MPA Capitol Report 3/15/2024

In Legislative News, Legislative Reports, Legislative Resources On
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MPANewsBook: Statehouse News for MPA Members
This report is written by Missouri School of Journalism students for publication by MPA member newspapers in print and online.


The Missouri News Network has coverage this week of the latest developments on efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, progress on providing a variety of tax credits tied to child care and the unveiling of the House approach to fiscal year 2025 spending.

If you have thoughts or questions, contact Mark Horvit at or Fred Anklam at





House leader announces initial state budget proposal



House Budget Chair Cody Smith, R-Carthage, presented his fiscal year 2025 budget proposal Thursday, one that comes in at $50 billion — some $2 billion lower than Gov. Mike Parson proposed.

Despite that cut, most major priorities laid out by the governor are funded, including K-12 education, school transportation and pay increases to a state minimum of $40,000 for teachers.

All state workers would get a 3.2% raise under his plan, with some getting a larger increase for working in difficult to staff areas.

Democrats noted that lottery money that’s meant to supplement education is being used just to fulfill the basic budget requirements. They also said that meeting the minimum K-12 funding requirement is not enough to support public education.

Smith also proposes allocating over $700 million to improving the Interstate 44 corridor, including increasing the lanes to six around Springfield, Joplin and Rolla. Those areas are also going to be the first to be worked on as the Missouri Department of Transportation has enough information to begin construction, Smith said.

Half of the funds for I-44 will be supplied by the general fund with the remainder provided through debt obligations. Smith also included $100 million for the improvement of rural roads.

Last year the legislature approved $2.8 billion in spending and bonds to expand Interstate 70 to six lanes across the state.

The proposal also included a 2% increase in funding for the University of Missouri, a little less than what the governor suggested.

Smith’s main cuts came from a projection that the state would have fewer people on Medicaid and therefore did not need to appropriate as much money.

A $5 billion state surplus has been whittled down to less than $2 billion over the last few budget cycles. That surplus came from a large influx of federal COVID-19 funds, including infrastructure money which was used for the I-70 expansion.

Now that most of those federal dollars have been appropriated, Smith said he wants to bring the state back to within what it can afford from its own tax base. He also noted the sizable effects recent tax cuts have had on state revenue.

“We’re in a situation where we have a lot of cash, but our revenues have started to level off,” he said “We have some one-time money available to us, not unlike the last couple of years when that money has been mostly federal.”

“But the difference now is that we’ve cut taxes, and revenues have started to plateau,” Smith said. “So we’ve got…a big income tax cut.”

“And then Senate Bill 190 from last year, which was an income tax cut on Social Security benefits,” he added. “And so I think all in all, those are about $550 million with the tax cuts on this next fiscal year.”

“So we have to be careful not to overextend ourselves in a way that’s going to set us up for a shortfall at a later time.”

A lack of transparency in the budget process has drawn criticism from Democrats on the budget committee.

“This year we started early, and I’m not sure we saw any benefit from it,” Rep. Kevin Windham, D-St. Louis, said. He added that Smith had not communicated much outside of the budget hearing held a month ago.

Smith presented his budget proposal Thursday in a 30-minute hearing with limited opportunity for public comment. Representatives were only given until next Tuesday to submit proposed amendments.

Smith mentioned that the public usually doesn’t comment on budget bills. Last year only one public comment was offered during the budget process.

Smith also pushed back on the idea that this year’s new strategy of starting hearings early failed. He said that preparing the budget is such a labor-intensive task that even if he couldn’t get them out of committee quicker, that process did contribute to creating better legislation.


House child care tax credit bill advances



JEFFERSON CITY — Efforts continued Thursday to move legislation forward that would allow employers, child care providers and families a tax credit in a push to expand access to child care in Missouri.

On Thursday, the Senate Government Accountability Committee passed House Bill 1488, which would establish tax credits to employers who make contributions to their employees’ child care expenses, as well as grant a tax credit to families who pay for child care and child care providers.

The bill would allow individuals to claim a tax credit equal to 75% of their contribution as a child care provider each tax year, not to exceed $200,000 a year. The minimum contribution individuals can claim a tax credit for is $100.

Companies could also claim 30% of child care contributions when employers contribute to child care expenses for their employees’ children. Another provision of the bill would see a tax credit for child care providers up to the amount of the eligible employer withholding tax and 30% of the child care provider’s capital expenditures, which can include things like construction and renovation of a child care facility.

Those provisions are capped at $200,000 per year, with a minimum qualifying contribution of $100.

The bill is meant to curb the growth of “child care deserts.” Those areas are defined as where the poverty rate is at least 20%, or the median family income is less than 80% of the statewide average, and where at least 500 people, or 33% of the population, are located more than half a mile away from a child care provider in an urban area or more than 10 miles away in rural areas.

“We heard mainly from a lot of chambers of commerce, a lot of industry leaders associated with industries in Missouri who really see the lack of child care options in the state of Missouri,” said Will Wheeler, chief of staff to Sen. Karla Eslinger, R-Wasola, chair of the Senate Governmental Accountability Committee.

“It has great bipartisan support,” he said. “This is a priority for the governor, this is a priority to the Senate Committee Chairwoman, Senator Eslinger, and we hope to get it done by the end of session.”

Gov. Mike Parson pointed to the bill as deserving the attention of the legislature in his State of the State address this year.

Testimony in support of the bill in the Thursday hearing was short, with no one testifying in opposition, underscoring its bipartisan nature. Others who testified after the initial introduction of the bill in January voiced overwhelming support for the legislation.

“A large hindrance to any workforce effort is childcare,” said Allen Dillingham, director of government relations for The Builders, a chapter of the Associated General Contractors, in testimony in January. “Childcare issues are becoming more and more important for every industry in the state. The construction industry is not immune to these workforce challenges.”

Parents, too, are feeling the pinch as the cost of child care goes up — making it unaffordable for many families.

“In order for my child to receive the kind of care I provided to other children, it would have taken my whole monthly paycheck,” said Alyssa Anne Morrow, who submitted testimony in support of the bill in January. “I stayed home for many reasons, but not being able to afford care was the biggest. The workforce of all industries in Missouri relies upon the availability of the child care workforce.”

The bill has received support from both Democrats and Republicans who have voiced approval for state support of child care providers.

According to previous Missourian reporting, there are about 500 fewer child care providers in Missouri than there were five years ago. Parson’s legislative director, Jamie Birch, said in a 2023 interview that 77% of Missouri’s counties were considered a child care desert, and child care providers still in business in the state can only serve 39% of children under six years old.

Efforts to pass legislation to curtail the child care shortage in Missouri have stalled in previous years, with the House failing to pass new laws to expand child care access last year.


Housing concerns raised by disability rights activists


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JEFFERSON CITY – Disability rights activists are raising concerns that a House-passed bill may limit their ability to access affordable housing.

Jeff Johnson, president of People First of Boone County, a community center in Columbia, expressed concerns about housing and employment for those with disabilities. Johnson helped organize the annual Disability Rights Legislative Day at the Missouri Capitol on Wednesday.

House Bill 2385, sponsored by Rep. Ben Keathley, R-Chesterfield, passed the House last week by a vote of 103-33. The bill would make it legal for landlords to deny prospective tenants who use federal assistance to help pay their rent.

Participants for the legislative day hailed from all over the state and came to speak with legislators, hold a rally and share their experiences.

Johnson spoke at the rally and highlighted the importance of visibility for those with disabilities. The slogan of the legislative day, “We are Here,” appeared on shirts and signs.

According to The Arc, a nonprofit serving those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, “Approximately 4.8 million non-institutionalized people with disabilities who rely on federal monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) have incomes averaging only about $9,156 per year.”

By allowing landlords to refuse potential tenants on the basis of federal assistance like Social Security or Section 8, disability rights advocates are concerned about access to affordable housing.

Kay Hawk attended the events with her daughter Megan Hawk. They found a space two floors up to watch the rally to allow Megan to have a more sensory-friendly experience. The Hawks came to the Capitol as part of a group from The Arc of the Ozarks.

Kay Hawk’s topic priorities include streamlining the process for qualifying for a waiver and the wastefulness that occurs in Medicaid.

In Missouri, people with disabilities can qualify for four types of waivers administered through the Department of Mental Health’s Division of Developmental Disabilities. The waivers allow for Missouri to use Medicaid funds to help individuals with developmental disabilities utilize home or community-based services instead of their care coming from an institution.

Megan Hawk recently had a small part break on her wheelchair. When her mother tried to find an option for repair, no one would fix the chair as it wasn’t originally bought through Medicaid. The family ultimately bought a completely new chair through Medicaid as a result.

“I have concerns for her future,” Kay Hawk said.



House bill that would block Planned Parenthood funds gets Senate committee OK



JEFFERSON CITY — Abortion was once again on the mind of Missouri lawmakers Wednesday as a bill that would prohibit state funding towards abortion providers and their affiliates was heard by the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare.

HB 2634, sponsored by Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, is another effort by Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood in Missouri. In February, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that an effort to use budget bills to deny Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood was illegal.

This latest attempt comes as the legislature considers extending the state Federal Reimbursement Allowance program which provides federal funds for reimbursement of medical expenses covered by Medicaid programs. Some conservative senators oppose renewing it unless restrictions to abortion providers and affiliates, such as Planned Parenthood, are in place.

Through the reimbursement program, which must be extended by this fall, the federal government provides billions of dollars to the state to reimburse Medicaid participants for health costs.

Abortions were banned in Missouri immediately following the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision that the constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Planned Parenthood does not provide abortions in Missouri, but its affiliates provide abortions in states where it is legal.

The bill passed out of the House last month in a 104-49 vote.

Committee member Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, criticized the bill for prohibiting patients from receiving general health care from their provider of choice. Planned Parenthood, for example, provides many other health services for which it seeks reimbursement from the state Medicaid system.

“We’ve talked at length in this committee about how difficult it can be to get into a health care provider throughout the state,” Arthur said. “There are long wait times and our health care safety net is already pretty strained.”

Arthur also responded to Smith’s hopes that the bill would not face litigation, saying it would be inevitable.

“There will definitely be litigation,” Arthur said, “and there have been favorable rulings to Planned Parenthood in other states as it’s related to trying to prevent Medicaid funding from reimbursing Planned Parenthood for their services.”

Witnesses during testimony only spoke in favor of the bill, including Susan Klein, representing Missouri Right to Life. Klein mentioned that court rulings have said such defunding attempts must be addressed in statute, which the bill would do.

After testimony, the bill passed out of committee in a 5-1 vote, with Arthur being the sole dissenter.

A similar Senate bill, SB 1168, was put aside by the Senate in February after Democrats offered a series of amendments, indicating they were prepared to filibuster.



Missouri National Guard deploys under governor’s charge



JEFFERSON CITY – Gov. Mike Parson is deploying members of the Missouri National Guard and State Highway Patrol to the Texas border with Mexico this week.

Parson cited President Joe Biden’s border policies as the reason for his decision, which was announced Feb. 20.

As many as 200 members of the guard are being deployed under the authority Parson has as governor.

Both the president and the governor of a guard’s state hold authority over the guard. This duality of power between the federal and state governments does not exist in other branches of the military.

The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits the military from acting as a civilian police force. Passed in 1878, the law prevents the president from activating the guard or other military branches in a law enforcement capacity unless expressly authorized by Congress.

However, according to a Congressional Research Service report, an individual state’s governor does not have to follow this provision when the guard is activated for state service.

The Missouri National Guard will “mainly assist in the construction of physical barriers and with security patrols as needed,” according to a news release announcing the deployment.

The guard may be activated under Title 10, Title 32 or state active duty. State active duty, also known as a state call up, originates from a governor’s orders to achieve a state mission that is funded solely by the state and follows state laws. Parson’s deployment to the border is considered state active duty for participating guardsmen.

“Generally speaking, a governor can do whatever they want with their National Guard,” said Joesph Nunn, a lawyer at the nonpartisan Brennan Center. “There aren’t any specific federal restrictions on what a state governor can do with their National Guard other than obviously, they can’t use the guard to violate constitutional rights or otherwise violate federal law.”

Nunn’s expertise revolves around the domestic actions of the U.S. military, including the guard.

Nunn highlighted that governors are free to send their guard to other states if invited by the governor of that state. However, he expressed concern about the precedent set by states’ National Guards being deployed within the U.S. unless absolutely necessary for cases like insurrection.

Title 10 mobilizations are for federalizing the guard with the president acting as commander in chief. Under Title 10, troops can be deployed overseas as a part of their assignment.

Title 32 involves state-level missions that are federally funded. Technically, the state’s governor remains in charge of the guard and mobilizes at the approval of the president which means the Posse Comitatus Act doesn’t apply. According to an article by the Military Officers Association of America, Title 32 is often used for natural disaster relief.

The U.S. Department of Defense classifies the National Guard, composed of the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard, as military reserve components. However, while considered a reservist force, the guard is separate from U.S. military reserves.

National guardsmen typically hold full-time civilian jobs in addition to their part-time responsibilities with the guard. Once a member joins the guard and completes the initial training portion of the commitment, they will participate in one weekend a month of drill and two weeks of additional training, usually in the summer.

The National Guard at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe visited previously deployed National Guard troops on March 1 in Laredo, Texas.

In early February, Parson traveled to the border alongside 13 Republican governors at the invitation of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Abbott briefed the governors on Operation Lone Star, a state initiative to police the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas.

Parson pointed to overdose deaths as one of the main contributors to his decision to deploy the Missouri National Guard.

“The crisis at the southern border is fueling the fentanyl crisis here in our state,” Parson said. “Missourians are dying, families are being ripped apart, communities are being destroyed and Missouri children are falling victim.”

According to the governor’s office, fentanyl overdoses increased by 135% statewide since 2017. In October, a federal judge sentenced three men in Springfield for their role in distributing almost 83 pounds of fentanyl over approximately a year and a half. The Drug Enforcement Administration tied the fentanyl sold by the men to multiple overdose deaths.

Last Thursday, the Missouri House approved additional funding to support Parson’s operation, voting 122-12 for the $2.2 million package he requested. The majority of the money, $2 million, will go to supporting the guard, with the remaining $206,757 allocated for supporting resources. Testimony at a House hearing showed that there already was $4 million available for guard deployments in the current fiscal year, none of which has been used.

In addition to the guard, 22 members of the Missouri State Highway Patrol are being sent to assist Texas authorities.

Groups of 50 guardsmen will make 30-day rotations to serve in Texas. All members of both agencies volunteered to participate in the deployment, according to the governor’s office.

While the Missouri National Guard deployment is ongoing, this is not the first time a government official has sent guard troops to the Mexico border. Every U.S. President since 2006 has leaned on the National Guard as a resource to support Customs and Border Patrol operations at the southwestern border.

Biden announced in May that 1,500 active duty military would join 2,500 guardsmen already deployed at the border from before he took office. Biden sent the troops to support administratively in anticipation of an influx of migrants as pandemic-related restrictions were lifted.

In 2018, former President Donald Trump received backlash for deploying 5,200 active-duty National Guard troops to secure the southern border. In a memo sent to the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security and the Attorney General, Trump stated, “The combination of illegal drugs, dangerous gang activity, and extensive illegal immigration not only threatens our safety but also undermines the rule of law.”

The former president also pointed in the memo to the precedent set by his two predecessors. Operation Jump Start launched in 2006 under former President George W. Bush. According to a report by the National Guard Bureau, 195 National Guard members who participated in Operation Jump Start hailed from Missouri. Around 6,000 troops were activated over the operation’s lifespan.

As the successor to Operation Jump Start, Operation Phalanx served a similar mission under former President Barack Obama from 2010-2016. Violence at the border, including the shooting death of a border patrol agent, prompted National Guard troops to be activated at various points along the 2,000-mile border.

In addition to Missouri, over a dozen governors from red states including Florida, Arkansas, Iowa and Tennessee heeded Abbott’s request for support from the guard for Operation Lone Star. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem sent 50 guard members in 2021 as the first state to support the operation in this manner.

In 2018, at the request of Trump, former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens sent four guard troops and a helicopter to Arizona to perform aerial surveillance at the border.

History of the National Guard in Missouri

The guard originated as a state militia in 1820, being formally established in the original Missouri Constitution. According to the State Historical Society of Missouri, the Civil War caused a fission in the militia with the Missouri State Guard supporting the Confederacy and the Union Home Guard forming in opposition.

After the end of the Civil War, the Missouri State Militia replaced the two forces. The 1875 Missouri Constitution included language to professionalize the militia, which is still in the state’s Constitution. Additionally, the 1875 language included reasons the Missouri governor may activate the militia “to execute the laws, suppress actual and prevent threatened insurrection, and repel invasion.”

Two years later, the legislature changed the name of the militia to the National Guard of Missouri. In the same act, the General Assembly made special precautions to codify the guard’s actions related to mobs and riots, including when to fire upon such groups.

According to SHSMO, the General Assembly reorganized the guard multiple times throughout the 20th century, including to add federal authority and funding to the guard’s organization.

The Missouri National Guard has aided the government overseas and domestically since its inception. Army National Guard members from Missouri served in both world wars before the Air National Guard’s founding in 1947. National Guard units deployed during the Korean War, to Operation Just Cause in Panama, and to Operation Desert Storm in Iraq.

Domestically, the governor called on the guard for assistance during the 1993 flood, post-9/11 terrorist attacks, the Joplin tornado recovery and the 2014 Ferguson protests. The guard also provided support to COVID-19 vaccination efforts throughout the state at Parson’s request.

According to the Missouri National Guard’s website, 12,000 individuals are serving the state as members.

More recently, Missouri voters approved a change to the state’s constitution with 60.22% of the votes in November 2022, creating a separate agency for the guard. Since 1974, the Department of Public Safety housed the National Guard Bureau at the state government level. Proponents of passing the agency pointed to streamlining communication between the governor and the guard to increase the efficacy of operations.


Senate initiative petition resolution gets first hearing in House



JEFFERSON CITY — House members got their first chance Tuesday to hear supporting and opposing opinions on a Senate resolution that could lead to a higher threshold for passing constitutional amendments.

Senate Joint Resolution 74 requires that all proposed constitutional amendments would need to receive a majority of votes statewide and a majority of votes in at least five of the state’s eight congressional districts.

Committee members and witnesses who expressed opposition to the bill in the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee hearing claimed that the bill took away liberties from the people and created “minority rule” in Missouri.

“Initiative petitions are for when we don’t do our jobs,” said Rep. Joe Adams, D-University City.

Adams pointed to the sports betting issue, which is currently getting signatures collected by the Winning for Missouri Education Coalition.

The resolution’s sponsor, Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, said that the initiative process change is necessary because the constitution is now a book and not a framework for legislating. She added that this proposed change empowers those that aren’t accounted for in a statewide simple majority vote.

“With this bill, rural voices are represented by requiring a majority in over half of congressional districts,” Coleman said.

Rep. Brad Banderman, R-St. Clair, agreed with Coleman that the initiative petition process too easily changes the Missouri Constitution and it should be a framework and not a pot for more legislation.

Between 1910 and 2022, 95 ballot initiatives appeared before Missouri voters; 43 passed, for an approval rate of 45%.

Banderman also noted that the initiative process shouldn’t be easy because there is no platform for dissenting opinions like there are in Congress.

The next step for the bill is to get a vote in committee. Rep. David Tyson Smith, D-Columbia, told Coleman that if the bill has to go back to the Senate, he asks that she not try to add some of the “ballot candy” that she placed on the bill.

The resolution originally began with wording that said no person shall be eligible to vote on any measure submitted unless the person is a legal resident of the state of Missouri and a U.S. citizen.

That is already law and Senate Democrats ended a filibuster of the resolution, allowing the Republican majority to pass it, after an amendment stripped that language.



Republican senators debate caucus versus primary



JEFFERSON CITY — State Sen. Jill Carter, R-Granby, spoke in favor of her bill Monday that would return Missouri Republican voters to a system of presidential primaries rather than the caucuses hosted earlier this March.

The bill is simple, reinstating the presidential preference primary election to take place on the first Tuesday of March.

Speaking to her Senate colleagues, Carter told the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee she’d been motivated by complaints from her constituents to introduce the bill.

“I don’t know about you, but I have received a lot of frustrated phone calls from citizens who are trying to figure out why we would have eliminated presidential preference primary,” Carter said.

The state’s presidential primaries, where voters choose a candidate for president on a private ballot, were replaced by a Missouri election reform law signed by Gov. Mike Parson in 2022.

Caucuses took their place, which means voters come together in a communal setting to advocate for a presidential candidate before voting publicly on one.

Missouri’s 2024 presidential caucuses, held on March 2, were the first hosted since the change.

In Boone county, 263 residents arrived for the caucus, compared to 8,188 Republican ballots that were cast during the 2020 presidential preference primary.

Like Carter, many of those who testified in favor of the bill spoke about negative experiences that many caucusgoers had.

Denise Lieberman, director of the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, highlighted how caucuses can limit voter turnout.

“When we lost our presidential preference primaries several years ago, we really constricted opportunities for Missourians to be able to make their voices heard,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman said caucuses limit turnout due to their time-consuming nature, which keeps parents and working people from easily participating. She said caucusgoers tend to be “party-stalwarts” who can make the time necessary to participate.

Jeff Smith, representing the ACLU of Missouri, advocated for primaries as the most accessible way for residents to vote. He said that since caucuses require in-person availability, they are likely to discourage elderly and disabled voters from participating.

Sen. Sandy Crawford, R-Buffalo, was the only voice of dissent within the committee. Crawford was concerned with the taxpayer costs associated with hosting primaries — costs she said are wasteful when the primary doesn’t actually decide the presidential nominee.

Crawford’s comments are based on the ideas that the primary is only showing the voters’ preference and that the delegates sent to Republican state convention aren’t bound by law to follow the will of the voters.

“Why do you think we need to spend $6 or $7 million for something that means nothing,” Crawford asked Carter during questioning.

While going back and forth, neither senator seemed certain if delegates truly were bound to choose the same candidate their primary’s voters instructed them to. It was also unclear if Republican party rules bound these delegates and how easily those rules could be altered.

Trish Vincent, the deputy secretary from the secretary of state’s office, confirmed that Missouri would have paid $8 million to reimburse municipalities for the costs of hosting primaries in 2024.

The system of presidential preference primaries was instituted in 1998, with the first one being held for the 2000 general election.

Scott Clark, deputy chief of staff at the secretary of state’s office, said while Republican party rules make convention delegates bound to the will of their voters, these rules can be amended by the party — even after votes for a candidate have been cast.

“So even though the rules may say they are binding, rules can change,” Clark said.

An uncontroversial change made to Carter’s bill from a version from last session was to add more time between the presidential primary and annual April elections.

She said this change had been requested by county clerks, who can be overworked when two elections fall too close to each other.


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