Amid the gridlock over redistricting, the Senate perfected the bill from Republican Sen. Lincoln Hough expanding the Fast Track Workforce Incentive program Wednesday afternoon.
Specifically, SB 672 extends the financial aid program from the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development for adults seeking a degree or other forms of certification in a field of high need.
In an event that seemed unlikely in the upper chamber this session, senators came to a compromise on the Fast Track bill. An amendment from Hough — and supported Conservative Caucus member Sen. Denny Hoskins — stipulated grant recipients must have been a Missouri resident for at least two years prior to enrollment in the program and provided exceptions for active military members and spouses.
The Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant program was created in 2019 and was initially scheduled to expire on Aug. 28. It now will expire in 2029.
Hough said the compromise should serve as an example for the rest of the chamber as different factions have remained gridlocked over congressional redistricting.
The Fast Track Grant is available for students older than 25 years old or adults under 25 who have not been enrolled in school in at least two years and who make no more than $40,000 per year in their tax filings (or $80,000 filing jointly).
Those in the program must remain employed in Missouri for at least three years after graduation or the grant will need to be repaid with interest.
Huge thanks to @lincolnhough, @pnthomas, and the Missouri State Senate, as well as the @GovParsonMO team, @MissouriChamber, @COPHE_news, @MCCATweet, and other friends who helped get this done. See ya in the House! https://t.co/sCzJrAqlNT
— Zora Mulligan (@zzmulligan) February 17, 2022
Senate Minority Floor Leader John Rizzo also successfully attached an amendment to SB 672 ensuring the Joint Committee on Rural Economic Development will include senators from both parties.
During floor proceedings on Tuesday, Hoskins expressed his discontent with the bill, arguing it lacked the necessary provisions to prevent undocumented immigrants and out-of-state residents from using the program.
Hoskins, a member of the Conservative Caucus, offered several amendments to the Fast Track program related to critical race theory, undocumented immigrants, and transgender athletes, but none of the amendments were successful.
With his amendments defeated, Hoskins blamed Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden and accused him of being dishonest about his wish to tackle so-called critical race theory in the upper chamber.
Republican senators who voted to end the debate, including Sens. Bill White and Jeanie Riddle, said they supported the measures but did not believe they were appropriate to add to the Fast Track legislation.
Hoskins held the floor for several hours Tuesday before the Senate eventually adjourned.
Then on Wednesday, debate on Fast Track kicked off with Sen. Mike Moon sharing that he had been removed from his committee assignments on Gubernatorial Appointments, Professional Registration, Small Business and Industry, and Ways and Means due in part to a dress code violation.
Moon then held the floor for nearly three hours Wednesday while senators worked behind the scenes to come to a compromise on Fast Track.
And then the stalemate broke and a compromise was reached.
James Turner studies political science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Previously, he was a legislative intern for the Associated Students of the University of Missouri. James is a native of Ferguson, Missouri.