November 2020 Lobbyist Report
The halls of the Capitol have been quiet since the annual veto session and he special legislative session on crime wrapped up in mid-September. Legislators have been working and campaigning for the November 3 General Election day.
By the time this newsletter reaches you, the General Election will likely be over. There were numerous competitive races around the state. Republicans will still hold super majorities in both the Missouri House and Senate, although all predictions and polling indicate that Democrats were favored to pick up several seats in the Missouri House and likely to pick up a seat or two in the Senate. In addition, the race for Congressional District 2, currently held by Ann Wagner and being challenged by State Senator Jill Schupp, is a coin toss. Other races that are close is the 15th Senatorial District (Kirkwood) currently held by Republican Andrew Koenig. Democrat Deb Lavender is running a close race to unseat Koenig. The race for Senate District 1 (South St. Louis) to replace term limited Scott Sifton is close but Democrat Doug Beck should hold his lead over David Lenihan. Finally, the race most continue to watch very closely is Senate District 19 in central Missouri, where Democrat Judy Baker is running to try to oust incumbent Republican Caleb Rowden. Sen. Rowden is the Majority Floor Leader of the Senate. Senate District 19 has always been a toss-up Democrat/Republican seat. If Sen. Rowden is unable to hold on to his seat, the loss will be felt throughout the Senate as this will change the leadership structure in the Senate.
In addition to elected officials appearing on the ballot, voters will be deciding on several other issues. Amendment 1 would impose term limits on all statewide elected officials. Currently, only the Governor and Treasurer are term-limited as far as statewide officials go. State Senate and House members have fallen under term limit restrictions for many years.
Another ballot issue for voters to decide is Amendment 3. The measure would make several changes to the Clean Missouri initiative passed by voters in 2018. At the heart of the matter is the method used to redraw legislative district lines. This is done every ten years after census numbers are compiled. The Clean Missouri language specified the lines would be drawn by a demographer, who is selected by the Senate majority and minority leaders, from a list of six names submitted by the state Auditor. Amendment 3 seeks to put the redistricting process in the hands of bipartisan commissions that are appointed by the Governor. Additionally, the measure would place a complete ban on all lobbyist gifts and decrease the contribution cap on state Senate races.
The House and Senate will gather in Jefferson City the day after the election to caucus and formally elect leadership positions. That will happen this year as the House will formally elect their new Speaker, Rob Vescovo. In addition, they will elect a new Majority Floor Leader which is a tightly contested race between Rep. Dean Plocher, Curtis Trent and Jay Eggleston. The Senate is not expected to see any real leadership changes unless Sen. Rowden is not re-elected to his Senate seat. It is still not clear how leadership and the Majority Floor Leader role will be filled if that scenario comes to fruition, but we believe will be a contested and likely a bit contentious as the Conservative Caucus has not been quiet about their desire to take this leadership position.
Typically, things become very quiet after the election before session begins in January; however, the Governor has called another special session slated to begin on November 5. This special session was called in order to give the Governor appropriation authority to spend additional federal funding made available to the state, including funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The supplemental budget will provide access to this funding, which is intended to appropriate additional resources to respond to COVID-19. The supplemental budget contains funding for several items, including the School Nutrition Services Program, the Emergency Solutions Grant Program for homelessness prevention, job training grants, and child support payments, among others. The proclamation can be viewed here. Many observers are frustrated that the Governor has not called a special session to also deal with COVID-19 liability for businesses and healthcare entities. The question remains whether the Governor will eventually amend the call to include this important issue.
In other news, the first sales of medical marijuana to qualified patients have taken place in Missouri, as patients formed long lines at the two locations of N’Bliss in Ellisville and Manchester on October 17. Although it has been nearly two years since voters approved medical marijuana sales in Missouri, observers say this has been one of the fastest implementations of its kind in the country. Most of the 192 licensed dispensaries in the state are expected to be open by the end of the year.
Finally, December 1 will mark the first day for filing legislation for the upcoming legislative session. We will be watching for pre-filed bills that could impact ASA and the construction industry and will continue to keep you updated on political happenings in Jefferson City and around the state. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group LLC