The Missouri General Assembly’s regular session ends in five days, and several significant pieces of legislation are still being considered. Here’s a look at some that stand out:
Fuel tax increase to pay for transportation
Senator Doug Libla’s proposal that passed the Senate would increase Missouri’s 17-cent fuel tax by 5.9 cents, with the proceeds going to pay for the state’s roads and bridges. The measure was changed in a House committee to gradually increase the tax on natural gas used in vehicles and to include any new types of fuel used in vehicles in the future.
If the full House were to pass the proposal with those changes, it would have to go back to the Senate. With five days remaining in the session, that’s a long road to travel to passage, and leadership in the House Majority Republican caucus does not favor a tax hike to support transportation.
If the measure does pass, it will go to voters, likely in November.
Several measures dealing with abortion have been considered this session. Chief among them is legislation that would tighten laws regarding the handling and tracking of fetal remains after an abortion; and the licensing and inspection of ambulatory surgical centers (which includes facilities that provide abortions). One such bill is ready for a vote in the Senate that could send it to the House; a version passed by the House has passed out of a Senate committee.
Those provisions stem from the release of videos last summer alleging Planned Parenthood had illegally sold fetal tissue. Democrats argue those videos have been discredited and their makers, indicted in Texas. Republicans claim the videos are valid and say the indictment was not for a crime that would indicate otherwise.
Another proposal that cleared the House last week would ask voters whether the state Constitution should protect the lives of unborn children at all stages of development. Democrats say the “personhood” amendment, as it’s called, would stop abortions in Missouri as well as most forms of birth control. Republicans say the amendment could not block the federal protection of abortion rights or the use of birth control, but would build into Missouri’s Constitution the strongest language supporting the right to life of any state in the nation.
With it only having reached the state Senate last week and not having had a committee hearing it, it would require a deliberate effort to get it to a vote in the Senate in the final five days. Some express concern it would result in a filibuster by Democrats that could lock up that chamber in the final days.
Called the former by supporters and the latter by opponents, the legislature passed and Governor Jay Nixon (D) vetoed the bill that would require annual permission from a public employee before union dues or fees could be deducted from his or her pay.
Democrats call the legislation unnecessary and an attack on unions. Republicans say union dues often to go to support candidates that union members don’t actually support, so its passage would help preserve their freedom of speech in terms of who their dollars back.
The state House has voted to overturn the governor’s veto. The Senate hasn’t taken up the override for consideration.
Voter photo ID
The passage of a pair of proposals would mean Missourians would have to show a photo ID to vote or sign an affidavit swearing they don’t possess one, triggering a process by which the state would have to pay to provide one and pay for any supporting documents – birth certificates, for example – for that person.
Legislation creating the process by which the voter photo ID requirement would work has been sent to Governor Nixon with a potentially veto-proof vote, but it would be null if the accompanying proposed change to Missouri’s Constitution isn’t adopted by voters. That change is necessary to allow such a requirement in Missouri.
The resolution that would put the question to voters is awaiting a vote by the full Senate which would send it back to the House. Passage by both chambers will send it directly to voters, possibly in November.
A ban or limits on gifts from lobbyists to elected officials and legislators
Lawmakers in both parties and in both chambers, plus the Governor, all said ethics was a priority at the beginning of the 2016 regular session. This followed a year in which two legislators resigned amid situations involving an inappropriate relationship with, and harassment of, interns.
The legislature has sent to Governor Nixon – and he has signed – several proposals – limits to what an elected official can do with his or her campaign fund upon leaving office; a requirement that electeds wait at least six months after the end of their terms before becoming a lobbyist; and a ban on electeds hiring one another as paid political consultants.
The House also proposed in January an outright ban on gifts from lobbyists to elected officials or legislators. The Senate has debated the measure but it’s been awaiting action since April 20, when changes were being proposed to it.
If the Senate passes it with any changes, the two chambers will have to try to strike a version they can agree on to send to Governor Nixon.
Juvenile life without parole
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June, 2012, that juveniles cannot be sentenced to death, and life without parole cannot be the only possible sentence for them, as is presently the case in Missouri. That means cases of juveniles guilty of first-degree murder in Missouri are without enforceable sentencing options until the legislature puts some into law.
The Senate has passed a bill that would allow those guilty of first-degree murder at the ages of 16 or 17 to be sentenced to at least 50 years in prison or life without parole. Those younger than 16 at the time of the crime could be sentenced to at least 35 years in prison or life without parole. It would also allow parole hearings for those sentenced as juveniles to life without parole prior to June 25, 2012, after serving 50 years if 16 or 17 at the time of the offense and after 35 years if younger than 16 at the time of the offense.
That proposal is still going through the House Committee process where one amendment has been added to it. If the House passes it with that amendment, it would have to go back to the Senate.
Legislation that would allow firearms on public transportation, the concealed carrying of guns by full-time employees on college campuses and by legal gun owners anywhere they can openly carry, and expanding the state’s “castle doctrine” and “stand your ground” laws are all moving in the legislature in the final days as well.