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2021 legislation: A look at what’s on deck for the Missouri Senate next year

  

With a little more than a month before lawmakers are due back in Jefferson City for the 2021 legislative session, pre-filing opened Tuesday. 

The pre-filing process, annually set for the beginning of December, gives lawmakers a chance to set the stage for the upcoming session. In the Senate, rules dictate bills and resolutions are to be introduced based on the seniority of the senator who filed the legislation, with a limit of three bills or resolutions per rotation on the list. This year, Sens. Dan Hegeman, Paul Wieland, Jeanie Riddle, Dave Schatz, and Bob Onder rounded out the top five on the list. 

Read on for an overview of bills and priorities brought up during pre-filing in the Senate. (This post will be updated throughout the week. Check back for more updates.)

COVID-19

GOP Sen. Andrew Koenig pre-filed a bill meant to limit the ability of local officials to mandate and enforce county-wide shutdowns. The move came as St. Louis County is under fire for its restrictions on restaurants, in particular, as the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Missouri continues to rise. 

Koenig’s bill would limit county-wide shutdown orders to two initial weeks over a two-year period before requiring approval from the legislature and governor. It would also eliminate property tax for businesses during a shutdown and disallow restrictions for religious institutions and caps on the number of people able to gather in a home at a time. 

Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, also a Republican, filed a bill to block county health boards from promulgating rules. It would leave in place provisions already on the books for county commissions, which are made up of elected officials, to make rules. 

Police reform

Sen. Brian Williams is continuing to push for police reforms in Missouri. The Democratic senator has again filed legislation to limit the use of no-knock warrants and the use of deadly force when making arrests. His legislation would also prohibit the use of chokeholds and require officers to complete certain de-escalation training. 

Williams held a town hall on these measures in November and proposed them during an extraordinary session dealing with law enforcement earlier this year. 

Senator-elect Steven Roberts also plans to file police accountability legislation. His bill would require law enforcement agencies to report all use of force to the Attorney General’s Office that would be available in a public database. Like Williams, he proposed this legislation during the first extraordinary session earlier this year. 

Rick Brattin, an incoming Republican senator, filed legislation he said would protect law enforcement officers. His pre-filed bill would penalize a municipality that decreases its police budget by a certain amount and enhance punishments for those who participate in an “unlawful assembly.” Specifically, it would block state employees from receiving employment benefits if they were convicted of participating in such an “unlawful assembly.” 

Education 

As in past sessions, legislation regarding education is driving the pre-filing process. Sen. Lauren Arthur is championing a bill that would create a grant program to incentivize schools developing certain courses for certain competency-based education courses. The Democratic senator from SD 17 also pre-filed legislation to establish the Show Me Success Diploma Program to provide a path for students to graduate from high school faster. 

O’Laughlin is also backing multiple pieces of legislation regarding education, including a bill she filed last year requiring public and charter schools to establish policies for reading comprehension plans for students from kindergarten to fourth grade. She is also pushing a bill that would cap superintendent pay at 3.5 times the average teacher salary in the district. 

O’Laughlin is also backing multiple pieces of legislation regarding education, including a bill she filed last year requiring public and charter schools to establish policies for reading comprehension plans for students from kindergarten to fourth grade. She is also pushing a bill that would cap superintendent pay at 3.5 times the average teacher salary in the district. 

Tax reform 

Sen. Dan Hegeman, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, pre-filed legislation placing a cap on Missouri’s newly-revived low-income housing tax credit program. Under his bill, the cap is placed at 70 percent. 

As in sessions past, Koenig has pre-filed a Wayfair sales tax bill — allowing the state to collect taxes on online sales, a practice many states have made use of over the past few years in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision. He is also championing reforms to Missouri’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program. 

Elections

Sen. Jill Schupp pre-filed legislation to allow for no-excuse absentee voting in upcoming elections. She pointed to the expanded mail-in and absentee voting options Missourians had for the Nov. 3 election — put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic — as an example that it could be implemented successfully for future elections. 

Incoming Sen. Elaine Gannon has also pre-filed a no-excuse absentee voting bill.

This story has been updated. It was originally published Dec. 1.