Missouri lawmakers are heading back to work Monday for a special session requested by Governor Mike Parson.
The special session will coincide with the annual veto session that takes place on the first Wednesday after the second Monday in September. The veto session is held for the legislature to consider action on bills the governor has rejected after the regular session ends in May.
Parson called the special session this year to address two measures he vetoed in July largely for technical reasons. In a statement last week, he said the gathering would focus on the passage of computer science course access and awareness of career opportunities through STEM education, as well as expanding treatment courts.
STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math, and STEM education generally means integrating the four disciplines into a single curriculum. In his proclamation to convene the special session, Parson said not enough students are pursuing careers in STEM and not enough teachers are equipped to educate students in those subjects.
The other bill set to be reexamined would establish treatment court divisions to handle several categories involving substance, alcohol and mental disorders. The treatment court, which is currently called a drug court, would be expanded to include DWI as well as adult, family, juvenile and veteran’s treatment.
In a statement announcing the special session in August, Governor Parson said he vetoed the legislation due to problematic language added. The bill that included the treatment court proposal had additional components dealing with far-ranging issues such as abandoned property, claims against health care providers and a salary cap for Kansas City Police Officers.
Parson said the treatment court bill appeared to violate the original purpose and single subject requirements of the Missouri Constitution. He stated that the bill as passed contained at least 13 different subjects, including many that don’t pertain to the final title of “courts”. The measure, which was sponsored by Republican State Representative Kevin Austin of Springfield, left the House as a bill dealing only with treatment courts but was heavily amended in the Senate.
Parson has singled out two components of the bill that he found objectionable. He said the abandoned property proposal authorized entry onto property without notice or permission which could lead to an unsafe situation if the property owner arrived on the scene. In addition, Parson stated that another section of the bill appeared to carve out a special pension arrangement for one judge, which he said was unconstitutional. He did not name the judge.
With the STEM bill, which would create a program to increase STEM career awareness among students in grades six through eight, Parson cited a provision he found to be objectionable. It required selection of a provider to supply an online-based STEM curriculum. When he vetoed the bill, Parson claimed it favored one specific company to be the online curriculum provider. The bill from Republican Senator Doug Libla of Poplar Bluff incorporated similar language to a measure offered by Republican Representative Travis Fitzwater of Holts Summit which did not pass the legislature. KCUR radio reported in July that Fitzwater said an out-of-state company, Learning Blade, had helped him write his legislation.
Governor Parson has indicated he wanted lawmakers to work with a “more narrowly defined focus” in the special session. He said the scheduling of the gathering would cut down on costs and save taxpayer dollars. “The timeliness of the call to have a special session concurrent with veto session will ensure that this special session is run efficiently,” said Parson.
The special session will likely also be used for the Senate to provide advice and consent on Governor Parson’s appointments to agencies, boards, and commissions. He recently replaced Department of Public Safety Director Drew Juden with Missouri State Highway Patrol Superintendent Sandra Karsten.
There’s also a possiblity lawmakers could override Governor Parson’s veto of budget items. While signing the $28.65 billion state budget June 29th, Parson issued 21 line-item vetoes, totaling roughly $12 million. Members of both parties in the House Budget Committee have centered their attention on three of those vetoes to override.
One is Governor Parson’s rejection of more $153,000 to certify hospitals for treat trauma, stroke and certain heart attack patients. The emergency service is part of the state’s Time Critical Diagnosis (TCD) System that coordinates activity between the 911 response system, ambulance services, and hospitals.
Republican and Democrats on the House Budget panel have also focused a good bit of their energy on a $100,000 cut to the Child Advocate Office. It prevents funding for two employees who would investigate child abuse and neglect cases both in the public and within state agencies.
A third override the group of lawmakers is looking at is Parson’s veto of $50,000 in funding for Emergency Rescue Tourniquets for law enforcement personnel. The tourniquets are used to stop bleeding from injuries sustained by both officers and members of the public.
It’s not known if there’s more widespread agreement across the full House and Senate to override the three line item vetoes.
Former Republican Governor Eric Gretiens called two special sessions in 2017. The first one attempted to attract two factories to open in the poverty-stricken southeast portion of the state by allowing them to negotiate for lower electric rates.
The second one tightened restrictions on abortion providers after federal courts tossed two Missouri laws in 2016 requiring abortion clinics to meet standards for surgical centers and for their doctors to have hospital privileges.
This week’s special session is scheduled for five days which will serve the requirement that every bill be read three times over three days in both the House and Senate. Bills can be passed in one chamber and read into the other chamber on the same day. The special convenes at noon today.