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Special session requests abound in 2021: A look at what lawmakers want to tackle

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — It’s the year of the special session requests. 

Lawmakers are already expected to return to the Capitol for September’s veto session and to tackle redistricting, but the first session of the 101st General Assembly hadn’t even officially concluded before requests for special sessions began to pour in. Thus far, the Governor’s Office has received 13 official requests. 

From eminent domain to police funding, here’s a look at the special session requests thus far.

FRA with pro-life protections: A coalition of lawmakers from both chambers, led by GOP Rep. Nick Schroer, asked Gov. Mike Parson to include a prohibition of the use of public funds for abortions if he calls lawmakers back to extend the federal reimbursement allowance (FRA). 

FRA without pro-life protections: Rep. Sarah Unsicker asked the governor to call lawmakers back to Jefferson City to renew the state’s federal reimbursement allowance (FRA) program. Her request was for a clean FRA renewal without any additional “political games.” 

Unemployment insurance overpayments: Lawmakers ended session without approving a plan to forgive — at least at the federal level — the erroneous COVID-19 unemployment overpayments. About $150 million in state and federal funds were accidentally sent to Missourians during the pandemic, and the Department of Labor has sought to collect the overpayments which would result in great financial hardship for many people. Rep. J. Eggleston asked for a special session to address the overpayments. 

Critical race theory, 1619 project ban: A joint request from Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin and Rep. Chuck Basye asks the governor to call a special session to ban the teaching of what’s called critical race theory in public schools. A handful of other states, including Idaho, have banned or are debating legislation to ban the teachings. 

Initiative petition, elections reform: Before session was even officially over, Rep. Dan Shaul requested a special session to address a myriad of initiative petition and election reform proposals, including voter ID. He cited alleged “discrepancies and issues with the election process in several states across” the U.S. in his request.  

Kansas City police budget: After Kansas City leaders, including Mayor Quinton Lucas, reallocated a portion of its police department’s budget into a new fund for the city manager and Board of Police Commissioners to oversee, Republicans stressed the need for a special session. Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer and Rep. Doug Richey asked Gov. Mike Parson to convene lawmakers to address the funding, especially as crime increases. 

St. Louis police handling: Rep. Nick Schroer also asked Gov. Mike Parson to reconvene lawmakers to address public safety and police funding in St. Louis. Schroer also threatened to push for the state to retake control over St. Louis’s police department. 

COVID liability: In the final hour of session, lawmakers passed a COVID liability protection bill from Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer. However, Rep. Justin Hill has asked the governor to veto the bill and call lawmakers back to the capital city for a “true COVID liability” bill that mirrored an unsuccessful House bill that was limited to exposure liability. 

MASBDA tax credits sunset extension: Rep. Don Rone, who chairs the House Agriculture Policy Committee, led a group of Republican lawmakers in asking Gov. Mike Parson for a bevy of agriculture-related issues to be addressed in special sessions. He asked for lawmakers to reconvene to pass an extension of the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority (MASBDA) tax credit programs that will otherwise sunset at the end of the year. 

Eminent domain: Lawmakers once again sought to address eminent domain — an effort to stop the Grain Belt Express project — during the legislative session. Legislation that would require companies wishing to establish merchant lines to provide proof of support from each county commission it would impact when applying for approval from the Public Service Commission (PSC) was unsuccessful; the bill also sought to prohibit certain groups from using eminent domain to construct merchant lines. Rep. Don Rone asked Gov. Mike Parson to call a special session to address eminent domain. 

Anhydrous ammonia regulations: As part of the agriculture request, Rep. Don Rone asked for a special session to take up SB 37 which didn’t make it out of conference before session ended. The bill would make changes to anhydrous ammonia regulations. 

SNAP benefits at local farmers markets: Rep. Don Rone asked the governor to convene lawmakers to extend a pilot program that allows SNAP benefits to be used at local farmers markets. 

Ethanol tax credit sunset extension: Rep. Don Rone’s agriculture special session request included an extension of an ethanol tax credit. 

Biodiesel tax credit creation: Rep. Don Rone’s agriculture special session request asked lawmakers to reconvene to establish a biodiesel fuel tax credit.