The race is over for the Missouri Legislature. Another regular session of the General Assembly has wrapped up.

This session was marred by yet another year of Senate Republican squabbling. The GOP friction brought work to a screeching halt many times in the upper chamber this year.

A super minority of ultra conservatives, many of whom are running for higher office, vowed to block other bills so that their own priorities were accomplished before anyone else’s. The tactic led to plenty of unfinished business for other lawmakers this session.

What key bills made it across the finish line?

Military-friendly bill
SB 912, sponsored by Sen. Ben Brown, R-Washington, would allow a full state tax deduction for military and National Guard enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses; make it easier for veterans to get a handicap placard for their vehicle; cover the cost of military specialty license plates for veterans; require the Missouri Veterans Commission to work with the Department of Mental Health to find ways to fight veteran suicide, and award National Guard members and veterans who served on active duty from 2001 to 2021.

Wide-ranging education package
Gov. Mike Parson has already signed into law Senate Bill 727, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester. The estimated price tag of the package is more than $450 million annually when fully in place.

The highlights of the plan include an expansion of access to private schooling with taxpayer money. It increases the income level to qualify for MOScholars education scholarships. The bill allows Boone County to open charter schools; increases the minimum teacher salary in state statute from $25,000 to $40,000 annually; boosts the minimum teacher salary in state statute for at least ten years of experience and a master’s degree from $33,000 to $46,000 annually; restricts four-day school weeks, with a small incentive to districts who hold classes five days a week; boosts the number of teacher recruitment and retention scholarships, and changes how state aid to schools is calculated by including enrollment and attendance into the formula used to fund education.

MOBuck$ Program funding increase
House Bill 1803 increases overall funding for the MOBUCK$ program. The low-interest loan program is for Missouri farmers, small businesses and local governments. The bill boosts the maximum amount of annual funding from $800 million to $1.2 billion. It is sponsored by Rep. Terry Thompson, R-Lexington. The governor has already signed the measure into law.

Defund Planned Parenthood
Gov. Mike Parson has signed House Bill 2634 into law. The GOP-controlled Missouri Legislature has been trying for several years to prevent state Medicaid dollars from going to Planned Parenthood. Abortions are already illegal in Missouri, except for in medical emergencies, and the state’s Medicaid program does not reimburse for those abortions. House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, is the bill sponsor.

State budget
Just in the nick of time, the Missouri Legislature passed a $51.7 billion state budget proposal. Some of the highlights of the plan include funding to give state workers a 3.2% pay increase; boost childcare access to low-income families and widen I-44 to six lanes in Joplin, Springfield and Rolla. The fiscal blueprint fully funds the formula to bankroll K-12 public education and school bus transportation expenses. Under the plan, Missouri’s public colleges and universities would get a 3% increase in core funding. In addition, it includes $58 million for a developmental disability rate increase and $100 million for low-volume roads.

Fix to senior citizen property tax relief bill
Current state law allows Missouri counties to stop property tax increases for homeowner taxpayers who are eligible for Social Security benefits. The Missouri Legislature has approved a plan, sponsored by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, to clarify that eligible homeowners must be 62 or older to qualify.

The reason for the proposed change is because questions have been raised about whether certain seniors are excluded, including Missouri teachers and firefighters, who participate in a state pension plan instead of Social Security. Senate Bill 756 awaits a decision from the governor.

Healthcare tax to pay Medicaid costs
In the final week of session, the Missouri Legislature passed a routine bill that would help to cover a significant share of the state’s Medicaid costs. The federal reimbursement allowance bill, also known as the FRA, taxes Missouri hospitals and healthcare centers to help with those expenses. The state’s health care providers pay this tax so that they can receive reimbursement for treating Medicaid patients. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 748.

340B program
The Missouri Legislature has given its blessing to a proposal that aims to increase access to discounted drugs for uninsured and low-income patients. Senate Bill 751 would put a stop to pharmaceutical companies restricting 340B drug discount contracts between Missouri hospitals, healthcare centers, and local pharmacies. Sen. Justin Brown, R-Rolla, is the bill sponsor. Rep. Tara Peters, R-Rolla, carried the bill in the House.

Crime package
Just in the nick of time, the Missouri Legislature passed a wide-ranging crime package. Senate Bill 754, sponsored by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, includes “Blair’s Law,” which would create a criminal offense for firing gunshots in the air to celebrate. Another provision, called Max’s Law, would increase the punishment for harming or killing law enforcement animals.

The plan would increase the minimum age from 12 to 14 years old for a minor to be charged as an adult for any felony. It would also create the offense of aggravated fleeing a stop or detention of a vehicle if a person flees at high speeding, knowing that a law enforcement officer is attempting to detain the person.

Ban on local governments delaying evictions
Lawmakers are sending to Gov. Mike Parson a bill that would prevent Missouri cities and counties from enforcing eviction delays unless authorized by state law. A main provision would crack down on people illegally occupying homes and other residential properties. House Bill 2062 is sponsored by Rep. Chris Brown, R-Kansas City.

His bill was inspired by a federal eviction freeze imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal move resulted in financial hardships for property owners. But after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the federal move, St. Louis and St. Louis County implemented local eviction moratoriums.

What key bills died this session?

Toughening citizen-led ballot initiatives
The Missouri House and Senate were not on the same page about a plan that would have made it tougher to change the state constitution. Senate Joint Resolution 74, sponsored by Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, would have required a simple majority plus a majority of votes cast from most of Missouri’s U.S. House districts.

The House voted Thursday against making a deal with the Senate on the top Republican priority. After about a bitter 50-hour Senate Democratic battle on the proposal this week, the upper chamber chose not to vote on the House version, and instead chose to adjourn for the session.

The chambers clashed over so-called ballot candy. That is, provisions which are meant to be attractive to Republican voters, such as banning non-citizens from voting.

Childcare tax credit package
A childcare tax credit package would provide incentives to childcare providers, donors to daycare centers, and businesses who help to cover the childcare costs of their employees. The tax credits would be given on a first come, first serve basis and the amounts could vary. The price tag of the plan could be as much as $70 million and could increase by 15% if the tax credits are going to childcare deserts. The bill would expire in six years and lawmakers could then analyze whether the state has reaped the benefits the package is intended to do.

Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, sponsored Senate Bill 752 and Rep. Brenda Shields, R-St. Joseph, sponsored House Bill 1488. The plan needed one final Senate vote. The upper chamber ended session Friday within a few minutes – killing this bill and others awaiting a final vote.

Restrictions on foreign ownership of farmland
Current Missouri law allows up to 1% of farmland in the state to be owned by a foreign party. Several Missouri Republican lawmakers made it a priority this legislative session to pass restrictions on foreign ownership of farmland. But like many bills, the proposal bit the dust in the Senate, where the upper chamber has been consumed by Republican squabbling this year.

Gov. Mike Parson signed an executive order earlier this year, banning American adversaries from owning Missouri farmland within a 10-mile radius of military sites. His order targets countries like China, North Korea, Cuba, and Russia. It does not affect existing landowners. Parson said he is taking a proactive stance against any potential threats in case state lawmakers don’t pass legislation this session.

Open enrollment bill
Sponsored by Rep. Brad Pollitt, R-Sedalia, House Bill 1989 would have allowed K-12 public schools to decide if they want to let students from neighboring districts enroll in their district. The receiving district would get the final say in the enrollment request. This was Pollitt’s fourth year of sponsoring the bill. He told Missourinet that he will make some tweaks in hopes of getting the proposal across the finish line next year.

Property tax relief
A plan that aims to reign in on big residential property valuation increases is dead. Rep. Jeff Coleman, R-Grain Valley, sponsored House Joint Resolution 78. His proposed vote of the people would not allow new property assessments or reassessments to exceed a change in the Consumer Price Index or 2%, whichever is less. The proposal is a result of his work on a legislative committee that traveled around the state to hear from the public about taxes. He has sponsored the measure for about five years, but it has come up short each year.

Hearing devices for Medicaid patients
Close, but no cigar for a bill that would have provided hearing aids and cochlear implants for all eligible Medicaid patients. Current Missouri law allows Medicaid payments to cover the cost of hearing aids for eligible low-income children, pregnant women, and visually-impaired people.

Rep. Cameron Parker, R-Campbell, sponsored House Bills 2626 and 1918 this session. The plan needed one final Senate vote. This was another bill that died on the final day when the Senate adjourned within a few minutes.

Raising the legal age to marry
A bill that was close to passing this legislative session would have raised the legal age to marry in Missouri. Sens. Holly Thompson Rehder, R-Scott City, and Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, co-sponsored Senate Bills 767 & 1342, that would have banned marriages for anyone under 18 without exceptions. Due to House rules, the chamber was not able to vote on this bill on the final day. The legislation would not have affected any marriages that have already taken place.

Anti-hazing bill
House Bill 1443 would have shielded anyone from being found guilty of hazing if they take certain steps to save a victim of hazing. Rep. Travis Smith, R-Dora, sponsored the bill in response to Danny Santulli, a former University of Missouri fraternity pledge who can no longer walk, talk, or see because of a hazing incident.

Under Smith’s bill, a person who is first to call 911 or campus security to ask for medical help, could not be found guilty of hazing. If they provide first aid to a hazing victim, they would be immune from prosecution for hazing. They must remain at the scene until help arrives from emergency services, law enforcement, or security.

Will the governor call a special session to tie up any loose legislative ends? Time will tell. In the meantime, Parson will decide which bills passed will stay and which bills will go.

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