Last week, Republican infighting about different issues virtually shut down Senate business. The Missouri legislature has three weeks left in its regular session.
Since the General Assembly convened on January 4, legislators have sent Governor Eric Greitens (R) five bills. Those measures include barring mandatory union fees in the workplace, changes to the procedure for determining expert witness testimony in jury court cases, creating regulations for ridesharing companies to expand statewide and increasing penalties against those for the off-label use of herbicides on crops.
If the upper chamber can’t revive, several critical bills could die this session. Some of them could have life or death consequences.
FY2018 budget: The one state constitutional requirement the Missouri legislature has is to pass a balanced state budget by May 5. The proposed $27 billion state budget that begins in July has passed in the House. The Senate Appropriations Committee has been working on it. Depending on if the upper chamber’s gridlock continues, the full Senate could try and work on the budget this week. That does not leave much time for the House and Senate to work out their budget differences.
House budget committee chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) told Missourinet that a special session to deal with the budget is a possibility. A special session comes at an expense to taxpayers.
Real ID: State Sen. Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City) and state Rep. Kevin Corlew (R-Kansas City) are sponsoring legislation that would give Missourians the choice of whether they want an ID that is compliant with the federal REAL ID law. The law, which was passed in 2005, requires stricter identification standards for homeland security and immigration purposes. Silvey says the law is causing problems for Missourians who don’t have the ID and are trying to gain access to military bases and federal facilities.
Federal law says if Missouri doesn’t comply by 2018, residents will not be allowed to board planes. Critics of the law, including mostly Republicans, say it invades people’s privacy.
Gun loophole: State Reps. Tracy McCreery (D-St. Louis) and Donna Lichtenegger (R-Cape Girardeau) want to keep guns out of the hands of those found guilty of domestic violence. They are sponsoring bills that would close a loophole in state law created by the legislature’s 2015 passage of comprehensive gun legislation, Senate bill 656. Last year, the General Assembly passed the sweeping changes to Missouri’s gun laws with an agreement that lawmakers would return this year and close that gap in the law.
Boat dock safety changes: A measure sponsored by Sen. Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis) would enact policies meant to prevent electrical shock drownings at Missouri lakes. The bill, once sponsored by former Republican state Rep. Caleb Jones of Columbia, was filed in response to the 2012 drownings of Brayden and Alexandra Anderson of Ashland on the Lake of the Ozarks. Since 2012, four people have died at the lake from electric shock drowning.
The proposal would make new docks and those changing ownership have safety inspections and meet new standards like requiring a switch to cut off power to the docks. The bill would also mandate that Highway Patrol boats have defibrillators.
Blue Alert System: The proposed creation of a “Blue Alert System” would send out text and broadcast alerts in a locality if a police officer is attacked. Another bill would increase criminal penalties for assaulting a police officer, as well as damaging or trespassing on police property. State Reps. Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin) and Justin Hill (R-Lake St. Louis) and Senators Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan) and Doug Libla (R-Poplar Bluff) are sponsoring such legislation.
Radioactive waste: Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-University) and state Rep. Mark Matthiesen (R-Maryland Heights) are sponsoring legislation that would use $12.5 million in state funding to buyout 91 homes near the St. Louis area’s West Lake Landfill.
About 100,000 tons of WW II era nuclear weapons waste are stored in the landfill. An underground fire has been burning at the nearby Bridgeton landfill since at least 2010. That fire could soon meet the radioactive material lingering at West Lake Landfill.
Residents of Bridgeton and nearby Coldwater Creek have complained for a few years about the fire’s fumes and the exposure to health risks those fumes and the radioactive waste pose.
The measure, which has passed in the Senate, will be considered this week by a House committee.
Prescription drug monitoring program: Sikeston state Rep. Holly Rehder has championed legislation for several years that aims to reduce opioid prescription drug abuse and illegal distribution. The House and Senate have both passed the measure with changes. Members in both chambers are trying to work out their differences on the bill.
Missouri is the only state in the nation without a prescription drug monitoring program.
The leading forces in last week’s party drama appeared to be Sen. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph), Greitens and GOP legislative leaders.
Schaaf ate up a significant amount of floor time last week vocalizing his opposition to expanding managed care in Missouri and also about so-called dark money. Schaaf, who has sponsored past legislation to reign in on lavish campaign contributions, has taken aim this session at Greitens’ refusal to share information about some campaign contributions.
On Wednesday, Schaaf made an unprecedented move by having each House bill that is largely supported be removed from a position that’s meant to streamline the legislative process.
A nonprofit organization created by Greitens’ campaign staff released digital ads on Friday attacking Schaaf. At least one of the ads included Schaaf’s cell phone number. Schaaf tells Missourinet he has received thousands of phone calls, including robocalls, since the ads were unveiled.
A tweet by Greitens staffer Austin Chambers said Schaaf should stop blocking the conservative agenda.