Charter school expansion and sports wagering legislation are two of the key issues that Missouri House members are expected to tackle during the 2019 session’s second half in Jefferson City.

Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr (at podium) briefs Capitol reporters on March 14, 2019 in Jefferson City, as House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith and other House Republicans observe (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

Lawmakers have been on spring break since March 14, and will return to Jefferson City on Monday.

The budget is another issue that is expected to dominate attention in the House. The state Constitution requires Missouri lawmakers to approve a balanced budget by early May.

Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, told the Capitol Press Corps before the spring break that the sponsor of charter school expansion legislation has been working on potential compromises and is trying to build a broader coalition.

Speaker Haahr indicates the charter school bill could come up in the second half.

“One of the best parts of having a really large (House GOP) caucus is having a large diversity of views. Everybody in this caucus wants to figure out how we can advance the ball on education. That has been an ongoing discussion within our caucus and we will continue to have those ongoing discussions,” Haahr says.

Republicans currently control the House 114-47, and there are two vacancies.

State Rep. Rebecca Roeber, R-Lee’s Summit, who chairs the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, is sponsoring legislation that would allow charter schools to expand to any city with a population greater than 30,000.

Charter schools currently only operate in St. Louis and Kansas City.

Chairwoman Roeber’s bill allows any school district to establish a charter school with community support, as long as the district’s school board approves and agrees to act as the sponsor.

Bill supporters, including the Missouri Charter Public School Association and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, say school choices benefit all in society and allow for children to attend schools that meet their needs.

Opponents include the Missouri School Boards Association, the Missouri State Teachers Association and Kearney School District Superintendent Dr. Bill Nicely.

Opponents say removing students from public education impacts the overall district, and that the fiscal impact of charter school expansion could hurt public schools.

Haahr told Capitol reporters on March 14 that Chairwoman Roeber was not prepared to go to the House floor earlier this month and that House leaders honored her wishes.

Meantime, Speaker Haahr says he’s deferring to House committee chairs on the issue of sports wagering.

Multiple bills on the issue have been heard, and Haahr was asked about them by Capitol reporters before the spring break.

“One of the things about me is I put those bills in the committee, I let the committee chairs handle those bills as they see fit,” says Haahr. “At the point that the committee chairs pass a bill and send them back to me, then we’ll see about putting them on the (House) floor.”

State Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, the House Budget Committee chairman, has filed legislation which authorizes the Missouri Gaming Commission to implement regulations governing sports wagering.

Under Smith’s bill, a wagering tax of 6.25 percent would be imposed on gross receipts received from sports wagering, which would be placed into the “Gaming Proceeds for Education Fund.”

State Rep. Robert Ross, R-Yukon, has also filed sports wagering legislation.

Speaker Haahr says the House has given final approval to 70 bills at the halfway point, adding that they’ve passed four separate workforce development proposals.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, and House Democrats are scheduled to outline their priorities for the session’s second half during a Statehouse news conference Monday morning at 11:30.

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