Alex Derosier wrote this story
In a chaotic final afternoon of the regular legislative session, the Missouri General Assembly sent two controversial measures to Gov. Eric Greitens, with the House approving each with only 30 minutes remaining to do so.
One would block the St. Louis minimum wage from exceeding the state’s rate and the other would authorize the state to conduct a one-time sweep for unspent revenues of up to $35.4 million dollars that would be deposited in a “Senior Services Protection Fund.” This would serve as a temporary source of funding to make up for cuts to senior healthcare that could potentially leave 8,000 people in Missouri without services. There is no guarantee the fund would receive $35.4 million.
In spite of protests and delay tactics from Democrats in both chambers, the House passed the minimum wage measure 109-43. It would ban local governments in Missouri from raising their minimum wage above the state’s rate.
Shortly before the House vote, it was unclear whether the measure would make it out of the Senate in time. Hours of procedural obstruction derailed the chamber, causing the body to adjourn 45 minutes before the regular session ended at 6 p.m. Before debate collapsed, the Senate managed to approve the wage hike ban, which was promptly sent to the House.
House Democrats opposed to the bill attempted to run down the clock to prevent a vote by prolonging discussion on the floor. House Republicans moved swiftly to shut down debate, causing outrage.
“We have had a lot of bills come here that are shameful and offensive, but this one takes the cake,” said Rep. Peter Merideth (D-St. Louis County), while later debating the use of an emergency clause that would immediately enact the wage hike ban.
Merideth decried Republicans’ attempt to use such an extraordinary measure, calling into doubt their claims that the St. Louis minimum wage hike presented an immediate threat to the health and welfare of Missourians.
While the ban passed with a vast majority of votes in the House, the move to immediately implement the ban was stopped by just one vote.
The measure authorizing a one time funding sweep for a “Senior Services Protection Fund” received a narrower margin of approval from the House. The bill was the product of a long battle between the House and the Senate over how to continue funding senior healthcare services.
Rep. Crystal Quade (D-Springfield) called the back-and-forth between the chambers “disgusting,” expressing extreme disappointment that they hadn’t been able to arrive at agreement on a different way to fund services.
Rep. Deb Lavender, a staunch opponent of the legislation from early on, also voted in favor. She appeared to wipe tears from her face as the House passed the bill. She and other Democrats approve the measure as a last minute way to provide funding for services.
Budget Chair Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob), who carried the bill in the House, expressed disappointment with the way senior services would receive continued funding, but still moved that it pass. Democrats Rep. Peter Merideth and Rep. Bruce Franks (D-St. Louis) would later laud Fitzpatrick for moving forward with measure through despite his reservations.
Earlier that afternoon, Lavender voiced loud disapproval of another bill that would have also established a senior services protection fund. It was approved and sent to the Senate, but with proceedings in that chamber even more chaotic than those in the House, there was no opportunity to discuss it there.
At a press conference shortly following the end of the regular session, Gov. Eric Grietens said a special summer legislative session is on the table, though did not say when that would be.
Voicing his disappointment that certain bills didn’t pass, he said lawmakers may have to go to “summer school.”