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Session derails in upper chamber on final day over claims of dishonesty

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — On the evening before the final day of session, the Senate broke. Camaraderie among lawmakers in the upper chamber ended over the FRA bill. 

After holding the floor for a few hours Friday morning, Minority Leader John Rizzo decided the Senate was done, and not one senator rose to question his decision. He made a motion to adjourn a little after 2 p.m., four hours before all bills were automatically tabled. And just like that, the first session of the 101st General Assembly of Missouri’s state Senate was finished. 

“It’s just a situation of broken promises throughout the session from leadership in one way or another, and I think the Senate Democratic Caucus is just done with that,” Rizzo told reporters after adjournment.

Rizzo slammed Republican leadership for being a “problem within the entire Senate for the entire session.” He said they were in disarray, throwing the minority party curveballs while being dishonest. 

“We are steadily marching toward being a smaller House of Representatives,” Rizzo rebuked. 

On why he made the unprecedented motion to adjourn early Friday, Rizzo said: “The session was over. It was over whether it was going to be 6 o’clock or 2 o’clock. And it was the perfect ending to a dysfunctional year.” 

It’s almost certain lawmakers will need to come back to Jefferson City for special sessions during the interim to tackle issues like redistricting, COVID unemployment overpayments, and FRA. It was promises made on the latter that put the nail in this session’s coffin. 

The FRA program taxes providers — covering ambulances, hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies, and facilities for the intellectually disabled — which is then matched by federal dollars at a higher rate, reimbursing the providers and leaving the state with extra money by reducing the burden on the MO HealthNet program. 

It’s a $4 billion issue, Sen. Bill White said, and it needs to be reauthorized by Sept. 30. 

Rizzo said he had assurances from Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz that the upper chamber could deliver a clean FRA package. The vehicle for that last night was Sen. Bill White’s health care bill. 

But Sen. Bob Onder, a conservative, sought to reinstate language that would restrict public funds for contraceptives. And when it came time to vote on his proposal, it was successful 16-14. Schatz had strayed from the rest of Senate leadership to vote for the proposal. 

Schatz said it’s “very difficult” to vote against pro-life measures, and when he cast his vote, it appeared to already be prevailing; therefore, his vote would be irrelevant except to provide him credibility to vote with the amendment’s sponsors in future negotiations. 

White, the assistant floor leader, said he was not involved with any dealmaking over the FRA legislation, calling it “frustrating” that a straight vote on FRA without the anti-abortion language didn’t occur. 

“It is distressing. People are always concerned about a gun vote, a pro-life vote. I don’t consider this a pro-life issue,” White said, noting IUDs fall under the birth control category as opposed to abortion. 

“It’s a very important funding stream to be able to fund our regular Medicaid — let alone what happens with Medicaid expansion when it goes to the courts in the fall,” he continued. 

When asked if he, too, thought nothing would be accomplished in the upper chamber Friday, White responded: “Oh, I think that’s pretty clear.” 

In the end, no bills made it through the Senate on the final day of session — which happened to fall on National Decency Day — and the House was left frustrated with the upper chamber while it continued with its business.