studies for Interstate 44 and U.S. Route 63 to prepare for improvements to those roadways as well.
Several provisions of interest to members did make their way to the finish line this year, including language to privatize Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance Company. The company was started by state statute in 1993 to address a crisis in the workers’ compensation market. According to supporters of the bill, that crisis no longer exists and paved the way for passage of the legislation.
Also awaiting action by the Governor is HB417, which contains several provisions relating to employment skills, including an income tax credit for taxpayers who hire an apprentice or intern, and a provision to make grants available to employers for each employee who obtains upskill credentials.
The Governor has until June 30 to determine if he will sign or veto budget related bills and must decide the fate of policy bills by July 14. Bills that are signed into law will become effective on August 28, unless the bill has an emergency clause or specific date of implementation.
Thank you for the opportunity to represent you in Jefferson City, and please don’t hesitate to contact us should you have any questions regarding legislation or political happenings around the state. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group