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Five bills to watch as session’s end draws near

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – As the legislative session in the Missouri State Capitol draws to the final weeks, a number of bills still hope to cross the finish line. And for the most part, all eyes will be on the Senate. Here’s a look at the top five issues that could come to the chamber floors in coming days.

Joinder and Venue (HB 1578/SB 546)

Probably the most contentious of the tort reform bills being debated this session, Sen. Brian Munzlinger’s SB 546 is a perfect demonstration of how much time and debate can be consumed as opposing sides work toward a compromise.

SB 546 has already appeared on the Senate floor multiple times this session for perfection but has failed to advance so far, mainly because of a holdup on two particular issues: retroactivity and in-state joinder. And since late February, the bill has not re-appeared.

Meanwhile, the House passed their version of the joinder and venue legislation, putting it in the hands of the Senate. Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer’s bill advanced out of committee and currently awaits third reading in the Senate.

One step closer, two steps back: The Senate dance around joinder and venue continues

Raising the Marriage Age (HB 1630)

Rep. Jean Evans’ HB 1630, in the simplest of terms, seeks to raise the legal age of marriage in Missouri to 17 years of age. Evans says the bill would help protect girls from being abused, as well as combat possible instances of sex trafficking.

The bill currently lies on the Senate’s informal calendar of House Bills for Third Reading, after being laid over on Monday night.

Evans on marriage age bill: It protects children from those who would do them harm

Utility (HB 2265/SB 564)

It’s been years since significant utility reform has been passed out of the General Assembly, but this year could be the year. Sen. Ed Emery’s SB 564 passed through the Senate and now just needs approval from the House, but the bill is being held in place on the calendar as the Senate works on HB 2265. Rep. T.J. Berry’s bill began as a similar bill and received provisions the House would like to see added on before heading to the Senate, providing the upper chamber with another opportunity to re-work the language. However, after the passage of the bill out of committee, it seems that the discussions and work to find a compromise that works for both sides has stalled for the moment. If the legislation does not advance in the Senate, then the House could simply move forward with the original Senate version.

Senate committee hears Berry’s utility bill as House holds Senate version on standby

Tax reform (HB 2240/ SB 617)

Sen. Bill Eigel and Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr’s bills both seek to bring a significant overhaul of the state’s tax codes, but the biggest difference between the two simply deals with funding roads and transportation. Sen. Eigel’s bill looks to an increased fuel tax as the answer, while Haahr’s bill instead looks to increase user fees.

Eigel’s bill awaits a final vote on the Senate floor, while Haahr’s bill advanced out of the House a week ago. It seems that, for now, the issue of tax reform lies squarely on the Missouri Senate.

Tax cuts on Tax Day: Missouri House approves Haahr’s massive revenue overhaul bill

Sunshine Law (HB 2523)

This particular bill has been picking up traction in the General Assembly following recent events in Jefferson City. Under this legislation, the Attorney General would have the power to issue subpoenas in Sunshine Law investigations. As for how controversial the bill is, that remains to be seen in the Senate, but the 147-1 vote to pass it out of the House seems to be indicative of seemingly quick passage.

House moves to strengthen Missouri’s open records laws