Big issues face Missouri legislators in final three weeks

With the job of crafting a state budget complete, Missouri lawmakers are entering the final three weeks of the annual session with more than a dozen major issues still in legislative limbo.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said the Senate remains on track to act on the same trio of issues he highlighted as priorities when the session began in January, including good government legislation, a voter identification law and changes to civil justice laws.

Looming above those topics, however, is a proposed voter referendum, Senate Joint Resolution 39, that would shield some businesses that deny services for same-sex weddings. The opposition has been intense, with major businesses calling on the Legislature to drop the effort or drastically alter it. A scheduled vote in a committee stalled last week.

Meanwhile, a proposal to ask voters to raise the state’s gas tax by 5.9 cents per gallon also faces a steep climb in the House.

A plan to ban lawmakers from accepting freebies from lobbyists has run into turbulence in the Senate, where Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, is pushing for a $40 cap on gifts instead of the outright ban approved earlier in the House.

Lawmakers also are trying to start a prescription drug monitoring program, which supporters say is an essential tool in combating opioid addiction. The program could help doctors and pharmacists determine if addicts are visiting multiple doctors to get prescriptions.

St. Louis Zoo officials are trying to win approval of a plan to allow surrounding counties to add a sales tax to help fund the operation. Additional reforms of the municipal court system are still being debated. And, Ameren and other utilities attempting to convince lawmakers to change how electric rates are set.

The laundry list of hot-button topics is expected to keep legislators busy until they leave town on May 13.

Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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