SENATE EXPERIENCES ROCKY START; HOUSE EMBARKS SMOOTHLY
The second regular session of the 101st Missouri General Assembly kicked off Wednesday, Jan. 5, with a loaded bundle of legislative priorities on the table, including the need for Congressional redistricting, a supplemental state budget needed quickly, Medicaid expansion, the billions of dollars flowing to the state from federal COVID aid, and topics contained in hundreds of bills that have been introduced so far.
The House of Representatives saw two of its Republican members calmly say good-bye as they resigned to take jobs in the private sector.
Meanwhile, the Missouri Senate on Wednesday was tied up between factions of the Republican caucus, the 24 GOP members divided between 17 moderate and 7 more conservative legislators. Meanwhile, the 10 Democrat senators watched or listened to the debate from their offices.
Next week is a new week in Jefferson City.
GOVERNOR’S COVID-19 STATE OF EMERGENCY ORDER EXPIRES
On Dec. 30, Gov. Mike Parson (R) announced that Missouri’s COVID-19 related State of Emergency would expire and not be renewed the following day, Dec. 31. Governor Parson had first issued an executive order declaring a State of Emergency existed due to COVID-19 on March 13, 2020. Allowing the executive order to expire has been both praised and criticized by various interests. Regardless of public debate, COVID-19 liability legislation that was passed in 2021 by the General Assembly, Senate Bill 51 (Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville), will continue in effect despite the decision to let the State of Emergency end. There are three causes of action set forth in SB 51 that remain in place regardless of the existence of a declared state of emergency. Those claims include: 1. exposure claims, 2. medical liability claims, and 3. covered product claims.
Governor Parson had extended the COVID-19 related State of Emergency five times before issuing a final targeted executive order for health care needs in August 2021. At one time, nearly 600 statutory and regulatory waivers were approved across Missouri state government. Since that peak, waivers had reduced by nearly 80 percent. All remaining COVID-19 related waivers authorized under the executive order terminated on Dec. 31. When the executive order expired, so did the ability of state agencies to petition the Governor for suspension of state rules and regulations under the period of the emergency declaration. Agencies, boards, commissions, and departments can pursue rulemaking if permanent changes to regulations are needed to improve long-term outcomes for Missourians, health care facilitates, and businesses. The General Assembly can also make any needed policy changes during the 2022 legislative session.
RESIGNATIONS CREATE FIFTH AND SIXTH HOUSE GOP VACANCIES
Rep. Aaron Griesheimer (R-Washington) and Rep. Justin Hill (R-Lake St. Louis) resigned from their seats this week in the House to take new jobs, effective Jan. 6. Rep. Griesheimer was elected to the House in 2018 and most recently served as chair of the House Emerging Issues Committee. Rep. Hill was elected to the House in 2014 and most recently served as chair of the House Insurance Committee and chair of the Joint Committee on Disaster Preparedness and Awareness.
With the two resignations, now six of the House’s 163 seats are vacant entering the 2022 legislative session. Griesheimer and Hill are the fifth and sixth House Republicans whose seats are open.
Other vacancies that occurred include Rep. Tom Hannegan (R-St. Charles), who died in October 2021; Rep. Rick Roeber (R-Lee’s Summit), who was expelled by the House last year; Rep. Becky Ruth (R-Festus), who resigned to become director of the Office of Child Advocate; and Rep. Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau), the new director of the Missouri Department of Revenue.
Republicans hold a 108-seat majority over the 49 Democrats in the Missouri House. (109 votes are needed to override a Governor’s veto or to add an emergency clause to legislation.) In the Missouri Senate, Republicans hold a 24-seat veto proof majority over the 10 Democrats. (23 votes are needed in the Senate to override a Governor’s veto.)
All 163 House seats and 17 of 34 in the Senate are up for election in 2022.
WALLINGFORD, HUHN JOIN GOVERNOR’S CABINET
On Dec. 29, Gov. Mike Parson (R) announced two new cabinet members: Wayne Wallingford as the new director of the Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR) and Valerie Huhn as the new director of the Department of Mental Health (DMH).
Wallingford’s appointment became effective Jan. 3. On Dec. 9, the Missouri Mental Health Commission announced it had selected Huhn to become the next DMH director, effective Jan. 1.
Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau) served in the Missouri Senate from 2013 to 2020 and had currently been serving as a member of the 2021-2022 Missouri House of Representatives. Wallingford has also served as the chief people officer for the McDonald’s corporation in Southeast Missouri, as the vice president of operations for iSOLD IT in Central Missouri, and in various regional management posts for the Taco Bell corporation. In his nearly 25 years in the U.S. Air Force, he served as chief of the Intelligence Division in the United Kingdom and chief of the Electronic Intelligence Analysis Division in Hawaii, and other positions.
Huhn has served as the deputy director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health since 2020 and has been a part of the DMH senior management team since 2014. She has a vast background in state government, beginning in 2000 as a budget and planning analyst for the Office of Budget and Planning. Huhn brings leadership experience from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the Office of Administration, and the Department of Social Services.
KEY UPCOMING DATES
January 17, 2022 – Martin Luther King Day – No Session
January 19, 2022 – 2022 State of the State Address
February 8, 2022 – State of the Judiciary
February 21, 2022 – Presidents Day – No Session
March 1, 2022 – Last day to file House and Senate bills
March 14-18, 2022– Legislative Spring Break
April 18, 2022 – Easter Holiday – No Session
May 6, 2022 – State Budget finalized per Missouri Constitution
May 13, 2022 – Last day of the 2022 Legislative Session per Missouri Constitution
July 1, 2022 – First day of Fiscal Year 2023
July 14, 2022 – Last day for the Governor to Sign or Veto Bills
August 28, 2022 – Date Most Legislation Takes Effect (unless another date is specified)
September 14, 2022 – Veto Session