According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, as commercial testing capacities increase, the coordination of patient and associated contact investigations is paramount to preventing and mitigating the spread of the coronavirus. While performing public health priority activities, including notifying the patient, raising awareness among Missouri communities is valuable. DHSS provides data as it is available, verified and pertinent.
As of 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 2, cases in Missouri total 1,834, while deaths in Missouri from COVID-19 total 19.
I. LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
• Missouri State Senators anticipate returning to the state capitol next week, having last been in regular session on March 12. Legislators are taking extra precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will have checkpoints at limited entrances to the building, live-stream committee and general legislative sessions on the internet, and attempt to keep the general public away from lawmakers. Live-streaming activities from the Senate floor has never been done before, while the House has adopted the practice over the past few years. Senate and House leaders are planning to have limited numbers of lawmakers in their respective chambers at any one time, including during floor votes. Consequently, the voting process may take longer. Senators are expected to be in the building only two days next week. When entering the building, each person will have their temperature taken and asked other questions such as recent travel, any symptoms of the virus, or have they been in contact with a known carrier of the virus. The House is scheduled for a “technical session” on Tuesday.
• The Senate will take up the supplemental budget bill (House Bill 14) on Tuesday and Wednesday. The House passed its version of HB 14 on March 18, which included $40 million in federal and state funds for COVID-19. The supplemental budget addresses shortfalls/additional needs in the current FY 20 budget year which ends June 30. The bill will include appropriation authority for the Governor to spend the federal money sent to the state to respond to COVID-19 which is anticipated to be much larger than the $40 million in the House version. Once passed by both chambers, HB 14 will be sent to the Governor for signature. Once signed into law, the Governor can disburse the additional resources.
• The supplemental budget occurs every year. Most years, it includes funding for programs that need additional dollars than budgeted to provide services for the remainder of the fiscal year. This year, with the passage of three federal bills addressing COVID-19, the state will appropriate and spend additional federal resources to help address the state’s lost revenue (business and income) and the additional expenses. This will include all types of funding including additional Medicaid dollars, additional unemployment dollars and several other programmatic dollars to keep the state operating.
• The General Assembly has a May 8 deadline to pass the FY 21 budget. Although the House had almost completed work on its version of the FY 21 budget, the dramatic changes in lost revenue, unemployment and the infusion of federal money, will require revisions to the budget. It is currently unclear when the General Assembly will complete its work on the FY 21 budget- whether in the current session or called into a special session this summer.
• Missouri’s Sunshine Law, the Open Meetings and Open Records Act for all levels of government in the state, was enacted in 1973. Never have we experienced the pandemic crisis caused by COVID-19. However, state and local government is still operating during these critical times, and the Sunshine Law is still in effect. Here’s a brief roundup of the Sunshine Law and how it applies to meetings of public governmental bodies: Open, Accessible Government Vital to Citizens
II. EXECUTIVE BRANCH
• To address the FY 20 budget situation brought on by COVID-19, the Governor announced on Wednesday a series of withholdings to address the impact to balance the budget by June 30, 2020. The Governor has ordered withholds from current budgets in the amount of about $180,000,000 of which general revenue is $170,983,774. A revenue shortfall of some $500,000,000 can be expected. So even more dollars may need to be withheld, the Governor said. The main withholds include:
1. Four-Year Higher Education Institutions- $61,321,869
2. Facilities Maintenance Reserve Fund Transfer- $54,220,625
3. DNR Multipurpose Water Resource Program- $12,161,012
4. Community Colleges- $11,605,267
5. OA Missouri Consolidated Healthcare Plan Excess Authority- $7,129,018
6. DED Division of Tourism- $6,479,780
7. Fast-Track Workforce Incentive Grant Fund- $5,000,000
8. Missouri One Start Job Program Development- $3,313,635
9. Drug Treatment Courts- $2,995,616
10. DED Missouri Technology Corporation – $2,910,000
11. University of Missouri-Precision Medicine initiative- $2,425,003
12. The Judiciary and the Secretary of State have worked to identify savings in their current budgets, also.
• The Missouri National Guard has begun work to identify potential alternate care sites around Missouri, including in Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield, Joplin, Cape Girardeau and Columbia.
• The Department of Economic Development has been working with local business leaders to help procure ventilators, personal protective equipment and hand sanitizers.
• The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has modified operations at five state parks to address overcrowding and concerns regarding COVID-19. Four parks have been temporarily closed until April 30: Castlewood, Elephant Rocks, Watkins Woolen Mill, and Weston Bend, and the closure of St. Joe State Park off-road vehicle trails.
• Today, it was reported that more than 104,000 Missourians filed for unemployment, more than doubling the previous week’s numbers. This is the first unemployment numbers since St. Louis and St. Louis County’s stay-at-home order took place on March 21st.
III. ELECTIONS ON THE HORIZON
• The year 2020 will be remembered for many things, not the least of which are primary and general elections, and this past Tuesday was the deadline for candidates to file for federal, state, county, city and judicial positions. Some 490 people filed for those posts by visiting the Jefferson City office of Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R). Comparing recent election years, 638 candidates filed in 2018, and 501 candidates filed in 2016. Here are some highlights about this year’s filings:
o Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who resigned nearly two years ago, did not file to compete against Gov. Mike Parson (R). Three Republicans did file against the Governor: Rep. Jim Neely of Cameron, former state auditor nominee Saundra McDowell and Raleigh Ritter of Seneca. State Auditor Nicole Galloway (D) will most likely be the Democratic candidate for Governor in November.
o Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe and State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, all Republicans who were appointed, not elected, to their current positions, attracted mainly little-known opponents, as did Secretary of State Ashcroft, who was elected in 2016. A rumor that State Sen. Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis) would file against Kehoe did not occur.
o A few State Senate matchups will be of interest. Sen. Andrew Koenig (R-Manchester) will face State Rep. Deb Lavender (D-Kirkwood) in the 15th District, located in St. Louis County. Sen. Bill Eigel (R-St. Charles), incumbent in the 23rd District, St. Charles County, drew two primary challengers, Dan O’Connell and Eric Wulff. Democrat Richard Orr will face the winner in November.
o In St. Louis County, a special election is on tap for St. Louis County Executive with four Democratic primary candidates: Sam Page, current County Executive; Jake Zimmerman, current County Assessor; businessman Mark Mantovani and Jamie Tolliver. The Republican primary candidates are Paul Berry III and Ed Golterman.
o In St. Louis City, current Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner drew competition from Mary Pat Carl, who finished second to Gardner in a four-way race in 2016.
o A congressional race sure to attract nationwide attention in November will pit Republican U.S. Congresswoman Ann Wagner with State Sen. Jill Schupp (D-St. Louis) in Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District. Wagner and Schupp are the only candidates who filed for the race.