Expect some long days and nights at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City this week, with just five days left in the 2021 legislative session. There are still a number of major bills that are pending, including legislation on transportation, prescription drug monitoring, Wayfair legislation and eminent domain.
The session ends Friday evening at 6, under the state Constitution.
The gas tax legislation is the top priority for powerful Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan). Schatz’s Senate Bill 262 would increase Missouri’s gas tax by 12.5 cents per gallon, by 2025. The increase would be phased in by 2.5 cents each year.
Schatz, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, the trucking industry and other supporters note Missouri’s 17-cent gas tax has remained the same since 1996. They also note that the state Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has had to dip into reserves for federal matching funds. The bill has bipartisan support. Opposition has primarily come from Republicans who oppose new taxes.
Schatz’s bill has received final approval in the Missouri Senate, and has been referred to the House Fiscal Review Committee. He’s hopeful that it will get to the Missouri House floor before Friday’s deadline.
Another key bill we’re watching this week is prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) legislation from State Sen. Holly Rehder (R-Scott City). She’s filed PDMP for the ninth straight year: eight in the House and this year in the Senate. The bill has passed several times over the years, but it’s never been the same version in both chambers.
A PDMP is an electronic database that collects data on controlled substance prescriptions within a state. Missouri is the only state in the nation without a PDMP.
Rehder’s Senate Bill 63 would establish the “Joint Oversight Task Force of Prescription Drug Monitoring” within the state Office of Administration. Members would be selected from the Board of Registration for the Healing Arts, the Board of Pharmacy, the Board of Nursing and the Missouri Dental Board.
Rehder’s bill received final approval from the Missouri Senate in early April. It’s waiting for debate in the Missouri House. She and other supporters say 49 states currently have a PDMP, and that informed doctors make better decisions. Opponents, such as State Sen. Mike Moon (R-Ash Grove) worry about potential data breaches.
Another key bill that’s a priority for GOP Governor Mike Parson involves Wayfair. State Sen. Andrew Koenig (R-Manchester) has filed Senate Bill 153. It received final Senate approval in March, and is waiting for debate in the Missouri House. State Rep. J. Eggleston (R-Maysville) is the House sponsor.
“I hope the House and Senate will consider legislation to address the unfair advantage online retailers have over small businesses in Missouri,” Parson told lawmakers in January. “I am a strong supporter of lower taxes- in fact, I have signed several tax cuts into law. However, our small businesses, especially in smaller communities, are getting crushed right now because they cannot compete with huge online retailers.”
Another key bill that could hit the Senate floor this week involves eminent domain and the Grain Belt project in rural northern Missouri.
State Sen. Jason Bean (R-Holcomb) has filed Senate Bill 508, which has been heard by the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and Environment Committee. Under the bill, the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) could not issue a certificate of convenience and necessity for a merchant line, until county commissioners in each county through which the line will be built pass a resolution supporting the project.
Senator Bean’s bill is aimed at Grain Belt, also known as Invenergy. The PSC has approved their request to build, own and manage a high-voltage transmission line across eight northern Missouri counties. Those counties are Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe and Ralls.
The PSC has determined there is a need for the service, and that the service promotes the public interest.
However, the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest general farm organization, has urged lawmakers to approve Bean’s legislation, saying it’s about protecting private property. Missouri Farm Bureau says using eminent domain for this project sets a dangerous precedent and “makes it easier for our state to become the transmission superhighway for the Green New Deal.”
Invenergy says this would be Missouri’s largest energy infrastructure project, and that it would support 1,500 construction jobs over three years. They also say it would deliver millions of dollars in annual energy savings for 39 Missouri towns, and would improve electric reliability to help avoid future emergency outages.
The Missouri House approved a bill related to Bean’s earlier this session.
One issue that we likely won’t hear much discussion on during the final week is gaming. State Sen. Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg), who chairs the Senate Economic Development Committee, told Missourinet last week that he doesn’t see a path forward for any gaming bill this session.
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