The Missouri General Assembly will begin its annual legislative session on Wednesday in Jefferson City. State lawmakers will look for a return to normalcy after last year’s session, which was plagued by scandal and the resignation of former Gov. Eric Greitens.
Longstanding issues like transportation infrastructure, taxes and the creation of a prescription drug monitoring program will continue to be priorities for lawmakers during this session. Newer issues likely to draw considerable attention include sports gambling and debate over the “Clean Missouri” constitutional amendment.
Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican who assumed office last June following the Greitens scandal, will be supported by GOP supermajorities in both the state House and Senate.
Missouri’s lawmakers have a laundry list of bills to consider during the legislature’s 100th session.
Infrastructure improvements, workforce development
Parson has expressed a desire to hone in on infrastructure improvements and workforce development, but he hasn’t detailed specific proposals, the Kansas City Star reports.
The prospect of funding all the state’s infrastructure needs is bleak. Budget leaders have predicted a mere 2 percent growth this year, St. Louis Public Radio reports.
Parson has expressed continued interest in infrastructure improvements despite voters rejecting a gas tax hike on the November ballot that would have supported infrastructure funding.
A comeback for ‘right to work’?
Lawmakers could revisit the issue of a so-called right-to-work law in Missouri. Greitens signed legislation in 2017 that made Missouri the 28th right-to-work state, but 67 percent of voters rejected the law on the state’s August ballot.
Freshman state Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield, pre-filed a bill in December that would bar the collection of union dues as a condition of employment.
Missourians might also have more time to pay their taxes this year under proposed legislation from House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, the Star reports. The bill would give Missourians who file their returns on time and owe less than $200 until June 15 to pay.
Parson and lawmakers have expressed interest in establishing rules for online sales tax. This new legislation could allow Missouri to collect millions of dollars in new tax revenue from online sales to Missouri residents.
Low-income housing tax credits
Greitens led an effort to suspend the state’s $140 million low-income housing tax credit program in late 2017. Parson, by contrast, has voiced his support for the program.
More recently, though, the governor has expressed an interest in reforming to the program before it is restarted, St. Louis Public radio reports. “I’ve been pretty open with everybody: We are not going to issue those low income taxes until we have reform to that program,” he said.
Bills that would regulate sports betting in Missouri have been filed for consideration during this legislative session, following a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that paved the way for all 50 states to legalize sports betting.
Casinos and sports leagues have been outspoken in their wishes to receive a cut of this revenue.
Another item that could get attention this session is a prescription drug monitoring program. Missouri is the only state without such a program.
Outgoing Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, has helped block the passage of such a program in the past, the Star reports. His replacement, incoming Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, is sponsoring the Narcotics Control Act, which would create a system that monitors for certain controlled substances.
The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce supports legislation that creates a monitoring program for prescription drugs, according to its 2018 public policy agenda, approved in November.
The “Clean Missouri” constitutional amendment is expected to be the subject of great debate in the upcoming session. The amendment limits lobbyists’ gifts to lawmakers and changes the redistricting process after the 2020 election.
The new redistricting process would likely increase Democrats’ chances of winning elections and cut into Republicans’ supermajorities in the state House and Senate, according to an Associated Press analysis. Now, top Republican leaders want to change redistricting again.