As of the writing of this newsletter, there are three weeks remaining in the legislative session and only one policy related bill has made it to Governor Mike Parson’s desk. Many priorities remain unfinished, but none as pressing as the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, which must be finalized by May 5. We assume that by the time you are reading this, legislators will have met their constitutional duty and presented a spending plan to the Governor.
Of particular interest to ASA members is the Senate proposal to add $2.8 billion to MoDOT’s budget for improvements to Interstate 70 across the state. The Governor and the House have both proposed much smaller amounts to do targeted improvements to I-70 near St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia. Differences between the House and Senate positions must still be negotiated, but regardless of which proposal is approved, it appears that major improvements are in the future for the highway.
Another issue we have been watching is legislation dealing with a statewide mechanical contractor licensing system. The original proposal, which has been around for several years, would provide for a state license for mechanical contractors, instead of contractors needing to have a separate license for each jurisdiction where they provide services. That idea was defeated recently in the House Economic Development Committee. Shortly thereafter however, the Senate gave approval to a version of the bill which provides that a statewide mechanical contractor license shall not be required but will be accepted in lieu of a local license if a municipality requires a local license for mechanical work. Additionally, the provisions of the bill would not apply in Greene, Newton, and Jasper counties. The Senate version must still be approved by the House.
House and Senate members are also expected to tackle a very controversial issue before session ends, which is initiative petition reform. At question is the process by which voters can have new laws or changes to the constitution placed on a statewide ballot. Currently, any proposed change must be accompanied by the signatures of at least 8% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election in order to qualify for placement on the ballot. Then, a simple majority is needed to pass the initiative into law. Republicans seek to make the process more stringent by requiring more signatures for an issue to be placed on the ballot and increasing the threshold for passage from a simple majority to 60% of the votes cast. They say the process has become too politicized, where wealthy donors can pay for signature gatherers to place items beneficial to them on a statewide ballot and bypass the legislative process. Others disagree, saying the initiative process guarantees that ordinary citizens have access to make changes in statute or modify the state constitution. The current process has been in place for some 115 years.
The constitutionally mandated end of session is fast approaching and is set for 6:00 pm on Friday, May 12. The Governor then has until July 14 to sign or veto any legislation sent to him by the General Assembly.
We will continue to update you on any happenings in Jefferson City or around the state that impacts ASA or our members. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group LLC