Last Week of 2024 Session

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The following is a legislative update from Clarkston Nelson, LLC concerning the Missouri General Assembly’s spring legislative session. Use the information within to inspire local coverage of issues important to your readers.

Last Week of 2024 Session

The last week of the 2024 Missouri Legislative Session begins today with the Missouri Senate starting at 2:00 PM and the Missouri House starting at 4:00 PM. To date, only 13 bills have been passed and sent to the Governor, not including the budget bills. The Senate is expected to take up IP reform today with extensive debate. The actions of the Senate at the beginning of the week will most likely affect how the House operates during this final week. The legislature is set to adjourn at 6 PM this Friday, May 17th, per the constitution.

A complete, comprehensive End of Session report will be sent out the middle of next week. As always, please reach out with any questions, concerns or comments regarding this last week of session.

Budget Update

After days of intense negotiations between the two chambers, the FY2025 was Truly Agreed to and Finally Passed last Friday just before the 6pm constitutional deadline. The eighteen spending bills passed the Senate during an eight-hour debate on Thursday and includes a $51.7 billion spending plan. This is almost $1 billion less than the budget proposed by Governor Mike Parson and requires $15.3 billion in general revenue spending. Members of the Freedom Caucus had initially demanded the spending plan not exceed the projected revenue for the coming year of $13.2 billion, however, Senator Lincoln Hough noted there is massive surplus in the state treasury that can be spent like general revenue of $6.4 billion to meet any needs.

This year has been met with unprecedented challenges for passing the budget. The House began budget hearings in December of 2023 with the hopes of crafting their version of the budget before the legislative spring break in mid-March. However, Governor Parson’s State of the State address was delayed by a week which meant the budget recommendations were also delayed. Regardless of the early start and the hopes of a quick budget process, hearings were cancelled and public testimony on the bills was almost non-existent. The House did not finish crafting their version of the budget and sending their recommendations to the Senate until the last week of March.

Meanwhile, infighting in the Senate led to delays in the appropriations process as Senator Lincoln Hough announced the Appropriation Committee would not begin crafting a budget without passage of the Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA) tax as this contributes almost $4 billion to Missouri’s Medicaid program. However, Freedom Caucus members would not let the bill through without passage of the Defund Planned Parenthood bill and debate on Initiative Petition Reform. The 41-hour filibuster on the FRA ended up stalling all budget plans, including planned budget debates on a committee-passed spending plan. To make the deadline, Senate Appropriations Chairman Lincoln Hough began negotiating with House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith last week on what should be removed from the Senate plan, and what the House would accept from it, to get bills that would pass both chambers.

After months of delays, disagreements, and stall tactics, the 8-hour debate Thursday afternoon was actually anti-climatic. Although the day was spent with several Freedom Caucus members offering symbolic amendments, like adding DEI provisions in the budget, for the most part debate was not derailed and remained steady. With the continued fracture within the Republican caucus, the Freedom Caucus voted no on the majority of the budget bills, which meant the Democrats joined the Republicans to provide the necessary votes to get the Budget passed. The final approved budget includes a 3.2% pay raise for state employees, a 3% boost in funding for state colleges and universities and $727.5 million for improvements to Interstate 44. Although the legislature has avoided an impasse over the Budget and got it finalized within hours before its deadline, Governor Mike Parson has already issued a statement that the rushed work means his budget office hasn’t had time to review it. He has told reporters he will not leave large unfunded needs for his successor to cover. It is expected that the Governor will eventually call a special session in order to add money so programs can operate through the year.

Several Ballot Questions Submitted to Secretary of State for Signature Verification

It’s possible that voters statewide will decide on several changes to the Missouri Constitution in November along with electing state officials. May 5th was the deadline for organizations to turn in signatures of registered voters that must be checked before placing their issues on the ballot.

Possible issues include a new casino near Lake of the Ozarks; a proposal to preserve abortion rights for women; legalized sports wagering; and increasing the minimum wage in Missouri state law to $15 an hour beginning in 2026.

To place an initiative petition on the ballot in Missouri, signatures must be collected that equal eight percent of the vote for Governor in 2020 in six of the eight Congressional districts of the state. About 171,600 signatures are required. They are turned in to the secretary of state’s office in Jefferson City and must be distributed throughout the state to local county clerks and election authorities who verify the signatures of local voters.

For any of the issues with enough certified signatures to be placed on the August ballot, work of county clerks and the secretary of state’s staff must be done by early June, which is unlikely, according to the secretary of state’s office.

More on the potential ballot issues, likely in November:

The Osage River Gaming & Convention Committee turned in more than 320,000 signatures. If approved by voters, a hotel, convention center, restaurants, and other attractions would be included in the project. The casino would be located along the Osage River between the Bagnell Dam and the Missouri River. The current limit on licensed casinos in Missouri is 13. If approved, another license would be extended to the Osage River casino.

Supporters of the abortion rights proposal turned in more than 380,000 signatures, which is more than twice the total needed to qualify for the statewide ballot. The coalition, Missourians for Constitutional Freedom, said the ballot measure would legalize abortion up to the point of “fetal viability.” Currently, nearly every abortion is illegal in Missouri except for medical emergencies.

340,000 petition signatures were delivered to the secretary of state’s office on May 2nd, by a coalition of Missouri professional sports franchises seeking to put legalization of sports gambling on the November ballot. The proposal would add sports wagering to the Missouri Constitution, if approved by voters, and includes granting licenses to professional sports teams, casinos, and online websites.

On May 1st, Missouri Jobs with Justice turned in about 210,000 signatures. Since the proposal to raise the minimum wage is a state statute change, not in the Constitution, at least 115,000 signatures must be valid. The ballot issue also includes a requirement that many workers get paid sick leave.

Another issue that voters may decide, likely in August if placed on the ballot by the Governor, is a proposal needing final state legislative approval before May 17th. This Constitutional amendment would raise the threshold to pass an amendment by the people. Instead of the statewide majority currently required, a proposal amending the Constitution would need a majority vote in five of the state’s eight Congressional districts to be approved.

One more issue, certain to be on the ballot this fall because the General Assembly approved it in 2023, is a state Constitutional amendment to allow places where persons, corporations, organizations, and associations provide childcare outside of a child’s home to be exempt from property tax, intended to make childcare more available.

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