Missouri’s House Speaker has announced that the full House will return to Jefferson City next week for floor sessions on Wednesday and Thursday. Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, says the House is focused on its constitutional duty of approving a balanced budget.
“The idea would be that we will have session through Thursday, we will perfect the budget on Wednesday, we will third-read the budget on Thursday,” Haahr says.
Speaker Haahr briefed the Capitol Press Corps on Thursday morning, after the House adjourned for the week.
The House Budget Committee plans a rare Sunday afternoon budget hearing, which will take place at 2. The House will have what is known as a “technical session” on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. It means one lawmaker will literally gavel the chamber in and out, and that allows committee hearings to take place those days.
The full 163-member House will return to Jefferson City on Wednesday, and is expected to give final approval to an approximately $30 billion state operating budget the next day. The House would then begin its regularly-scheduled spring break and return on March 30.
The state Constitution requires Missouri lawmakers to approve a balanced budget by early May.
Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, has announced that the Senate will not be in session next week, to ensure the safety of state senators and Capitol visitors from ongoing coronavirus issues. The Senate is out until March 30.
As for Speaker Haahr, he continues to urge schoolchildren and others who are not directly involved in legislative business to avoid the State Capitol in Jefferson City, due to coronavirus concerns.
Mr. Haahr notes 163 House members and thousands of guests travel to the Missouri Capitol from every corner of the state each week.
“Obviously, the more people that access this building (the Missouri Capitol), the more chances that members and staff will contact the coronavirus,” says Haahr. “Our goal is to keep us healthy so that the levels of government continue to operate.”
Missouri House leaders from both parties have joined Haahr in his call. Haahr notes it is out of an abundance of caution. House leaders have closed the House chamber’s floor to the public.
Speaker Haahr says coronavirus concerns will impact every state department, and could also impact Missouri’s August primary election and the November general election. He says he met with Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office on Thursday, to discuss any needs for the upcoming elections.
“There’s probably nothing we can do about the April (municipal and school board) elections, but obviously July and November are probably going to be impacted by this, both in voting locations and in the number of people that can staff them,” Haahr says.
He says that the government must go on and that elections must be held. His aim is to make sure Secretary Ashcroft’s office is in the best position possible to do that.
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