This week, the Missouri Senate completed the task the governor put before us when he called the Legislature back to Jefferson City for the Second Extra Legislative Session of 2020. The Senate approved a supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2021, granting the governor the authority to spend federal dollars aimed at responding to the coronavirus pandemic. The Legislature faced a “use it or lose it” deadline requiring much of the federal money to be allocated prior to Jan. 1.
House Bill 14, which was truly agreed and finally passed on Wednesday, authorizes more than $1.2 billion in expenditures, most of which are directly tied to the pandemic. Nearly all of the supplemental budget – $1.17 billion — will be funded by money appropriated by Congress. Of course, Missourians help fund those federal dollars, but somehow it seems to hurt just a little less if we call it Washington’s money. About $12 million of the supplemental budget, or about 1 percent, comes from general revenue funds directly paid by Missouri taxpayers. Another $93 billion comes from other funds, such as fees paid by pharmacies and other health providers.
Included in the spending measure is more than $764 million the governor can direct toward state agencies providing immediate aid and relief related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other spending authorized by the supplemental budget includes $140 million for COVID-19 testing and tracing efforts, $75 million for school food programs and $23 million for community block grants.
With passage of HB 14, our work for the second extra session appears to be complete. The governor had previously asked us to take up legislation to provide COVID-19 liability protections for health care providers, schools, businesses and manufacturers of personal protective equipment. As the session stretched into December, he decided to postpone that discussion for the start of the regular legislative session in January.
With the extra legislative session winding down, legislators now turn their attention to the start of the 101st General Assembly on Jan. 6, 2021. Pre-filing of bills for the upcoming session began on Dec. 1, and already more than 250 legislative proposals have been submitted to the secretary of the Senate. I have filed a number of bills I hope to see sent to the governor’s desk in 2021, and more will surely follow once the session gets underway.
Among my pre-filed bills are proposals to allow Missourians to wager on sporting events and to play video lottery games at fraternal lodges, veteran’s organizations, truck stops and other places where adults gather. Both of these activities occur in Missouri now, but the state collects no revenue from the wagers placed. Another bill I filed for 2021 would require public health orders to be approved by the local governing body within 30 days. I have also filed legislation that would expand the Missouri Education Savings Program to allow tax-free savings funds to be used at any eligible school, not just post-secondary education institutions. Additionally, I have proposed a statewide biodiesel fuels standard, a requirement that schools establish educational programs for gifted students and a provision that would level the playing field for our brick-and-mortar businesses by requiring customers to pay sales tax on their online purchases, just as they would when shopping downtown.
I’ll be sure to provide more information about these legislative proposals and keep you informed on their progress as the session begins. Until then, you can read about these and all the other pre-filed Senate bills at www.senate.mo.gov under the “Legislation” tab.
Changes at the Capitol
Those of you who have visited the Missouri State Capitol during the past two years know a major restoration effort to the exterior of the building has caused inconvenience and obscured the view of our beautiful Statehouse. That work is now complete. The scaffolding and protective wrapping is gone and the Capitol Building is in beautiful condition, with all the exterior stonework repaired and sealed to prevent water damage. I hope everyone has an opportunity to visit our Capitol, and I look forward to greeting you once legislative activities resume in January.
Please take note, the District 21 office is moving. Previously, we were located across the hall from the Senate chamber on the third floor. We are now moving to larger quarters on the fourth floor, in room 423. Our new office is located down the hall from the entrance to the Senate visitor’s gallery. Be sure to stop in and see us when you visit the State Capitol.
As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at 573-751-4302. You may also email me at email@example.com.