JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri General Assembly has reached the halfway point in the 2019 regular session and between the two chambers, they have passed roughly 100 measures.
“We have completed the first half of the first year of the 100th General Assembly and, in my opinion, one of the more successful beginnings to a General Assembly we have had,” said House Speaker Elijah Haahr.
“I think we have had a fairly successful legislative process up to this point, occasionally with a few bumps in the road,” said Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz. “There are a multitude of issues we have dealt with…”
In total, the House has passed 68 bills while the Senate has passed 28 bills and seven resolutions. The one bill — HB 448, naming a portion of highway after late-Rep. Cloria Brown — has passed both chambers.
Both chambers are on spring break next week. They will come back on March 25 with roughly eight weeks left to complete their work and still have some big topics to address — such as education reform, sports betting, and more.
The two chambers have each tackled some hot-button issues, including tort reform, low income housing tax credits, criminal justice reform, workforce development, and abortion restrictions.
The House passed what some are calling the “strongest pro-life legislation” in the country in February. HB 126, sponsored by Rep. Nick Schroer, would prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected unless the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, then it would outright ban all abortions, unless in medical emergencies.
The bill was passed in a 117-39 vote.
The bill would prohibit any abortion from being performed once a fetal heartbeat except in medical emergencies. The measure also bans all abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, one requires two parent consent for a minor to abort a pregnancy, prevents abortions on the basis of a prenatal diagnosis indicating Down Syndrome, and would ban all abortions, unless for medical emergencies, if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
Each provision is severable if struck down by a court.
The omnibus abortion bill has been first read in the Senate. The Senate has their own pro-life legislation that has made it out of committee and is currently on the perfection calendar.
Criminal justice reform
Roughly six bills altering Missouri’s criminal justice system have gained House approval. Those measures include changes to minimum sentencing requirements and modern-day “debtor prisons.”
HB 113, sponsored by Rep. Cody Smith, specifies conditions under which a court may depart from the applicable minimum term of imprisonment.
Under the legislation, if a court finds substantial and compelling reasons that the mandatory minimum for the crime would result in substantial injustice to the defendant or is not necessary for the protection of the public, they can depart from the applicable minimum term of imprisonment.
The bill has been first read in the Senate.
After hours of debate, the House voted to pass HB 188, which would create a statewide prescription drug monitoring program.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Holly Redher, establishes the “Narcotics Control Act,” which requires the Department of Health and Senior Services to create a program for monitoring the prescribing and dispensing of all Schedule II, III, and IV controlled substances.
The Senate version of the bill, SB 155, originally failed in committee but that vote was reconsidered and it now sits on the Senate perfection calendar.
One of the governor’s priorities, the Fast-Track Workforce Incentive Grant would launch a grant program for adults seeking to further their education in high demand jobs.
HB 225, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Swan, was voted out of the House after a sunset was added to the bill.
Under the measure, Missourians who are 25-years-old or older looking to pursue training in high demand jobs would qualify for the program. Anyone with a bachelor’s degree would be ineligible along with anyone enrolled in an education program for the prior two academic years.
Those looking to utilize the grant must have an adjusted gross income of less than $40,000 annually for an individual, or $80,000 per year for a couple.
The bill has been first read in the Senate. Sen. Gary Romine’s version of the legislation met resistance during perfection and now sits on the informal calendar.
For the first time in recent years, the Missouri Senate passed a bill that alters rules on joinder and venue in the court system.
Following a roughly 15-hour filibuster, the upper chamber compromised on the legislation. SB 7, as amended, was passed at the beginning of March.
The two most significant changes in the compromise proposal was a savings clause and referenced the recent court decision instead of defining it in statute.
Based on concerns that language in the bill language went beyond the scope of the Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling, that language was struck and they directly referenced the ruling.
The so-called savings clause allows cases where a trial date was set before February 13, 2019, to continue. The savings clause was the final amendment added to a Senate substitute bill before lawmakers determined the bill perfected.
The House has held a public hearing on the bill. The House’s version of joinder and venue currently sits on their informal perfection calendar.
After the ups and downs low-income housing tax credits have gone through in the last several years, the Senate passed a bill placing a cap on the program.
SB 28, sponsored by Sen. Dan Hegeman, places an aggregate cap on the amount LIHTC that may be authorized in a fiscal year. Such cap is 72.5 percent of the amount of federal low-income housing tax credits allocated to the state.
The bill also reduces the limit on tax credits authorized for projects financed through tax-exempt bonds from $6 million to $4 million.
The bill has been second read in the House.
The Senate has also made significant changes to the laws on controlled substances.
Sen. David Sater’s SB 6 removes medical marijuana from the definition of a “controlled substance” and from Schedule I of the controlled substances. It also prohibits the sale of edible marijuana-infused products that are designed, produced, or marketed in a manner to appeal to minors, such as, candies, lollipops, cotton candy, or products in the shape of a human, animal, or fruit.
Under specific circumstances, fentanyl and carfentanil would be added to the offense of trafficking drugs. The measure also ups the penalty for distributing a detectable amount of heroin to a Class B felony.
The bill has been second read in the House.
Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at email@example.com.