GOVERNOR PARSON: ‘STATE OF THE STATE IS…STRONG!’
Governor Mike Parson (R), the state’s 57th governor, presented his State of the State Address on Wednesday in the House of Representatives chamber. The hour-long speech before members of the House, Senate, Supreme Court, Governor’s Cabinet, and many special guests, focused on his priorities of workforce development and infrastructure and his highlights for the state’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget.
He said he was proud to have served as Governor during Missouri’s 200th anniversary of statehood in 2021, and that he and his wife Teresa traveled the state, making more than 45 Bicentennial stops, and hosting the Bicentennial parade and inaugural ball.
Following a recap of 2021 and Missouri’s Bicentennial year, Governor Parson proclaimed that “Missouri is strong today and will be even stronger tomorrow.”
BUDGET PROCESS BEGINS IN JEFFERSON CITY
Between the Governor’s FY 23 budget proposal and federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the state General Assembly has a $47.3 billion budget in front of it as it begins its review. This is 16.7 percent in general revenue and 63 percent in use of federal funds. Missouri received record general revenue last year and expects almost the same this year. The ARPA funding is set out in House Bill 20 and the rest of the FY 23 budget is set out in House Bills 1-13. The budget includes $24 billion in federal funds and $3 billion of that is ARPA dollars. The ARPA funding includes:
· $400 million in broadband
· $411M in water project grants and lead service line identification
· $126M for modernizing online government services
· $69.3M for completion of the Rock Island Trail
· $104.7M to build a new public safety crime lab
· Dollars for community health centers
· Combined state lab for DHSS, Ag, DNR and Conservation
· $469M on capitol improvements at Missouri public colleges and universities
· $175M for roads and bridges and low volume/minor road repair
· $10M for agricultural tax credits
· Doubling the space in Autism Centers, and
· $11M for peace officer training.
Under the FY 23 (normal budget dollars), highlights include:
· $955M to health care providers for rate increases, including home-based care and nursing homes
· $722M for childcare providers to stay in business and help parents pay
· $500M in pension solvency
· $281M cash reserve fund to help the state in lean years
· $100M to pay state debt early and save in future years
· An income tax rate cut
· A 5.5 percent pay increase for all state employees
· Education funding- Increased to $10.5 billion ($3 billion increase over the current fiscal year) which includes fully funding the Foundation Formula and a core increase of $52M for Higher Education.
The House will now begin its budget process by holding hearings and taking testimony. Once complete, it will pass the budget on to the Senate for completion. The budget must be passed by the General Assembly and sent to the Governor for his review by May 6. In addition, the General Assembly is currently working on the supplemental budget bill, House Bill 14, that provides funding to help departments meet their demands by the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2022, and also addresses ARPA dollars that must be authorized to be spent.
MEETING THE COVID TEST
During his speech, the Governor said state government lessened the impacts of COVID-19 in Missouri. “The state accepted the challenge and prevailed. The facts are we made the tough decisions and never cowered down to the challenges we faced,” he said. Now, more than 94 percent of Missourians who are 65 or older have been vaccinated. He encouraged all Missourians to get the vaccine, if they wish. “I do not support and have never supported mandates, and my position will not change,” he noted.
He said the Missouri economy has nearly recovered from the two years’ of COVID effects. “Missouri is strong today and will be even stronger tomorrow,” he said. He cited the low unemployment rate of 3.5 percent and emphasized that Missouri was one of the first states in the nation to cut off federal unemployment benefits last year. There are 116,000 job openings across the state, he noted.
He cited many expansions of new and existing businesses in Missouri in 2021. “Our small towns, our big cities, and anywhere in between: Missouri is open for business and business is good,” the Governor said.
SENATE APPROVES DRU BUNTIN AS DIRECTOR OF DNR
Among 17 recent appointments by Governor Mike Parson (R), receiving unanimous Senate approval on Jan. 20 is Dru Buntin of Columbia, appointed as director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources on Aug. 11, 2021.
Buntin served as the deputy director of DNR for more than four years. He first joined DNR in 2000 as the director of government affairs and advanced to deputy director for policy and chief of water resources. In 2013, Buntin became the executive director of the Upper Missouri River Basin Association before rejoining DNR in 2017. He has more than 15 years’ experience with DNR and more than 20 years’ experience in Missouri state government. He attended the University of Missouri, Columbia, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science.
Since 2017, Buntin has been instrumental in leading the department’s Red Tape Reduction initiative as well as drought response and flood recovery support efforts. He also worked closely with the late director Carol Comer to strengthen partnerships with Missouri businesses, citizens, and communities to assist with and promote compliance with Missouri’s environmental laws and regulations. Buntin was introduced at a Jan. 19 hearing by Sen. Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia).
MODIFYING STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
The Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee convened January 18 to consider passage of Senate Bill 631 (Hegeman, R-Cosby). The bill amends the law by requiring an injured party to act within two years of an injury instead of 5 years for personal and bodily injury. During committee discussion, substitute language was adopted to include provisions relating to uninsured motorist coverage, and includes clarifying language that the bill does not expire with any expiration dates relating to COVID liability statute. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 3-1 vote.
HOUSE PASSES REDISTRICTING MAP; EMERGENCY CLAUSE FAILS
A redistricting map for Missouri’s eight U.S. Congressional districts passed by a vote of 86-67 in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, sending the map to the Senate for its consideration. However, the House failed to attach an emergency clause to the map, needed so the map becomes effective prior to the August 2 primary election. An emergency clause requires 109 votes in the House. It failed Wednesday on a 95-55 vote. The map adopted by the House is drawn to maintain the state’s 6 Republican and 2 Democrat seats in Congress. That version is expected to attract opposition from the Senate’s Conservative Caucus which prefers a redistricting map with a 7 Republican, 1 Democrat margin.
HOUSE, SENATE BILL FILING EXCEEDS 1,600
More than 1,600 House and Senate bills have been filed at latest count. Members of the House of Representatives have introduced 1,128 bills for the 2022 session of the General Assembly, and Missouri Senators have introduced 489 bills.
OA PRESENTS OVERVIEW TO HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE
The House Subcommittee on Appropriations – General Administration met Jan. 20 and received an informational overview by the Office of Administration. Ken Zellers, acting commissioner of OA introduced himself to the subcommittee, followed by introductions from OA directors who described their divisions and duties. OA has eight departments and 1,894 full-time employees. Contained in the supplemental budget bill now being considered by the General Assembly, some additional OA positions are budgeted to fund more assistance needed to administer ARPA funds being received by the state.
The director of purchasing told the Subcommittee her division is currently conducting training for procurement officers so “more seasoned veterans” will take on ARPA-related projects. She said the same bidding and procurement processes will be in place as before. When asked about who will be receiving contracts with the increase in federal funding, the director said there is a preferred vendor list, and vendors may file their information on the list with OA. Those vendors who may qualify or who match for a certain projected purchase receive automatic email notifications about impending purchases. All bid opportunities are posted on the https://missouribuys.mo.gov bid board, she said.
The House Subcommittee also heard from witnesses representing the Office of Public Defender and the Missouri Regional Planning Commissions, followed by adjournment.
Testimony in coming weeks regarding budgets is expected from statewide officeholders, including the Secretary of State and the State Treasurer.
AMBER ALERT COMMITTEE APPOINTMENT APPROVED
Among 17 recent appointments by Governor Mike Parson (R), receiving unanimous Senate approval on Jan. 20 is Todd Nixon of Parkville, appointed to the Amber Alert Oversight Committee on Dec. 1, 2021. Nixon is a current program director for Steel City Media, a position he has held since 2017. Previously, he was a program director for iHeartMedia. Nixon has more than 13 years’ experience in radio broadcasting, music curation, marketing solutions, digital media, and other closely related fields. He was introduced at a Jan. 19 hearing by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer (R-Parkville).
House Bill 1637 (Schwadron, R-St. Charles) is legislation pertaining to mail theft or “porch piracy.” HB 1637 was heard Jan. 18, by the House Crime Prevention Committee. A person commits the offense of mail theft if the person purposefully takes mail from another person’s mailbox or premises without the consent of the addressee and with intent to deprive the addressee of the mail. The offense of mail theft is a class A misdemeanor for a first offense and a class E felony for a second or subsequent offense. About a dozen other states either have or are considering such legislation. Testimony in support was offered by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce & Industry, seeking to protect businesses to get their packages delivered to customers. No opposing testimony. The committee took no action on the bill.
House Joint Resolution 79 (Henderson, R-Bonne Terre) is a proposed state constitutional amendment that if approved by voters would require a two-thirds supermajority vote for passage of an amendment to the state’s Constitution. On Jan. 19, the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee voted “do pass” on House Committee Substitute #1 HJR 79 on a vote of 9-4. The amended resolution adds definition of language to be reviewed on signature petitions and makes the effective date Jan. 1, 2023, if HJR 79 is approved by voters. It also requires initiative petition signatures to place a measure on the ballot as a constitutional amendment to be collected in each U.S. Congressional district using a percentage requirement of 10 percent. Laws may be placed on the ballot using the current percentage requirement of 5 percent. (Currently, a constitutional amendment may be placed on the ballot by initiative petitions signed by 8 percent of legal voters in six of Missouri’s eight Congressional districts, and the ballot issue currently would take effect if a simple majority of votes cast approves the issue.)
House Joint Resolution 88 (McGirl, R-Potosi) was heard by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee on Jan. 19. Upon voter approval, this proposed Constitutional amendment would require initiative petition signature collection for both Constitutional amendments and laws to occur in each Congressional district in the state. The requirements of 8 percent and 5 percent of legal voters’ signatures for amendments and laws respectively would remain the same. The resolution would also require all initiative petitions proposing Constitutional amendments to receive a majority vote in two-thirds of the counties in the state for passage. Witnesses included Ron Calzone of Missouri First, who suggested he supports majority vote statewide and majority vote in each Missouri House of Representatives district for Constitutional amendments to pass. In support of HJR 88 was testimony of James Harris, Opportunities Solutions Project. Testimony in opposition was presented by the League of Women Voters, Empower Missouri, and Jobs With Justice Voter Action.
Senate Joint Resolution 33 (Koenig, R-Manchester) Upon voter approval, this constitutional amendment prohibits the General Assembly from setting an income tax rate exceeding 5.9%. It also modifies a provision prohibiting sales taxes levied on transactions not taxed as of January 1, 2015, by providing an exception for sales and use taxes on subscriptions, licenses for digital products, and online purchases of tangible personal property. After no discussion in an executive session of the Senate Ways and Means Committee on January 20, the committee passed the bill by a 5-1 vote.
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