With two weeks left in the Missouri legislative session, lawmakers have approved 36 bills of which the governor has signed two.
One of those two provides funding to keep certain state departments operating while the other requires specific establishments to post signs containing the national human trafficking hotline.
There’s been talk on the Senate floor of holding legislation up, thinking Governor Eric Greitens could threaten to withhold his signature to punish the sponsor of a bill who might side against him in possible impeachment proceedings he faces.
Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, has said he’ll able to delay signing-off on legislation if he thinks Greitens would try to leverage his signature.
But with a special session now scheduled to address the impeachment issue, lawmakers will have fewer distractions in passing bills as the end of the regular session approaches.
There are numerous measures favored by the Republican-dominated House and Senate chambers that have yet to cross the finish line. Although many will likely be filibustered by Democrats in the Senate, Missouri offers the majority party a technical maneuver to end floor debate and force an immediate vote.
When and if the Republican majority chooses to use the option could determine when and if contentious bills clear the legislature.
Last year, GOP Governor Greitens was praised by pro-life advocates when he called a special session to address abortion. Anti-abortion interest groups sharply criticized Republican lawmakers for failing to act after federal courts struck down Missouri laws that had led to the closure of all but one abortion clinic in the state.
This year, the House passed a measure known as the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” which would block abortions after 20 weeks. It’s passed out of committee in the Senate but will have to be prioritized to break through a logjam of other legislation on the Senate floor.
Another bill with Strong Republican support that deals with welfare and food stamp benefits was taken off the table in the Senate just as it was coming up for final passage last Thursday.
The measure, which among other things, would block welfare and food stamp recipients from cashing out their benefits at ATMs, would have likely been met with vocal opposition from Democrats. But it could well be brought up again and passed on to the governor if the technical maneuver is used.
A major focus of Republicans after a GOP Governor in Greitens was elected in 2016 has been making liability lawsuits more favorable to businesses that are being sued.
Last year, lawmakers passed six such business-friendly measures. The legislation is commonly referred to as tort reform by its advocates. Perhaps the most controversial of those measures was one that raised requirements for proving workplace discrimination which drew sharp criticism from civil rights activists.
So far this year, three bills dealing with liability lawsuits are headed to the governor’s desk.
One that’s being closely monitored in the final days of the session is a bill that places stricter restrictions on injured parties attempting to join together to bring lawsuits.
The U.S. and Missouri Supreme Courts have recently issued decisions requiring plaintiffs to have a connection to the state in which the collective lawsuit is filed. The bill in the state legislature would localize this requirement further to the county level.
It’s passed the House but was withdrawn from the Senate floor earlier in the session after strong objections from Democrats. Republicans could still bring the bill back and use the technical maneuver to ensure its passage. If the Senate passes the bill with changes, it would have to go back to the House for approval.
Also, of interest to GOP members in the state legislature are far-reaching tax bills introduced after Republicans in Congress passed a sweeping tax overhaul in late 2017.
A tax bill that’s emerged from the state House seems to have the most traction of any of them to pass the legislature. It’s currently in committee in the Senate and will likely receive vocal opposition from Democrats if it reaches the chamber’s floor.
There are also proposals with support from both sides of the aisle that face increasingly long odds as the current session draws to a close. Among then bills dealing with seat belt usage, a gas tax, and first responders are waiting in the wings for further attention from lawmakers.