MPA Capitol Report 4/29/2024

In Legislative Reports, Legislative Resources, Missouri Press News On
- Updated

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.
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DO NOT PUBLISH: A NOTE FROM THE EDITORS

The Missouri News Network this week has stories on the Senate taking up the state budget, the House passing changes to the initiative petition process, a lawmaker tilting at windmills over his desire to have U.S. House members live in their districts and a separate House member reflecting on his decision not to seek re-election as he addresses mental health concerns.

If you have thoughts or questions, contact Mark Horvit at horvitm@missouri.edu or Fred Anklam at anklamf@missouri.edu.

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MISSOURI NEWS NETWORK WEEK OF APRIL 22

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THURSDAY

House approves initiative petition changes, sends measure back to Senate

BY DMITRY MARTIROSOV

MISSOURI NEWS NETWORK

The Missouri House approved a resolution Thursday that would make it harder to amend the state constitution, sending the measure back to the Senate and a likely filibuster.

House members approved the bill by a vote of 102-49 after more than an hour of floor debate.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, would increase the threshold needed to amend the state constitution by initiative once it is placed on the ballot from the current simple majority to a statewide majority of voters and a majority of the congressional districts in the state.

The version approved by the House on Thursday also restored two controversial provisions deemed by Democrats as “ballot candy” — a way to entice voters to approve something indirectly.

If passed by the Senate, voters will see two more questions on the ballot in addition to the threshold requirement. The first on whether only Missouri residents and U.S. citizens should be allowed to vote on constitutional amendments, and the second on whether constitutional amendments could be funded or sponsored by foreign entities.

These provisions are already in federal law.

The reinstatement of the “ballot candy” is likely to cause Senate Democrats to filibuster the bill if it comes up for debate, something they threatened to do earlier this month. But Republicans said if that happens, they are ready to invoke the previous question, a measure rarely used in the Senate that is meant to shut down debate and force a vote.

But with the session in its final stretch, and with the budget and the Federal Reimbursement Allowance still lagging behind, it’s unclear whether Senate leadership will bring the bill up.

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National Academy of Sciences inducts two Missouri scientists at D.C. ceremony

TAYLER GILMORE

MISSOURI NEWS NETWORK

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two Missouri scientists will be among 143 new members inducted into the prestigious National Academy of Sciences on Friday.

Ursula W. Goodenough, a professor emerita of biology, and William B. McKinnon, a professor of earth and planetary sciences — both affiliated with Washington University in St. Louis — are scheduled to be in Washington for the ceremony, where new members carry out the tradition of formally signing the Registry of Members.

The National Academy of Sciences, established by an Act of Congress and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on March 3, 1863, is tasked with advising the nation on issues related to science and technology, according to the NAS website.

Goodenough and McKinnon raise the number of Missouri scientists who are members of the academy to 65.

Membership is considered one of the highest honors a scientist can receive, according to the academy’s website. Every year, members nominate scientists to join the organization and an election is held at the group’s annual meeting. Goodenough and McKinnon are among 120 members and 23 international members elected in 2023.

“I’m very proud, very honored. I feel very humble, because there are lots of excellent people who are joining me,” said Goodenough, who studied the sexual phase in the life cycle of a green algae called Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, which can be found in soil.

McKinnon said he never expected to be elected to the academy.

“I’m almost 70, so it’s a nice thing to happen in my case. Like, you wake up one day and you realize you’re a senior scientist and you wonder, ‘how did I get here?'” he said.

McKinnon is being honored for research that includes the structure and histories of outer-planet satellites as well as impact cratering throughout the solar system. He is also a co-investigator for various NASA missions and projects.

The 65 members from Missouri include scientists whose distinguished work has involved disciplines such as immunology, physics, astronomy, environmental sciences and geophysics. Eleven of them are affiliated with the University of Missouri in Columbia and one with the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and their expertise includes disciplines such as microbial sciences, plant biology, genetics and biochemistry.

  1. Michael Roberts, chancellor’s professor emeritus at MU, was elected in 1996. His lab studies reproductive biology.

“I was almost certainly elected because of my part in discovering how pregnancy is recognized and then maintained in farm species, especially cattle and sheep,” said Roberts, explaining that his group first reported the role of a protein called an interferon in making the mother’s womb hospitable for the growing embryo.

“For me, election brought great personal satisfaction and a feeling of enormous gratitude to all the young people I had mentored and who had done most of the hands-on work over the previous 25 years that led to the recognition by NAS,” he said.

James A. Birchler, the curators’ distinguished professor of biological sciences at MU, was elected in 2011. He said that although membership in the NAS hasn’t changed much for him, he is pleased to support the next generation as he was supported by others.

“It is also fun to attend the annual meeting, because everyone is in a celebratory mood and one can learn about the latest science across disciplines,” Birchler said.

The presentation ceremony where Goodenough and McKinnon will be inducted into the NAS starts at 6 p.m. Friday. It will also be livestreamed on the academy’s website. After the meeting, the recording will also be posted online.

The next group of members will be announced Tuesday following an election by its current members.

The NAS is one of three nonprofit academies that, along with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine, are collectively referred to as the National Academies.

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WEDNESDAY

A bittersweet goodbye: Doug Mann reflects on his time in the Missouri House

MOLLY MILLER

MISSOURI NEWS NETWORK

JEFFERSON CITY – After serving one term in the Missouri General Assembly, Rep. Doug Mann, D-Columbia, is preparing to say his goodbyes.

In October, Mann announced he would not be seeking reelection to refocus on his mental health.

Last week, Mann reflected on his time in office as the Missourian followed him throughout the day at the state Capitol.

Mann represents Boone County alongside three other Democratic representatives, one Republican representative and one state senator, President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia. The group of Democratic House members often operate as a unit, deliberating on issues to present a united front.

The group could be seen conferring with one another on the House floor while it was in session. They were expecting a large K-12 education omnibus bill to be heard on the House floor. One of the provisions in the bill, which would allow charter schools in Boone County, was a non-starter for the local Democrats.

The bill did not come up that day. After the session, Mann sought out Rep. Adrian Plank, D-Columbia, to discuss House Bill 2876. That bill would be heard later in the day by the Committee for Emerging Issues, which Mann sits on.

The pair discussed the bill, a piece of legislation about public employees and unions. Plank, a union carpenter, talked out various scenarios and considerations with Mann to help him prepare questions he could ask at the committee hearing.

Throughout the day, Mann could often be found interacting with his colleagues throughout the building. In between debates on the House floor, Mann’s intern, Raelyn Stecker, came to tell him about student research projects in the rotunda. Mann’s face immediately lit up with the prospect of talking to students about science.

During interactions with Mann, his outgoing personality shines through. His intentionality during conversations is evident as he takes the time to listen.

However, what may not be obvious on the surface is a struggle Mann has been exceedingly open about during his time as an elected official: mental health.

“After speaking with my doctors, my family and I do not believe it is responsible to myself or my constituents to add the pressures of a contested campaign to my legislative and professional duties during the upcoming year,” Mann said when he announced in October that he would not seek reelection for his seat in the 50th District.

When asked how he feels about his decision now, Mann said he is still working through his feelings on the transition. He added that he is unsure how the decision is affecting his experience.

“It’s hard to gauge whether or not I feel more free because I have my feet underneath me and I’m able to do more positive things,” Mann said, “or if it’s because I feel free because I don’t have to worry about winning an election again.”

By publicly disclosing his struggles with his mental health, Mann said he felt that he further reduced the stigmas for others, even if it just helped one or two people.

“My goal, and almost everything that I do, is trying to make the world just a little bit better,” Mann said.

Mann has lived with chronic depression for his entire life. In June last year, he said his depression progressed to becoming treatment resistant.

So when it came time to think about reelection, Mann could not guarantee he would be able to give 100% to the campaign.

“I wanted to allow space for someone else to step in and build that infrastructure so that the people I advocate for, the people that I care about, the people that are the reason I ran the first time, have the best chance possible to have an advocate for them in the building,” he said.

Mann will finish out his term. The legislative session is scheduled to end May 17 with a veto session set for September.

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TUESDAY

Senate embarks on the budget process

BY EZRA BITTERMAN

MISSOURI NEWS NETWORK

JEFFERSON CITY − Senate Appropriations Chair Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, kicked off the Senate’s budget process Tuesday, presenting his proposal for several key budget bills.

The committee reviewed Hough’s appropriations suggestions for the first five budget bills, which include elementary education, higher education, transportation, agriculture and economic development.

The budget needs approval from both chambers and a signature from the governor. The only difference between a regular bill and those governing appropriations for Fiscal Year 2025 is that the governor presents his own budget at the beginning of the session and is able to veto specific spending items once the bills are passed and reach his desk.

For every line item in each bill, Hough has essentially four options: appropriate what the governor requested, appropriate what the House requested, add or subtract on top of what the governor or House wants, or create new budget items altogether.

Hough mostly sided with the governor, which will likely remove some of the cuts made by the House, which removed about $2 billion from the governor’s proposed budget.

Among the changes:

  • The University of Missouri System would get a 3% increase under Hough’s plan, as the governor proposed, versus a 2% raise in the House version.
  • He proposed keeping an Environmental Protection Agency $41 million solar project cut by the House.
  • Hough added $5 million in grants for nurses.
  • He proposed $10 million in spending for MU to finish building a meat laboratory.

Hough stayed in line with the House and governor’s education plans, which both proposed a starting minimum teacher pay at $40,000 a year and included fully funding the foundation formula. Hough also kept the proposed expansion of Interstate 44, which was added by the House.

Hough said in an interview that he was happy with what the House sent him. “The House did a very good job this year, it’s made my life a lot easier.”

The plan moving forward is for the Appropriations Committee to go through Hough’s proposal for the remaining budget bills so they can be discussed on the Senate floor beginning early next week. Then there is expected to be a conference between the House and Senate to resolve differences in their spending goals so that both chambers can approve the bills and send them to the governor’s desk for his signature.

Both actions are likely to come with pitfalls.

The Freedom Caucus — a far-right group in the Senate — is determined to have massive cuts in the overall budget. Last year, the same six individuals filibustered and then voted against most budget bills, which had the rest of the chamber’s support.

In the House, Budget Chair Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, is determined to cut spending because recent tax cuts are projected to stagnate state revenues and there is an impending reduction expected in federal money that helped the state transition through the pandemic.

“I think it’s important that we are very careful about monitoring our ongoing spending (and) not making increases to programs where we are setting ourselves up for a potential budgetary shortfall,” Smith said.

The legislature’s only constitutional mandate is passing a budget, which must be done by May 10.

Harshawn Ratanpal contributed to this article.

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A Missouri lawmaker wants congressional members to live in their districts. Can he pull it off?

BY DMITRY MARTIROSOV

MISSOURI NEWS NETWORK

JEFFERSON CITY — Rep. Aaron McMullen is fighting an uphill battle — and he knows it.

McMullen, a Republican from Independence, is pushing forth legislation that would require Missouri’s members of Congress — namely, those serving in the U.S. House of Representatives — to reside in the district they represent.

But there’s one problem: His proposal conflicts with the U.S. Constitution.

Article 1 Section 2 of the Constitution states that to be a U.S. representative, a candidate must be at least 25 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for seven years and a resident of the state they seek to represent at the time of the election. Adding further requirements, such as those proposed in McMullen’s bill, would go against the Constitution.

McMullen’s 2-page proposal states that beginning in the 2026 federal elections, a candidate running to represent a congressional district in Missouri may do so only if they live in that district. The bill further states that if a candidate runs for a congressional district in which the boundaries have not been changed in the past 24 months, that candidate must reside in that district for a period of 12 months before the election and for three months if the district’s boundaries have been changed. Before a candidate’s name appears on the ballot, their residency would have to be verified by the secretary of state’s office, the bill states.

But all of these requirements conflict with the U.S. Constitution, as determined by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1995.

In that ruling, Arkansas residents passed an amendment to their state constitution that sought to limit the number of terms members of their state legislatures and their congressional representatives could serve. In a narrowly split decision, the Supreme Court ruled that putting additional requirements on members of Congress is prohibited, and thus unconstitutional. The ruling invalidated similar measures passed by 22 other states, including Missouri.

“This is going to be a long process,” McMullen said in an interview, adding that he and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office are currently working to amend some language in the bill.

When McMullen first presented his bill during last year’s session, he faced stern opposition from Rep. Adam Schwadron, R-St. Charles, who called the measure “blatantly unconstitutional” and said he couldn’t support it.

Last week, Schwadron again laid out his argument for why the bill is flawed when it was heard by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee.

“I understand where people are coming from,” Schwadron later said in his office. “Unfortunately, I don’t want to have to spend state money on something that we 100% know will be struck down by the courts.”

The question at the heart of McMullen’s bill is one of representation. Specifically, whether a candidate who doesn’t live in a particular district should be able to represent it.

The Missouri Constitution lays out requirements for members of the legislature, which includes district residency. But the U.S. Constitution, while specifying age, citizenship and state residency requirements, does not address the issue.

“The members of the Constitutional Convention were familiar with district residency requirements and many of the states imposed them in state constitutions. But they did not choose to put them in the U.S. Constitution,” said Peverill Squire, a political science professor at the University of Missouri. “While many Americans might agree on requiring district representation, it could only be mandated through a constitutional amendment.”

And an amendment is something McMullen, a candidate for Senate District 11, said he is open to.

“I feel like what this bill does is start the conversation to try to look and, you know, amend, possibly, the (U.S.) Constitution,” he said. “Everybody agrees with the concept and agrees that this is something that needs to be fixed. It’s just a long and arduous process.”

In 1996, Missouri residents passed a constitutional amendment that sought to place term limits on members of Congress to a maximum of three terms for House representatives and two for Senators. The measure passed with more than 57%, but was deemed invalid by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 2001 decision. The language, however, was never struck from the constitution.

Opposition to McMullen’s bill is sparse, with most either indifferent as a result of the legal hurdles still in its way or concerned with the precedent it might set.

“I get a little bit weary anytime we start confining the requirements that are already in the federal constitution,” said Rep. Kevin Windham, D-Hillsdale, who sits on the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee.

Windham said the bill raises a few red flags for him as it relates to placing boundaries around certain areas of the law.

“The state legislature draws the lines for congressional districts. What happens when what has seemingly been a practice of drawing folks out of certain congressional districts (occurs during redistricting every 10 years)? It has a little bit more of an effect when you say that that person can’t run at all in that district,” Windham said.

Windham added that he thinks there’s a clear conflict of interest when the legislature controls the process of both drawing the lines for congressional districts and narrowing down the district residency requirements in the U.S. Constitution.

“It puts, at least me, in particular, in a weird space as far as being able to support (the bill),” Windham said.

Squire said candidates can easily find themselves in new districts following redistricting, which could then place them in situations where they’re running for a district they do not live in.

“District lines shift and candidates may not want to move with them,” Squire said.

“In urban areas,” he added, “the lines don’t usually match media markets and members may be sufficiently well-known to run even if they don’t currently live in the district.”

It’s been nearly 32 years since the U.S. Constitution has last been amended, when in May 1992 Michigan became the 38th state needed to ratify the 27th Amendment.

Yet despite the slim odds McMullen’s bill might be facing during this legislative session, he remains optimistic.

“The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,” McMullen said.

And if he somehow manages to pull it off, beginning the process of amending the U.S Constitution, even Schwadron, McMullen’s most ardent opponent, said he would support it.

“I would vote for that, I would approve that, so long as it is an amendment to the United States Constitution,” Schwadron said.

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MONDAY

Veterans, legislators, honor 80th anniversary of WWII naval battle

BY QUINN S COFFMAN

MISSOURI NEWS NETWORK

JEFFERSON CITY — Sabers were held high Monday in the Capitol’s historic Thomas Hart Benton room, as both active-duty servicemen and veterans gathered to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the battle of Exercise Tiger.

This naval battle took place in the English Channel on April 28, 1944. That day, several American Tank Landing Ships (LST’s) and an British corvette escorting them were traveling through the English Channel to take place in a training event in preparation for the future storming of Omaha beach.

In the dark hours of that morning, however, these Allied ships were attacked without warning by nine German torpedo boats. In the ensuing battle, two ships were lost, including LST 531, which had been transporting the 3206th Quartermaster Company from Missouri.

Out of the 424 servicemen from LST 531 who drowned, 201 of them were from Missouri. The ship sank in six minutes.

Due to the covert nature of their training operation, the Battle of Exercise Tiger stayed classified until two months after the landing in Normandy on June 6, 1944. To this day, the battle is largely unrecorded in the history of WWII’s naval engagements.

Headquartered in Columbia, the United States Exercise Tiger Foundation works to bring light to those sacrifices made 80 years ago. The organization hosted Monday’s ceremony at the Capitol.

“Today is a historic day. No state capitol of the United States has ever done a state tribute inside such a room,” said Walt Domanski, the foundation’s chief of staff, as he motioned to Benton’s murals of Missouri history.

One of the ceremony’s most exciting moments was when cadets from the Missouri Military Academy presented a Word War II U.S. Navy battle flag. This 10-by-20-foot flag, which sports 48 stars for the number of states during WWII, was used to identify allied ships in combat.

“This flag has been in storage for the past 26 years in Columbia at the USTF annex,” Domanski said as cadets unfurled the aged banner. “They will fly it for the first time in 80 years at the Armory on Friday, April 26.”

While the flag’s specific origins are unknown, research done by the foundation points to it possibly having been the ensign of the cruiser St. Louis. The St. Louis was a ship in dock at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack that initiated American involvement in the war.

“(The flag) did fly on a World War II ship and not since,” Domanski said, “Friday, that will change.”

Domanski introduced Speaker of the House Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, and Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe, R-St. Louis. The two men were both honored by the foundation for being the first in their positions to take part in an Exercise Tiger Day ceremony.

“It’s an amazing feat of perseverance, what we did to get ready for the Normandy invasion in June,” said Kehoe, “and as you know, over 200 Missourians as well as 750-some-odd servicemen were killed when the Germans came across the exercise going on.”

Kehoe presented a declaration on behalf of the General Assembly and the people of Missouri honoring the 80th anniversary of Exercise Tiger, “to thank the people who have served our country and who are serving our country.”

Plocher spoke about the make-up of the 3206th Quartermaster Company.

“The courage and valor displayed by these individuals, from the bustling cities of St. Louis and Kansas City to the rural areas of Vandalia and Mexico, Missouri, will forever be etched in our collective memories,” Plocher said.

Both Kehoe and Plocher were honored with awards from the foundation, with Kehoe being given the “Keeper of the Saber” award, alongside a replica of an 1800’s cavalry engineer’s sword.

In attendance were dozens of active-duty members of the Air Force, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Missouri’s National Guard. Veterans from wars between World War II and the War in Afghanistan were also in attendance, with many of them being honored by the foundation.

Missouri legislators joined them, including many who are veterans themselves, including Rep. Doug Mann, D-Columbia, and Rep. Lane Roberts, R-Joplin. All representatives from Boone County attended as did Boone County District I Commissioner and veteran, Justin Aldred. He presented a resolution on behalf of the county honoring the anniversary.

The foundation will also honor the sacrifices of Exercise Tiger on Sunday at the Audrain County Courthouse in Mexico. There, an anchor from a Navy LST stands as part of a memorial to those lost. It was gifted to the foundation alongside the battle flag.

When the House went into session later Monday, it observed a moment of silence for the 201 Missouri servicemen killed in the Battle of Exercise Tiger.

The battle-flag flying event will take place after 12 p.m. Friday, with specifics of the event depending on the forecast. Email ustf.org@gmail.com for details.

Sunday’s event will take place at 1 p.m. at the Exercise Tiger Anchor Memorial near the Audrain County Courthouse in Mexico, Mo.

The United States Exercise Tiger Foundation is campaigning to have a new LST-type ship named after the battle, possibly as the “USS Tiger.” They are asking those interested in volunteering to contact them at ustf.org@gmail.com.

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SUNDAY

Sludge bill gains two amendments in the Senate

BY HAILEY PECK

MISSOURI NEWS NETWORK

With the Missouri Senate’s current legislative session coming to a close, the next few weeks will be crucial for bills still stuck in the Senate. House Bill 2134, which would create new regulations for wastewater sludge under the Missouri Clean Water Act, passed a Senate committee Thursday.

However, the bill received amendments that will force it back to the House for a revote before returning to the Senate. The move could decrease the bill’s chances of survival.

The bill passed 9-0 in the Committee of Agriculture, Food Production, and Outdoor Resources with two amendments — one adjusting testing and lagoon setbacks and another curtailing water exports outside of Missouri.

The first amendment removed a salmonella testing requirement and added that phosphorus solubility could be used as part of a nutrient management technical standard. The amendment also changed the setback distance for certain sludge lagoons from 4,000 feet to 3,500 feet.

Sen. Jason Bean, R-Holcomb, proposed the second amendment, which contained language similar to Senate Bill 782.

This amendment would prohibit surface water from being exported out of state without a special permit. To obtain a permit, there must be enough water, it must be needed for beneficial use and the proposed use must not interfere with current in-state use. A similar bill, HB 2153, passed the House earlier in the session.

The stated goal of the amendment is to help protect access, use and enjoyment of water resources in Missouri.

The bill has been gaining traction as concerns about waste lagoons and land application practices by Arkansas-based Denali Water Solutions have been brought to light. The bill would prevent companies like Denali from applying waste as fertilizer without a regulatory process and testing.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is currently facing lawsuits from Newton County group SLUDGE and Randolph County group CRAP after residents objected to Denali’s practices.

Denali was previously forced to cease operations in Missouri after 6,000 gallons of slaughterhouse waste spilled into a field, causing residents to complain about the smell and runoff concerns.

Sponsor Rep. Ed Lewis, R-Moberly, said Denali has suggested numerous amendments to the bill, some of which would have made it impossible to pass.

The bill faced a Senate hearing March 26, where witnesses spoke in favor of and against the bill.

Denali Chief Investment Officer Robert Currey expressed his concerns that the bill was only in the works due to odor complaints. He said the company is mitigating the odor problem and reiterated Denali’s mission of recycling in an environmentally-friendly way.

“(Denali) has zero desire to not follow the rules,” Currey said. “But this bill would be overly burdensome for companies and farmers in costly and unnecessary ways.”

Several witnesses insisted that the bill was not anti-agriculture.

“(The bill) is not anti-agricultural, instead it protects agriculture,” said Jacob Knaebel, state legislative affairs manager at the Missouri Corn Growers Association.

Melissa Vatterott, policy director at the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, asked for the bill to define companies like Denali.

“I just don’t want to see another company evade the law by saying, ‘Well, what we have isn’t that,’” Vatterott said.

If the bill passes the Senate floor before the session closes, it will go into effect immediately due to the emergency clause attached to the bill.

“In the future, if you’re going to apply wastewater residuals to the ground or store them in basins, you have to follow these procedures and not avoid them by some sort of loophole in the law,” Lewis said. “We will close that loophole and make sure that they have to follow the rules that everyone else follows.”

However, even if the bill doesn’t pass, Lewis said not all is lost.

“If it weren’t to pass, with even having just done the legislation, it has brought this issue to the forefront,” Lewis said.

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Cleaning House: Representatives work through lower-priority bills

BY QUINN S COFFMAN

MISSOURI NEWS NETWORK

JEFFERSON CITY — This session of the Missouri General Assembly has been dominated by a handful of Republican priorities such as ballot initiative reform, defunding Planned Parenthood and expanding school choice.

These priorities often overshadow the mass of bills whose topics might not be as pressing to party leadership.

A number of these under-the-radar bills had their day in the sun this past week. On Monday alone, 13 bills received a third reading on the House floor — one of the highest numbers of bills approved in one day that don’t deal with appropriations.

With this vote secured, each bill can now proceed to the Senate for approval.

These House bills ranged in topics from anti-bullying to the closure of power plants. Together they barely received any debate on the floor before being voted through.

The majority floor leader, Rep. Jonathan Patterson, R-Lee’s Summit, is in charge of what order bills are brought to the floor. Bills that have been passed out of their committees can be placed by the floor leader onto the informal calendar. On the floor, the leader is then recognized by the speaker of the House to call bills up for consideration by the full House.

Rep. Tara Peters, R-Rolla, was one of a dozen or so representatives that had a bill receive its third reading Monday.

“Once you get to the point where you know it’s been moved to that informal calendar, you should be prepared,” Peters said. “At any point in time they can come and say, ‘We’re hearing this on the floor.’” She added that she received a little more advanced notice Monday because of the complexity of her bill, which relates to insurance coverage of pharmacy services.

While members can hear when Patterson moves bills onto the informal calendar, many say they are often not aware that their bill is being brought up until the last moment.

As sponsor, the member is expected to talk about the bill on the floor and answer questions — sometimes pointed ones for other representatives who may oppose the bill.

“Maybe 20 minutes?” said Rep. Chad Perkins, R-Bowling Green, when asked how much heads-up time House members usually get before their bill is announced. Perkins is sponsoring a multifaceted bill dealing mainly with tax credits that was third-read Monday.

Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville, said that luckily representatives are never called on “cold turkey” to debate their bills. Veit also joined the other dozen representatives in having his judiciary bill third-read Monday.

All three representatives have worked since before the session started to get their legislation through the chamber.

“You have to argue it very well, you have to find every bill you can attach it to, and you need to file early,” Veit said on what methods work to convince the floor leader to prioritize a bill.

The first part in Veit’s list is simple: If party leadership likes what you’re drafting, then it’s more likely to get pushed along.

“So generally, if you have a bill that the speaker likes or has a high public interest, they tend to move fast with it,” Veit said. He juxtaposed these fast-tracked bills to less flashy ones that are still necessary “to run the government.”

These low-priority bills are often legislating on a topic that is complex, boring or highly specific. With the crush of legislation introduced each session — more than 1,500 House bills and hundreds more resolutions — it makes sense that bills like these are less likely to get the full attention of other representatives, many of whom are pushing their own bills.

Peters understood this ahead of time, she said, and attempted to prepare her colleagues on the Health and Mental Health Policy Committee with a short video explaining the issue she wanted to address. This kind of attention is difficult to give to each bill.

“I’ve got several bills that I filed this year, and you just can’t do all of them justice,” Peters said. “So I think you do need to prioritize and if you’re vetting the bill like you’re supposed to and you’re making sure that you’re coming out with a good product, you shouldn’t be able to do that with all of them.”

Having an area of expertise can help with understanding a bill, but representatives also said that not every lawmaker is going to understand their niche.

“Sometimes it takes a little hand holding with much of the caucus to get them in that same spot. And so you know, it can be difficult,” Perkins said about building enthusiasm.

This is especially true for the representatives whose bills received initial approval Monday, as many of them fall far outside headline-grabbing topics.

“So I mean, I’m not saying that the topics that we’ve put priority to aren’t a priority, because they are, but I think health care is an extreme priority,” Peters said.

Another possibility that Veit mentioned on how to move a stubborn bill forward is by attaching it as an amendment to another bill. This is sometimes called finding a “vehicle” for the bill.

The practice of attaching amendments to other bills is seen as a necessity in today’s chaotic assembly.

“Every Monday morning the staff and I get together and talk about what’s a vehicle for anything we might be working on,” Perkins said.

The Missouri General Assembly follows a “single topic rule,” meaning each piece of legislation is supposed to only address one issue. These topics, however, can be broad and the process often results in bloated “omnibus” bills that seem to cover multiple topics under a loose umbrella idea.

For example, the Senate’s omnibus education bill that passed the House this past week began at about 12 pages, but ballooned to more than 150 as other education issues were tacked onto it through amendments. House leaders made it clear they wanted to pass the bill without any more amendments, which would have forced it back to the Senate for more debate. It now awaits a final signature from the governor.

To maximize the chance that a bill will move forward, Perkins recommended adding the same amendment to as many vehicles as possible “because it might all fall apart.”

In addition to looking for vehicles for their own bill topics, representatives have to decide whether or not they will allow fellow lawmakers’ amendments to be accepted on the bills they are sponsoring.

To Veit, this process is very delicate.

“Making a bill big can be challenging because it creates too many issues for people to object to,” he said.

To him, it’s all about looking to the future, to who else will get to have a say on the legislation he’s drafting. A single amendment can motivate a senator to start a filibuster or cause the governor to veto the whole thing.

“You look at what bills you can attach, and if they’re going to assist the bill in getting passed or if they’re the type of thing that will bring controversy,” Veit said.

This points to another constant obstacle for the House: the Senate.

Both Veit and Perkins said that having an ally to champion their bill in the Senate is of utmost importance.

“The building is very relationship-oriented, so we are always thinking who would be a good bill handler on the Senate side,” Perkins said.

Veit added that having a Senate ally identified can also help the bill move through the House by showing party leadership that there is a route for it once it moves on.

“You also have to rely upon lobbyists,” Veit said, because they will follow the bill and put pressure on senators to move it along.

There are less than 20 working days in the assembly’s session, which ends May 17, and with each passing day it becomes less and less likely that any specific bill will become law.

“You’re at a point in time where if you don’t have places to put your amendments, if you don’t have places to put your stuff, it’s just gonna die,” Perkins said.

In a meeting with press held Monday, Floor Leader Jonathan Patterson agreed.

“I think any bill that’s being perfected in either chamber at this point in the session isn’t going anywhere,” he said.

With this deadline approaching, representatives are eager to find any route for their legislation, or risk having nothing to show their constituents at the end of the session.

“Getting a bill passed is a slow, tedious project. However, bills do need to be vetted very well, and every bill shouldn’t be passed,” Veit said. “We are scrambling in those last three weeks to put together bills, and nobody’s looking at all the collateral consequences.”

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