MPA Capitol Report 5/6/2024

In Legislative News, Legislative Resources, Resources 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.


This week the Missouri News Network has stories on the filibuster launched by the Freedom Caucus, the latest on some of the key initiative petition drives and a deep look at state education spending and efforts across the country to create personhood rights for embryos.

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





Pro sports teams submit petition signatures to legalize sports gambling in Missouri


missouri news network

JEFFERSON CITY — A coalition of Missouri professional sports franchises submitted more than 340,000 petition signatures to the secretary of state’s office Thursday morning to try to put the legalization of sports gambling on the November ballot.

The teams, which established a committee called Winning for Missouri Education, have turned to the initiative petition process after years of having sports gambling bills struck down in the Missouri General Assembly. The signatures are from more than 8% of registered voters in at least six of the eight congressional districts in Missouri.

The proposed measure would add sports wagering to the state Constitution if approved by voters. It includes granting licenses to the teams, casinos and online websites, such as FanDuel and DraftKings.

Mike Whittle, vice president and general counsel of the St. Louis Cardinals, was one of many representatives who attended a news conference Thursday outside the secretary of state’s office.

“We’re at a point where we wanted to pursue this avenue and present this issue to the Missouri citizens to vote on later this year,” Whittle said.

“In terms of the sports teams, I mean, some of us are from different sides of the state. We’re not necessarily on the same page on every issue, but this one we are on the same page and really appreciate the partnership and support,” he added.

Representatives said the tax on gambling will generate “tens of millions” annually to help fund Missouri education. A fiscal note shows it could generate nearly $30 million.

Approximately $5 million in funds from the sports wagering tax would go into a fund to help compulsive gamblers, and the rest would go to public schools and higher education programs.

Some members of the Missouri Senate, including Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warresnburg, have repeatedly struck down sports wagering bills in the legislature, claiming they do not address the issue of problem-compulsive gambling to a high enough degree.

Missouri’s neighboring states — Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Kansas — have legalized sports betting. Oklahoma has not.

Thirty-eight other states across the country have legalized some form of sports wagering.

Adam Sachs, senior vice president and chief external affairs officer for the Kansas City Royals, said he has friends who “drive over and have BBQ on the Kansas side and wager on sports legally.”

Whittle echoed Sachs’ sentiment.

“Our fans get it. They see this revenue going outside of Missouri, and they ask the question, ‘Why can’t we keep it in Missouri?” he said.

Whittle said Major League Baseball prohibits teams from establishing sportsbooks on their stadium properties but that establishing them in nearby locations, such as in and around Ballpark Village, is an option the Cardinals have explored.

For the Royals, Sachs said bringing this vote to the people puts in the hands of the fans.

“It’s just a further way of engaging our fans. There are corporate sponsorship opportunities as well that come from this, but it really is all about the fans,” he said.

If the secretary of state verifies enough signatures are genuine, this would qualify for a public vote in the November election.

The General Assembly is currently debating a measure that would require any prospective constitutional amendment to receive a majority vote not only statewide, which is the current threshold, but also approval from at least five of the state’s eight congressional districts. The measure, if approved, could make it to the August primary and change the approval process for November.


House Democrats complain about delay caused by Senate filibuster


missouri news network

JEFFERSON CITY — House Democrats spoke out Thursday about how little time is left to pass a state budget after an almost two-day filibuster in the Senate ended.

That filibuster was a waste of time and could keep the legislature from passing the state budget in time, said House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield.

With a 6 p.m. May 10 deadline looming, the time spent on the Freedom Caucus priorities could come at the cost of passing the budget in time. The Senate must pass its version of the budget and then negotiate differences it has with the budget passed by the House.

“Over the past few years, when the Republicans have been fighting with each other so much, getting the budget done by our deadline is a concern,” Quade said. “There are rumblings about a special session if it doesn’t get done in time, but of course, we will be here and ready to work if that were the case. But as always, it’s unfortunate we get pushed up to this very last minute.”

The House Democrats’ comments came after far-right Freedom Caucus members filibustered until around 3:30 a.m. Thursday, demanding that the governor sign a bill banning Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid reimbursements. The governor said he would not move up the signing process.

The group also wants Senate leaders to bring forward a bill restricting the ability of the public to change the state constitution. That bill was amended by the House to add some language that Senate Democrats filibustered over until it was removed earlier in the session.

The 41-hour filibuster resulted in neither of the caucus’ demands being met. Freedom Caucus members also have said they intend to strip some spending from the $53 billion state budget approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Members of the Senate Freedom Caucus held up consideration of the state budget because they don’t support extending taxes medical providers pay for treatment of Medicaid patients called the Federal Reimbursement Allowance, or FRA. The money collected in the taxes is used to match the federal reimbursement amount and, according to the Missouri Hospital Association, pays for nearly all the state’s responsibility in paying for care provided through Medicaid.

Since it is such a major source of revenue for the state — about $4.5 billion — approving the FRA is crucial to formulating a state budget. The nearly two-day filibuster, part of an effort to keep government funding from going to Planned Parenthood, was ultimately unsuccessful, Quade pointed out.

“The Senate’s Freedom Caucus finally sat down on the FRA and were able to hopefully move forward with our Medicaid program in the state of Missouri,” Quade said. “It was a whole lot of showboating, and as said by Senator (Bill) Eigel, trying to break a record that we had here in Missouri, but at the end of the day, they got absolutely zero of the things they were asking for.”

After the filibuster ended, the Senate granted initial approval to the FRA extension, clearing the way to consider a slew of budget bills when it returns to work on Monday.

“When I say (it’s) unfortunate, it’s really because of the work it does to the staff,” Quade said. “Having to turn these things around so quickly, having to work countless hours over weekends and sometimes not sleep at all and stay here for over 24 hours to try to prepare these documents because we have this deadline.”

If necessary, lawmakers are prepared to stay or come back for a special session to pass a budget if it doesn’t happen by the deadline.

“The Freedom Caucus loves to waste time,” Quade said. “I believe Senator Eigel made comments about trying to break the record for having the longest filibuster on one bill. This is a good testament to the way that Jefferson City is not functioning right now with the supermajority party having control and why balance is so important.”



Filibuster halts Senate action



JEFFERSON CITY — As the clock struck midnight, Sen. Bill Eigel asked for a quorum call.

That meant, as a new month began early Wednesday, 17 more senators had to enter the chamber to be counted before returning to sleep in their offices.

The Freedom Caucus, of which Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, is a member, began filibustering shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday as a tactic to try to force Gov. Mike Parson to sign a bill banning Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood and get leadership to bring forward a bill changing initiative petition rules before they take up budget bills.

Caucus members who take turns speaking on the floor to hold up regular activity have requested a quorum call frequently throughout their filibuster (31 hours as of 5 p.m. Wednesday).

That means for 31 straight hours one of five senators in the Freedom Caucus have been talking on the Senate floor. The quorum calls give them an opportunity to stop speaking for a few minutes and to irritate their colleagues who are unable to leave the building.

The topics range.

Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, read and talked about scripture, while Sen. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, talked about his pro-life values and threatened to break out his best Donald Trump impersonation.

The record for a Missouri Senate filibuster is 39 hours, which would be surpassed early Thursday if the filibuster continues.

Once a quorum returned to the Senate Wednesday morning, Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, greeted his fellow senators with a quote from an address George Washington made to Congress. The senators who had just returned to the floor left shortly afterward.

This has been a familiar scenario in the Senate since Tuesday morning.

Because of those quorum calls, senators can’t leave the building. Democrats and Republicans separately arrange for enough of their members to be available for quorum calls while others can sleep in their offices or elsewhere.

At about 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, was seen in pajamas and slippers. She said it was her “time for sleeping” before going out for a walk.

Filibustering, a tactic in which senators speak for an extended amount of time as a means of slowing down business on legislation, has been unavoidable this session.

Members of the Freedom Caucus have frequently employed it in attempts to bring up bills on initiative petition changes and for banning Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood. Democrats used it to successfully gain a compromise on some of the language in the bill that would change how initiatives pass.

Another impact of filibusters is that committees cannot meet while the Senate is in formal session. So, among other business originally scheduled for Wednesday, several gubernatorial appointments that were expected to be approved in a committee have to wait at least another day.

At other times Wednesday, Sen. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, read from “Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution,” focusing on the importance of its footnotes and frequently asking those in the room if they were aware of the facts he was reading aloud.

One person responded, “It’s going to be a long day.”

Sen. John Rizzo, D-Independence, criticized how often Republican leaders have given in to Freedom Caucus demands.

“The more you capitulate to their demands, the more they want,” Rizzo said in his Capitol office. “It is less in my opinion about one issue or two issues or five issues, for them it’s about how much they can extract.”

“It’s really sad to say this, but as a father of a seven- and nine-year-old, it’s very much a reminder of that,” he said. “If my kid can get ice cream 24 hours a day, trust me, she’s going to ask me for ice cream 24 hours a day.”

This time, though, Republican leaders seem to have no intention of standing down to the Freedom Caucus.

The caucus continues to call on Gov. Mike Parson to sign a bill denying Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood before they would end the filibuster. The governor received the bill six days ago and is still reviewing it. His office on Wednesday reaffirmed a statement put out Tuesday which said the governor will not speed up his timeline because of the filibuster.

Senate Republican leaders were not available to discuss any plans for moving past the filibuster.


Governor’s office says Sen. Steve Roberts blocked nominations


missouri news network

JEFFERSON CITY — Four gubernatorial nominations to state boards have been withdrawn by Gov. Mike Parson because of opposition by Sen. Steve Roberts, Parson’s spokesperson said in an email Wednesday.

The email said that Roberts, D-St. Louis instead had advocated for a paid position for himself on the Public Service Commission and for his father to receive an appointment to the UM Board of Curators.

Roberts said in an interview that he didn’t block the candidates because of their resumes but because of a lack of communication from the governor’s office.

“They have not contacted me about any of the appointments and they know that there’s a process that’s supposed to be followed,” Roberts said in his Capitol office.

“I think some of them were great candidates, but it’s a procedure that we follow and they (the governor’s office) didn’t follow it. And anytime that happens, they’re going to be an automatic no,” he added.

That runs counter to the statement emailed to the Missourian by Parson Press Secretary Johnathan Shiflett:

“Senator Roberts has suggested he had no communication from our office over these appointments. We, in fact, have communicated with Senator Roberts on multiple occasions over the last few months.”

“However, the only constituent Senator Roberts advocated on behalf of was himself to get a paid appointment to the Public Service Commission and his father to be appointed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators.”

Presented with that information, Roberts claimed again that Parson’s office never reached out to him about the people Parson was considering. He denied speaking to the governor’s office about his father.

When asked whether he reached out to the governor’s office about a paid position on the Public Service Commission Roberts said, “I’m focused on my next four years in the state Senate.”

Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, who serves on the Gubernatorial Appointments Committee, said that the governor doesn’t always provide options or advance notice on who he recommends. Luetkemeyer said he thinks the governor’s office has communicated well.

Roberts complained that the governor’s office handling of appointments has been incompetent and that because of that incompetence they will get no one onto a commission before the end of session.

The appointments were all from the St. Louis region and included former St. Louis mayor Lyda Krewson to the UM Board of Curators. Traditionally the senator from the areas where appointees reside sponsor the appointments regardless of party affiliation.

These commissions consult and make recommendations to state agencies and, in some instances, approve expenditures.

Here are the comments from the governor’s office about the appointees whose names were withdrawn:

“Yesterday, we withdrew four nominations, including Reverend Darryl Gray, Dan Isom, Winston Calvert, and Lyda Krewson, to various unpaid boards after Senator Steven Roberts refused to support them.”

“Rev. Gray has been an advocate for increasing workforce opportunities in the African American community, and we believe he would have been an excellent member of the Workforce Development Board.”

“Dan Isom and Winston Calvert were to join the Bi-State Development Agency of the Missouri-Illinois Metropolitan District. We chose among a list of 3 names submitted to us by the St. Louis County Executive and St. Louis Mayor, and believe Mr. Isom’s background in public safety and Mr. Calvert’s experience in local government and nonprofit advocacy would have been valuable additions to the board.”

“Finally, former Mayor Lyda Krewson was withdrawn as a nominee for the University of Missouri Board of Curators. This appointment would have filled an expired term from the 1st Congressional District. Mrs. Krewson has been an advocate for the region and would have brought her valuable CPA skills to the board.”

The email concluded, “We will reassess our options during the interim and also look for nominees outside of Senator Robert’s district who wish to serve their region and the state.”

Grant Green contributed to this article. 


Nurse practitioners advocate for lifting practice restrictions


Missouri news network

JEFFERSON CITY — Lawmakers don’t often see nurses lobbying in the Capitol, but they’ve had a weekly presence in the building this session as they lobby for independent practice for advanced practice nurses, or APRNs.

Among them is Marcy Markes, a nurse practitioner at Columbia Allergy and Asthma Specialists.

“We just want to take care of the patients,” Markes said, “and we should be allowed to.”

Missouri is one of a handful of states that require APRNs to be in a collaborative practice agreement with a physician to provide services.

Most other states allow APRNs to practice independently after completing a certain number of practice hours ranging from less than a thousand to more than 6,000. Some states, such as Kansas and Iowa, forgo this requirement and let APRNs begin independent practice immediately.

Missouri is operating under a 1993 law mandating the collaborative practice agreements regardless of how long a nurse has worked. The restrictions were temporarily lifted during the pandemic, but were reinstated in 2021. APRNs have been vocal about how the restrictions harm health care access in rural communities.

“For instance, in southwest Missouri … for one reason or another the physicians left and they couldn’t find another one,” said Suzanne Opperman, who has been a nurse for 47 years and advocates strongly for lifting the restrictions. “Several hundred patients suddenly don’t have a provider, because the nurse practitioners weren’t allowed to practice unless there was a physician to be in collaboration.”

Among restrictions in the law is that a nurse’s practicing location cannot be more than 75 miles away from their collaborating physician.

“The biggest impact I’ve had is with having to close three rural clinics … because of the restrictions that came into play with the mileage,” Markes said. “I had to close them because my physician got reassigned basically to cover other areas.”

The mileage restrictions were eased significantly after Gov. Mike Parson signed Senate Bill 157 last July, allowing nurse practices to collaborate through video communication via telehealth. However, this isn’t an ideal solution due to lack of internet access in some communities.

“Everybody out in rural Missouri does not have satellite,” Opperman said. “They don’t have the money for that. They don’t have internet, they don’t have all this stuff … telehealth is not the answer to everything.”

APRNs still face other burdens under the current law, including collaborative practice fees they must pay to their physicians.

Nurses must also spend 30 days with a collaborating physician before they can begin to see patients independently.

That requirement means “30 more days of patients being pushed back,” Markes said.

Physicians are expected to complete audits of their nurse practitioners’ work and documents every two weeks. Markes had a positive experience with her own physician.

Other nurses, also with positive collaborative experiences with physicians, have raised concerns about the restrictions.

“I work in an inpatient setting where our collaboration with physicians is very natural and very necessary,” said Chris Weber, a nurse practitioner from Kansas City. “I have a lot of friends that work in the outpatient setting … but they may only talk to their collaborating physician once every couple of months.”

As a result, many nurses have chosen to leave Missouri for states that allow full practice authority.

“Last year we lost so many nurse practitioners out of Kansas City, and they simply drive across the state lines,” Opperman said. “Arkansas is a little stricter. But still, they all have the potential to be independent.”

Carla Beckerle, another nurse practitioner, said that such moves are a means for APRNs to do the work they’ve studied and trained for.

“It’s very hard to practice in a state that has a (competent professional authority) and restricts our ability to give access to care,” Beckerle said.

Terry Thomas has been a family nurse practitioner for 21 years and recently moved to Hannibal from Nebraska, a state which allows full practice authority for APRNs after 2,000 hours. Thomas recounted difficulties beginning work in Missouri.

“I’ve had to go through all of the hoops and lessons in order to get my prescribing authority,” Thomas said.

The nursing restrictions have created travel barriers for patients, with many from rural areas having to make trips to cities to receive care.

“I lost a lot of patients that just no longer receive the specialty care that I gave them because they couldn’t afford to come to Columbia for their care,” Markes said. “Sometimes that’s emergency care (like an asthma attack) … so it puts them at risk for needing more health care resources and even death in some instances.”

Beckerle said that physicians retiring has led to “a big physician shortage, and it’s only going to get bigger.”

For some, a physician shortage may be a sign that keeping the restrictions in place will cause more problems in the years to come.

That is what brings the APRNs to Jefferson City. The nurse practitioners have spent the session lobbying lawmakers to support legislation to lessen, if not outright remove, the restrictions they face.

Most of their support has been bipartisan. House Bill 1773, the most recent bill related to the matter to pass out of committee, sponsored by Rep. Chad Perkins, R-Bowling Green, was amended to allow nurses to practice independently after 6,000 practice hours. The original version of the bill listed 2,000 hours.

“I think we do see the need for this on both parties,” said Rep. Patty Lewis, D-Kansas City, the only nurse in the legislature. “We have enough health care deserts … we do not have enough health care providers, but we have an aging population.”

Despite this, most proposed legislation to lift restrictions has failed to get past the finish line. Many APRNs say this is in part due to groups lobbying to keep the laws in place because they benefit from them.

Charity Galgani, an assistant teaching professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, oversees the only women’s health nurse practitioner training program in the area. She called such opposition “a power move.”

“Physician lobbyist groups work to ensure control of the predominant market share. They don’t want to have what they would refer to as competition,” Galgani said. “Keeping these laws in place is helpful for certain groups, but it’s not helpful for people who need the care.”

Opposition from House Majority Leader Rep. Jonathan Patterson, R-Lee’s Summit, who is a physician, is also to blame. Patterson’s position allows him to determine what legislation is called up to the House floor for votes. While HB 1773 was approved out of committee, it is not on a House calendar for consideration on the floor.

“Even if we get something done in the Senate, we look for him to block it in the House,” Markes said. “For one person to have that much power is ridiculous.”

Patterson declined to be interviewed about the nursing restrictions.

Rep. Kent Haden, R-Mexico, who chairs the House Committee on Healthcare Reform, said that part of the difficulty in addressing the issue comes out of fear of how APRNs would face medical issues they may not be trained to address.

Markes said in scenarios where another medical professional is needed, APRNs are able to contact them without waiting for permission from their supervising physician.

“We collaborate with everybody that’s needed,” Markes said. “I’m not going to call my physician if my patient needs to see a cardiologist. I’m going to call the cardiologist.”

In an effort to circumvent challenges to lifting nursing restrictions in the legislature, activists are gathering signatures for an initiative petition to put the question of lifting the restrictions to a vote.

“There are some worries with it,” Markes said, “that if we do get it on the ballot … Missouri is notorious for having a very, very lower voter turnout, which could backfire on us. If it’s voted down, then senators and representatives come back and say ‘Well, the people voted on it and they don’t want it.’”

Regardless of these concerns, Markes said the signature collection process has been important for educating people on the issue.

Haden said the nursing restrictions are part of how health care nationally is “a complete mess.” He pointed to two hospitals in Mexico and Fulton owned by Noble Health, which closed following technological and financial issues, leaving residents of those towns with fewer health care options. The building in Fulton, Noble Health Callaway Community Hospital, still sits vacant as a stark reminder of Missouri’s rural health care crisis.

Findings from the Rural Health Information Hub, known as RHIhub, further reveal these issues. All but six counties in the state have a county-wide primary health care professional shortage, with another three having a shortage in part of the county. Another report from RHIhub shows similar results that all but five counties are considered to have a mental health professional shortage. All non-metro counties in both reports fall into the county-wide shortage.

In 2022, the Commonwealth Fund ranked Missouri 47th in the nation for overall health care outcomes.

“There’s a lot of reasons that we’re not up to the standard that is expected of just health care in general in this state,” Galgani said. “But making health care better will involve independent practice for those (nurse) practitioners.”


Attempts to give fetuses personhood status seen across state legislatures


missouri news network

“Fetal personhood” has emerged as the next step of the anti-abortion movement.

By amending state constitutions or passing new laws, a number of state legislatures across the country are attempting to give fetuses the rights and protections of any human under the law.

Legislation has been proposed in at least 13 states, as well as at the federal level. The states include Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia. While language differs from state to state, the idea remains the same: a fetus is redefined as an “unborn child” and will be considered human for legal purposes.

In addition to “fetal personhood” bills, other states are considering legislation that identifies a fetus as an “unborn child” or uses language that indirectly personifies a fetus, including criminalizing abortion as assault or murder or requiring child support payments beginning at conception. Among those states are Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

While the reality of these bills becoming law is relatively low, they come as part of a wave of legislation to further restrict abortion access following the Dobbs decision from the Supreme Court in June 2022. The decision overturned Roe v. Wade, which had given constitutional protections to abortion access.

National organizations, such as the National Association of Christian Lawmakers (NACL), have pushed these “personhood” bills as well as other anti-abortion legislation in legislatures nationwide. The NACL has had direct influence on legislation in states like Missouri.

Jason Rapert, founder and president of NACL, said that the faith-based organization’s first piece of model legislation was the Heartbeat Act, which outlaws abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Following the adoption of this legislation in numerous states and the Dobbs decision, the NACL shifted its focus to life-at-conception legislation.

“In this country, up until 1973, it was well understood that those babies were human beings … It’s inherent as a part of many of these bills because it is protecting those lives,” Rapert said.

But while anti-abortion advocates say these bills would protect the “unborn,” abortion rights advocates say that these “personhood” bills would not be beneficial to pregnant people. Taylor Morton, a lobbyist and policy analyst for Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said that anti-abortion bills are especially prevalent this legislative session.

“The effort to establish ‘fetal personhood’ is a disingenuous tactic used by those who oppose comprehensive sexual, reproductive healthcare,” Morton said. “It elevates the rights of a fetus to be equivalent, or even superior, to those of a pregnant person.”

Sometimes these bills can be deceiving and seem to be promoted as being beneficial to women, Morton said.

“On the surface, these bills really appear to be a means of supporting pregnant people and families,” Morton said. “But if you look closer, the bills are nothing more than an attempt to further an anti-abortion agenda by codifying that fetal personhood language.”

Efforts across state legislatures

Kansas has seen many bills that would make abortion more difficult to access despite voters rejecting an amendment in 2022 that would have said there was no right to an abortion in the state.

Senate bill 425 and House bill 2653 in Kansas would establish an unborn fetus as eligible for child support.

Bill 2653 passed through the House with an 83-40 vote, with mostly Republican support, at the end of March. The bill was also introduced and received in the Senate, which referred it to the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs. Because the legislature is taking its April hiatus from bill hearings, the bill will not pass through the committee and on to the Senate during this legislative session.

Sen. Ethan Corson, D-Prairie Village, said that bills are not labeled as “fetal personhood” bills because they would be met with more resistance.

“The concept is embedded in a different, or less clear purpose,” Corson said.

He said he could see these types of bills potentially leading to limited abortion access.

“If you say that an unborn fetus has the same legal rights as a pregnant person, then that calls into question existing laws around reproductive healthcare and access to abortion,” Corson said.

In Florida, the state Supreme Court – five of the seven justices were appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis – ruled to allow a proposed constitutional amendment guaranteeing abortion rights on November’s general election ballot.

The same day, the court also ruled that the state’s newly enacted ban on abortions after six weeks can take effect May 1.

This year, the state’s legislature considered, but did not pass, a bill that would effectively ban all abortions unless a mother’s life was in danger. Similar to so-called “fetal personhood” proposals in other states, the bill declared that “a person exists from the moment of fertilization” and called legal abortions “a crime against humanity.”

The “fetal personhood” bill, introduced by Reps. David Borrero, R-Doral and Mike Beltran, R-Apollo Beach, languished in committees without a hearing or formal vote.

The ban on abortions after six weeks, before many women realize they are pregnant, includes an exception to save the life of the mother. Abortions for pregnancies involving rape or incest would be allowed until 15 weeks of pregnancy, as long as a woman provides documentation, such as a restraining order or police report.

But on the same day, in another case, the Florida Supreme Court agreed to allow voters in November to decide whether to guarantee abortion rights in the state, effectively overturning both the 15- and six-week abortion bans if 60% of voters approve under a new constitutional amendment.

Republicans have moved quickly to campaign against the abortion vote already, calling the amendment deceptively written and an “extreme, unlimited abortion” plan. The amendment would guarantee women the right to abortions before fetal viability, generally recognized around 24 weeks.

In Missouri, efforts to personify fetuses have been seen last legislative session and this session. Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, and Rep. Brian Seitz, R-Branson, have proposed similar bills that would grant a fetus the same rights and privileges of any Missouri resident, beginning at conception.

More indirect efforts to establish “personhood” have included a bill from Rep. Raychel Proudie, R-Ferguson, that allows child support to be requested beginning at six weeks from conception. Reps. Michael Burton, D-Lakeshire, and Dean Van Shoiack, R-Savannah, have proposed identical bills that would prevent “unborn children” from being considered employees for civil action purposes.

The bill from Van Shoiack is the only one that has seen any traction this session, the rest have been stuck in committees or waiting to be referred to a committee. Van Shoiack’s bill was passed out of committee and is awaiting floor action.

Simultaneously, initiative petition acts have picked up steam this year – both to ban abortion and to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. With abortion-related initiative petition efforts growing, the Missouri legislature has also made progress in the fight to limit the ability of Missourians to change the state constitution. Progress has been slowed by Democratic filibusters and disagreements over “ballot candy.”

In this case, it refers to provisions that state that anyone who isn’t a Missouri resident and a U.S. citizen is barred from voting on constitutional amendments and that constitutional amendments funded or sponsored by governments of foreign countries or foreign political parties are unlawful. This is referred to as “ballot candy” because these provisions already exist in federal law.

In Colorado, Rep. Scott Bottoms, a Republican from El Paso County, sponsored HB24-1224, called “Personhood of Living Unborn Human Child,” which would make the definition of the term “person” in the Colorado state constitution include fetuses at any stage of development.

The Colorado House Committee on State, Civic, Military, & Veterans Affairs voted 8-3 to postpone the bill indefinitely on March 4, which keeps the bill from moving forward during this legislative session.

By defining a fetus as a person, pro-life activists and advocates said they hoped to eliminate abortion in the state of Colorado by labeling the procedure as the voluntary murder or assault of a “person” under the Colorado state constitution.

Similarly, access to fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization would be restricted or eliminated, as, under HB24-1224, IVF clinics could be charged with homicide or assault if the embryo were to die.

“If IVF is going to create eight human beings, and, say from the beginning, if the first one takes, we’re gonna discard the other seven and kill the other seven. That’s an issue. That’s not an issue with IVF; that’s an issue with murder,” said Will Duffy, president of the anti-abortion group Colorado Right to Life.

The next steps of the anti-abortion fight

Rapert of NACL, the organization promoting fetal person legislation, said the next step in the national effort will be working to outlaw abortion pills.

In Virginia, which is surrounded by several states where abortion is entirely illegal or severely restricted and has become a refuge for those seeking abortions in the South, an effort to protect access to contraceptives.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin amended bills to codify such access and provide coverage through health insurance.

Senate Bill 237 and House Bill 609 ensured health care providers the right to provide contraceptives and contraception-related information and allowed enforcement of the provisions through the attorney general’s office.

Youngkin’s changes make the bills a public policy “suggestion” rather than law, according to the bill’s Senate patron.

The governor “continues to support access to contraception while ensuring the protection of constitutional rights,” Youngkin’s press secretary, Christian Martinez, recently stated to Bloomberg News.

The governor’s amendment to the health insurance bill allows organizations to opt out of coverage based on religious and ethical beliefs. Lawmakers voted to reject his suggestion.

Reporters Rylie Oswald Al-Awhad of the KU Statehouse Wire Service, Serra Sowers of Fresh Take Florida, Emily Richardson of VCU Capital News Service and Nic Tamayo at the University of Colorado contributed to this report.



Freedom Caucus filibusters over multiple disputes in Senate


missouri news network

JEFFERSON CITY — Sen. Bill Eigel made another pitch to be Missouri’s 58th governor Tuesday. He wasn’t on the campaign trail, giving a speech or in a debate. He wasn’t sitting down for an interview or shaking the hands of constituents.

The Republican from Weldon Spring made his pitch on the Senate floor by launching a Freedom Caucus filibuster, previously threatened, seeking to pressure Gov. Mike Parson into signing a bill banning federal Medicaid dollars from going to Planned Parenthood.

Republicans have taken aim at the organization, which can no longer provide abortions thanks to a state ban. But it still provides health services for women.

An hour into Eigel’s filibuster, Parson released a statement that he will not move up signing the Planned Parenthood bill as it is still being reviewed by his office. The bill was sent to him five days ago.

“SB 2634 is still going through our office’s bill review process. Governor Parson will take action after that process is complete,” his office said in the statement.

“However, I will add, Governor Parson is the strongest pro-life Governor ever elected in Missouri,” the statement continued. “He’ll sign the bill on his own timeline according to our office’s standard procedures. This deliberate dysfunction in the Missouri Senate is unfortunate for the people of Missouri and senators trying to do good work for the people back home in their districts.”

The governor traditionally signs or vetoes bills during the summer after the session is over.

For Eigel and the Freedom Caucus, that timeline is not fast enough. After seeing the governor’s statement on the floor, Eigel launched an attack on Parson over a perceived lack of leadership to pass conservative ideas.

“I’m so pleased that the whole state is able to see Gov. Parson announce that he will do nothing (on Planned Parenthood payments), which is the fulfillment of what I’ve been saying the problem is from the governor’s office for years,” Eigel said.

“A lack of a willingness to engage on the big issues facing this state, a lack of willingness to engage on policy … even when it is as simple as signing his name on a piece of paper, he wouldn’t do it. I’ll tell you if I was a governor, I would have done it days ago,” Eigel said.

He then moved his ire to Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, who is running against Eigel for governor.

“And what have we heard from our lieutenant governor, who is roundly applauded by the folks in this building for having a lot of sway … why can’t he reach out to the governor and tell him to sign the paperwork?” Eigel exclaimed into a mostly empty chamber.

“You want to know why they aren’t signing it? They don’t care about the policy,” Eigel said. “That’s why folks get so upset about the Freedom Caucus. Because for the Freedom Caucus, it is about the policy.”

Republican Floor Leader Cindy O’Laughlin, R-Shelbina, doesn’t see the Freedom Caucus’ actions as policy based.

“Now, our hospitals, nursing homes and state budget are in jeopardy due to outside lobbyists and dark money working against Missourians through a small faction of our own Senate,” she said in a Facebook post during the filibuster. She encouraged Missourians to call the senators blocking action on other bills.

The filibuster began when O’Laughlin attempted to bring up a bill extending the state’s federal reimbursement allowance for Medicaid. The allowance, which expires this fall, provides $4.5 billion in federal funds to support the state’s health care system.

The Freedom Caucus is demanding that a bill making it more difficult for voters to change the state constitution be considered before the budget or federal reimbursement allowance bills are considered.

The filibuster and complicated web of bills favored by different parties and different factions among the Republicans left O’Laughlin shaking her head when approached by a reporter about what would happen next.

“I have no answers,” she said, walking off. The filibuster continued into Wednesday morning.


Planned Parenthood and ACLU donate over $1 million to abortion ballot initiative organizers


missouri news network

Planned Parenthood Great Plains and the national American Civil Liberties Union contributed a total of over $1 million to the organizers of the abortion access initiative petition organizers, according to Missouri Ethics Commission filings released Monday.

The petition’s organizer, Missourians for Constitutional Freedom, is making the final push for signatures ahead of the filing deadline Sunday.

The filings on the MEC website released Monday showed that the ACLU contributed $250,000 and Planned Parenthood Great Plains gave $825,000.

Missourians for Constitutional Freedom had received just over $258,000 from the national ACLU and almost $165,000 from the state chapter of the ACLU from the beginning of the year until the end of March, according to the quarterly disclosure report filed with the MEC.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains gave over $75,000 to the group through the end of March.

The Missourian reached out to Planned Parenthood Great Plains and the ACLU, but they were not available for comment at the time of publication. Missourians for Constitutional Freedom declined to comment on the fundraising.

An organization expected to oppose a ballot initiative to enshrine abortion access in the state constitution has also received significant contributions this month. On April 1, Missouri Right to Life PAC received two donations totaling $150,000.

A third of this total came from John Sauer, who served as solicitor general of Missouri from 2017 to 2023 and now represents former President Donald Trump in the federal criminal case concerning attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

Missouri Right to Life and other anti-abortion organizations have been leading a “Decline to Sign” campaign with the intent of dissuading enough people to prevent the initiative from making the ballot.

The deadline for submitting signatures to the secretary of state’s office is 5 p.m. Sunday.


Senate Appropriations Committee releases budget details


missouri news network

JEFFERSON CITY — The state budget process took an important step Tuesday as the Senate Appropriations Committee released details of its version.

The committee’s proposed budget is about $53 billion — about $300 million over what Gov. Mike Parson recommended and $2.2 billion more than what the House passed.

The final numbers in the proposal, approved in committee meetings last week, came in higher than expected as Senate Appropriations Chairman Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, had estimated that the number would come out somewhere between the House and governor.

The elevated spending proposal is destined for a fight on multiple fronts. In the Senate, the hard right Freedom Caucus will likely push for big cuts as they criticize the quick ascension of state spending over the last few years. Freedom Caucus member Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, plans to fight each line item he disagrees with.

Hoskins was removed from the Appropriations Committee earlier in the session after a Freedom Caucus filibuster over the Senate leadership’s legislative priorities.

“When the budget does come up, I plan on going line by line and going through each budget bill,” Hoskins said. “These are questions I would have asked as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. But after I was kicked off that committee for advocating for conservative policies and voting against the FRA (Federal Reimbursement Amount for Medicaid) bill in committee, I’ve saved these questions for out on the Senate floor.”

In the House, Budget Chairman Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, is intent on making cuts in the midst of a state revenue slowdown. State revenues are projected to flatten over the next few years because of tax cuts passed in recent years.

Whatever final version of spending emerges from the Senate is expected to be rejected by the House, with differences worked out in conference committee.

Among details in the Senate proposal are some benefits for the University of Missouri campus in Columbia. Two university agriculture projects were added by Hough:

  • $4.9 million was appropriated to renovate Eckles Hall and for the “Wine and Grape Institute Research Center and Viticulture Facility.”
  • A $10 million line was added to build a meat laboratory on MU’s campus.
  • An overall 3% increase in higher education spending compared to 2% in the House recommendation.

Hough kept in provisions to pay teachers a minimum salary of $40,000 and slight increases in state per pupil funding.

Money was added elsewhere in the budget to study U.S. 63 and make improvements to Interstate 44.

Much of the increase in spending came from differences in how much the state needs to spend to maintain ongoing healthcare programs. For example, almost $100 million was added in the Senate version for nursing home care versus what the House passed.

Hough also included language that would prevent any city that passes a sanctuary city policy that protects the identity of immigrants from getting state funding. This comes as Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced his intention on allowing immigrants to work legally in Kansas City. The city never went forward with the plan.

The legislature has until May 10 to pass the budget.


Bill restoring presidential primaries passes out of House committee


missouri news network

Legislation that would reinstate presidential primaries in Missouri passed out of the House Special Committee on Public Policy on Tuesday in a bipartisan 6-0 vote.

The bill, HB 2618, sponsored by Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho, comes after the Republican presidential caucuses in March, the first in the state since 2012. Party officials and participants complained about the lack of public participation. Democrats held a limited primary.

The presidential primaries were eliminated as part of a 2022 law changing voting procedures.

Two amendments relating to residency of candidates for Congress were added to the bill. The amendments require that candidates running in a district which has not had its boundaries changed within 24 months must have lived within the district for at least 12 months. For districts whose boundaries were changed less than 24 months before an election, the residency requirement is reduced to three months.

Two other House bills restoring the primary, HB 1525 and HB 2895, face votes in a separate House committee on Wednesday. A similar Senate bill has passed committee.



Missouri education funding lags behind


missouri news network

JEFFERSON CITY — While Missouri’s spending on public education has grown as a dollar amount, it has shrunk in proportion to total spending over the past 20 years.

About $3 billion in pandemic-era federal investments for Missouri public education inflated total spending, but was used for short-term needs like remote school, child care subsidies and various grants, rather than for long-term investments.

This federal investment masked a decline in state-generated spending on public education. About 40% of the $9 billion spent by the state on education in 2024 came from the federal government, compared to 20% in 2004. Because the federal investment inflated all areas of the state budget, it didn’t increase public education funding relative to the entire state budget.

Meanwhile, states that used to fare similarly to Missouri in education outcomes have sprung ahead. In 2013, Illinois and Missouri ranked 26th and 27th in eighth-grade reading. In 2022, Illinois moved up to 12th while Missouri fell to 33rd, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a program run through the U.S. Department of Education.

In the 2004 fiscal year budget, 25% of the total dollars went to K-12 education versus 19% in 2024.

General revenue — money received from state income, sales and corporate taxes — is also spent less on education. In 2004, 36% of general revenue was spent on education versus 26% this fiscal year.

Education is a complex subject involving more than just dollars and cents. But digging into the finances, two problems have arisen from a lack of education spending: stagnation of the state adequacy target and inequities in how much money each school district gets.

A forgotten formula

The foundation formula determines how much the state gives to each school district. It factors in attendance, the cost of living in the district, the amount the county can provide to the district and the state adequacy target.

The state adequacy target is the amount of money provided per student by the state. It’s meant to be re-evaluated every two years by the state legislature and adjusted for inflation, but it has shrunk over the past 17 years.

In 2007, the target was $9,575 after adjusting for inflation. In 2024, it was $6,375 after not being adjusted for the past four years. During those four years, inflation has risen 20% while the foundation formula was funded at about the same level.

The 2025 fiscal year budget, which is currently being considered by the Senate, would increase the target by about $400.

Funding inequities across Missouri’s school districts

Missouri school districts are mainly funded through county property tax receipts. Former State Auditor Nicole Galloway found that Missouri school districts get 32% of their funding from the state, ranking 49th in the country.

Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, feels the burden on counties creates inequities in the state’s education system.

“You see a lot of disparity in funding because the state is not sending a ton of money through the state adequacy target,” Arthur said. “School districts increasingly rely on their local tax base, and there are just some parts of the state where that doesn’t exist. So it is really also an equity issue.”

Certain counties with strong property values, like St. Charles County, can spend more than $17,000 per student, while Texas County, in a rural area of the state, can spend about $11,000 per student. Columbia Public Schools spends about $14,000 per pupil, of which $4,577 comes from the state.

The legislature has put measures in place over the past few years that would decrease attendance in public schools. In 2021, the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Program was passed. The bill allows Missourians to donate up to half of their state income taxes to low-income families and children with Individualized Education Programs for private school expenses.

A bill this session that’s awaiting Gov. Mike Parson’s signature would expand that program and open up Boone County to charter schools. While charter schools and private school vouchers can provide families with more options, they are also detrimental to public school funding.

A key aspect of the foundation formula is attendance. When schools face dwindling attendance, their funding is reduced. It’s estimated that if 10% of CPS students moved to a charter school, it would cost the district about $6 million annually. If 10% moved to a private school, it would cost about $8 million.

Overall, the state ranks 35th in the country in per-pupil spending.

Missouri revenues are projected to stagnate over the next few years, making it difficult to envision major changes to education funding. The state’s general revenue will have to start funding more of the education system as those federal dollars are quickly running out.


You may also read!

mo capitol building

MPA Capitol Report 5/17/2024

MPANewsBook: Statehouse News for MPA Members This report is written by Missouri School of Journalism students for publication by MPA


Journalists from Lake of the Ozarks, Jefferson City newspapers named 2024’s OYJs

Journalists from Lake of the Ozarks, Jefferson City newspapers named 2024's OYJs In recognition of their commitment and excellence, two


Last Week of 2024 Session

The following is a legislative update from Clarkston Nelson, LLC concerning the Missouri General Assembly’s spring legislative session. Use


Mobile Sliding Menu