Get ready for what could be long hours and plenty of drama during this last week of the Missouri Legislature’s regular session. The GOP supermajority chambers are hoping to wrap up final passage of several priorities that not all members agree with, including some of the same party. Two small but mighty groups – the Senate Conservative Caucus and Senate Democrats – will likely determine how bumpy the road to the finish line will be and how much wheeling and dealing will go on this week when several controversial bills potentially resurface.
The next five days are also key for Gov. Mike Parson, R, who is experiencing his first legislative session as the state’s chief executive officer. He has repeatedly pushed for lawmakers to focus on workforce development issues and infrastructure funding.
The Missouri Senate is expected to consider this week a $50 million incentives package for a potential $1 billion expansion General Motors expansion at the plant in eastern Missouri’s Wentzville. The plan was formed about one week ago by Parson and other House and Senate allies. The Senate Conservative Caucus is expected to have plenty to say about Senate Bill 68, sponsored by Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield.
The package would give $5 million per year in tax credits over 10 years to carmakers that invest at least $750 million in plant upgrades and would provide tax credits earlier in a business expansion. It would also provide financial aid for people seeking high demand fields and workforce training improvements for major expansions.
The House passed the measure during the late night hours last Thursday before adjourning for the week. It wasn’t a slam dunk in that chamber. Representatives voted 92-51 in favor of the plan, with a few Republicans from the St. Louis region voting against the measure. The House had to call in absent members to get enough votes and 17 members did not even cast vote.
Other legislation that could reemerge is one that would block a possible high-voltage power line project from using eminent domain to take private land in eight northern Missouri counties. Those counties are Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe and Ralls.
Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Frankford, is sponsoring House Bill 1062 in response to Clean Line Energy’s Grain Belt Express line project. The proposal is not one that is separated along party lines because of the impacts it could have on agriculture – Missouri’s number one industry.
According to the Missouri Public Utility Alliance, 39 Missouri cities that have signed up to take power from the line at a $12.8 million annual savings.
The State Public Service Commission rejected the project twice before a state Supreme Court ruling last year allowed commissioners to reconsider the plan again. In March, the Commission unanimously approved the project.
Hansen, like many lawmakers in this final week, are searching for other progressing bills to attach their measures to.
Another controversial measure that could come up for Senate debate is one that would ask voters to overturn a voter-approved ballot issue to change the legislative redistricting process. The resolution intends to toss out the portion letting the state auditor evaluate a nonpartisan demographer and requiring the demographer to draw legislative districts.
House Joint Resolution 48 is sponsored by Rep. Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres. It would also ban all lobbyist gifts to lawmakers, instead of the current $5 maximum limit.
The Missouri Senate’s top two Republican leaders have pledged to pass this session the proposal known as “Clean Missouri”. Senate Leader Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, and Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, strongly support getting the plan on the November 2020 ballot.
Comprehensive anti-abortion bills could also come up for debate in the upper chamber. House Bill 126 would, among other things, make abortions illegal if a fetal heartbeat is found, which could come as early as eight weeks. Among other things, Senate Bill 279 would criminalize doctors who perform abortions unless for medical emergencies, prohibit doctors from providing an abortion if the baby could have Down Syndrome or if the procedure is sought solely because of the sex or race of the child.
According to the Missouri Constitution, the Legislature must adjourn the session by 6 p.m. on Friday.
To see a list of the bills that have so far been passed by the General Assembly, click here.