Another week of session has come and gone, leaving 6 legislative weeks remaining until the end of session. The House gave first round approval of the operating budget bills this week. The Senate had a productive week, perfecting and third reading more than a dozen bills.
House Approves Operating Budget
The House this week gave first round approval of the FY 2024 state operating budget, which consists of 13 bills for the various departments. There were increases in many areas including childcare subsidy, pre-K, renewing and re-establishing the Children’s Division in Social Services, and higher education funding.
Debate on the bills began on a relatively positive note but quickly turned heated when Representative Richey (R-Excelsior Springs) offered an amendment that would disallow state funds for programs with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), starting with HB 2. Rep. Richey offered the same amendment (which was adopted) on every bill. This language created quite a negative reaction from House Democrats, who mostly felt it was insensitive and disregarding of marginalized groups of people. Click here to see the DEI Amendment Rep. Richey amended onto HB3. At this time it is unclear exactly how wide-sweeping the language could be but it seems to be immediately on the radar of the Senate.
HB 3 passed the House 105 Yes to 50 No votes on Thursday. House approved a 7 percent increase to all institutions of higher education’s core budget. In the HB 3, universities will see a 5 percent increase to their core budget at the beginning of FY24 and 2 percent will be set aside for performance funding model for higher education that the Universities can get when a model is passed.
The House spent over 6 hours perfecting the budget bills on Tuesday evening and gave first round approval of the operating budget on Thursday. During the debate on third reading, most of the discussion circled back to reference to the DEI language placed into the bills during perfection.
The Response to Proposed DEI Provisions
During the Thursday debate on the budget bills, it became clear that many members of the House Republican Caucus were not aware of the plan to offer language on DEI and its impact on various state programs and institutions. As a result, the tensions were pretty high in the chamber and the weekend was a welcome sight for many.
Anti-Red Flag Bill Dies in Committee
On Wednesday morning, there was an executive session scheduled for Senator Eigel’s “Anti-Red Flag Gun Seizure Act” bill. This bill would prohibit extreme risk protection orders and prohibit any red flag gun laws from being enforced in the state of Missouri.
During the executive session, there were only 6 members present, as several Republican senators had other hearings to attend. When the roll call vote was complete, the outcome was a 3-3 tie, effectively killing the bill. (Senator Lincoln Hough joined two Democrats on the committee who voted no on the bill). The committee recessed to allow the committee to come back later, however, when they reconvened, no new members came and no one who had previously voted no was willing to change their vote.
What is next for the Budget?
The Senate Appropriations Committee is likely to begin their mark-up process on Wednesday, April 5 (they must read in the message from the House and then refer the bills to committee on Tuesday). There are only 5 weeks remaining for the legislature to complete the budget and at least one of those weeks will be needed for conference committee to work out the differences between the two bodies. The budget bills must be truly agreed and finally passed by 6:00 PM on Friday, May 5.
Other highlights during the week
GOP-controlled Missouri House delays vote on Gov. Parson’s $859M plan to expand I-70
The Kansas City Star – March 30, 2023
Missouri lawmakers are temporarily punting on whether to fund Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s proposal for an $859 million expansion of I-70 near Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis.
The Missouri House approved a state transportation budget on Thursday that doesn’t include the funding, which Parson proposed in January during his State of the State address. The top GOP budget representative has instead promised that the House will debate the proposed expansion in a separate bill next week.
Holleman: Parson Visits St. Louis, Avoids Press Push for Info About Gardner, Police Control
St. Louis Public Radio - March 28, 2023
In St. Louis for photo-op stops on Tuesday, Gov. Mike Parson avoided the best-laid plans of mass media, deftly declining to shed new light on two local issues that now are occupying state officials.
“Some things need to change up here,” Parson said when asked specifically about the state’s effort to oust Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner from office, as well as the legislative move to regain control of the city police department.
As to the Gardner situation, Parson described Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who leads the ouster effort, as “an extremely efficient guy,” but said there is little inside information to share.
“Everything is pretty much a public record,” Parson said, referring to two filings Bailey has made in the quo warranto process.
Should that process result in Gardner losing her job, Parson said he was not committed to appointing anyone other than “the best candidate that’ll do the best job.”
Missouri House Passes $45.6 Billion Budget with Big Changes Expected In Senate
St. Louis Public Radio - March 30, 2023
A $45.6 billion budget is on its way to the Missouri Senate after the House passed it Thursday.
Missouri House Votes to Ban Diversity Spending In Government
The Associated Press - March 28, 2023
Missouri’s Republican-led House on Tuesday voted to ban state government spending on diversity, equity and inclusion, including at public colleges and universities.
Missouri House Unanimously Perfects Child Tax Credit Bill
The Columbia Missourian – March 29, 2023
The Missouri House perfected House bill 870, which provides up to $20 million in child tax credits, at its session Wednesday morning.
Missouri House Backs Bill Requiring State Research on Psychedelics To Treat Depression, PTSD
Missouri Independent – March 29, 2023
In hopes of helping veterans and other Missourians facing mental health issues, the Missouri House advanced a bill Wednesday that would require the state to conduct a study on using psilocybin, also known as “magic mushrooms,” to treat depression, substance use or as part end-of-life care.
Bid To Ban Red Flag Laws Defeated in Missouri Senate Committee
St. Louis Public Radio - March 29, 2023
Two GOP senators are at odds over the defeat of legislation that sought to bar red flag gun laws from being enforced in Missouri.
While some GOP lawmakers feel the measure is a way to protect Second Amendment rights, others contend it’s a political stunt with a slim chance of passing judicial muster.
Democratic Filibuster Blocks Vote on Bill Making It Harder to Amend Missouri Constitution
Missouri Independent – March 29, 2023
Senate Democrats seized control of the Missouri Senate floor Wednesday afternoon to block a Republican proposal making it harder to change the state constitution.
The measure that would impose a 60% threshold as the minimum majority for amendments has already passed the House and, if approved in the Senate, would go before voters in 2024. Republicans pushing the measure argue that groups from outside the state have funded campaigns that enact measures their legislative majority has rejected, including Medicaid expansion and marijuana legalization.
Opponents Fear Senate's DEI Bill Would Affect University Accreditation, Curriculum
KOMU 8 – March 28, 2023
Just one day after a House committee passed two diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training restriction bills, the Senate's "Do No Harm Act" came to a committee Tuesday morning.
SB 410, referred to as the "Do No Harm Act," seeks to remove DEI requirements in state-funded universities and health care - requiring them to certify to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services that they do not require anyone "to ascribe to, study, or be instructed with diversity-equity-inclusion ideologies or materials," according to the official bill summary.