Although the 2024 legislative session is well underway, not a single piece of legislation has found its way to the Governor’s desk. As we have written about before, Senate Republicans have continued their infighting, with the end result being very little floor action on legislative issues. However, in an unusual turn, the Senate passed its first piece of legislation, SJR74 which would modify the initiative petition (IP) process.  Passage of this legislation was the result of a multi-day standoff.

Republicans are seeking to make the process of changing statute or the constitution via an initiative petition process more difficult, especially in light of current efforts to overturn the state’s abortion ban. Democrats say that changing the process interferes with the ability of citizens to have a voice in modifying the laws of the state. SJR74 now makes its way to the House we expect changes will be made.  This issue will continue to dominate discussions in Jefferson City until the end of session.

House members have been working steadily through numerous priorities as session progresses, as they have already sent nearly a dozen bills to the Senate for their consideration. A recent issue on the House floor caused tempers to flare, as HB1659, a measure which changes provisions in various aspects of criminal law, was approved by the body. The bill was up for debate in the House immediately after members had returned to Jefferson City after having attended the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl celebration, where gunfire left one person dead, and 23 others injured. Many legislators used the opportunity to recount their experiences during the shooting, with Democrats calling for stricter gun laws to be inserted in the crime bill as it moved forward. Heated debate followed, as Democrats and Republicans sparred over 2nd amendment issues. The bill eventually passed by a vote of 120-26. House Democrats then held a press conference calling for stricter gun laws, with Minority Leader Crystal Quade saying that she will be filing a proposed constitutional amendment to allow cities to write local gun laws that are stricter than state laws and allow cities to regulate concealed weapons. We are certain to see gun debates occur in both chambers throughout the legislative session.

Some House members have also continued their effort to fundamentally change the way MoDOT operates in the state. Numerous bills have been heard in the House Transportation Accountability Committee, including some that would dissolve the Highway and Transportation Commission, make the Director of MoDOT a cabinet position appointed by the Governor, and have all funds expended from the State Road Fund subject to legislative approval. The passage of such a bill would remove the current structure of MoDOT from the state constitution, a system which has been in place since 1921, and which was designed to keep politics out of distribution of funds. Although we don’t expect any of the proposals to gain traction, the bills certainly have caused much discussion.

Important dates ahead include the opening of candidate filing for elected office on February 27, with the period remaining open until March 26. The halfway point of the legislative session is also closing in on us, as the legislative spring break – considered the halfway point of session – runs from March 18-22.

We will continue to keep you updated through our weekly email updates regarding the political happenings in Jefferson City and around the state that impact ASA and the construction industry.
Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group.