The Missouri General Assembly ended the 2021 legislative session on May 14 with some major accomplishments in the 69 bills that crossed the finish line. More than 2,270 bills had been filed for the 2021 session and many of the provisions of these bills were added as amendments to the other bills that reached the Governor’s desk.
Legislation that was passed and sent to Governor Mike Parson’s desk include bills dealing with the collection of internet sales tax on purchases from online retailers (commonly known as the Wayfair bill); an increase in the motor vehicle fuel tax which will raise Missouri’s gas tax at the pumps by 12.5 cents per gallon over the next five years; prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), which will allow doctors and pharmacists to track opioid prescriptions statewide; protecting businesses from COVID-19-related lawsuits; and the Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA) that would nullify any federal law affecting Missourians on gun ownership or gun possession. The PDMP and SAPA bills have been signed by Governor Parson.
Legislators created several large omnibus bills on various subjects such as local government, transportation, education, foster children, professional registration, insurance, financial institutions, taxes, and utilities, and these bills contained provisions filed as stand-alone bills. The use of omnibus bills allowed for many provisions to reach the Governor’s desk.
Issues that did not get resolved include the voter-approved Medicaid expansion plan that would cover an estimated 275,000 new enrollees; various bills involving election reform such as voter photo identification and redistricting for the 2022 elections; legislation that would make sports betting legal in some form in Missouri; and renewal of the FRA (federal reimbursement allowance), a tax on hospitals and medical providers that earns federal matching dollars for Missouri to help fund Medicaid payments. The FRA expires in September, so a Special Session on that issue is certain, session date uncertain. COVID-19-related federal funding is on its way to Missouri, but guidance and authority on how to spend those dollars are needed, possibly requiring a Special Session. Legislators also will be returning to Jefferson City in September for their constitutionally required Veto Session.
Missouri’s Medicaid expansion issue is now being mulled by the courts system, and the possible FRA non-renewal is posing a threat by Governor Parson of withholding $722 million from the FY 22 state budget which begins July 1.
HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE TO REVIEW FEDERAL STIMULUS FUNDING
A mid-July hearing is planned for the Missouri House Subcommittee on Federal Stimulus Spending to meet. Subcommittee Chairman Doug Richey (R-Excelsior Springs) says restricted money anticipated to arrive in Missouri under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 will be reviewed. Billions of dollars are expected to be received, and many one-time capital improvement projects for state buildings, elementary and secondary education, colleges and universities, and for public safety would qualify for the funds. State budget director Dan Haug will testify at the hearing. It’s possible the Governor will call a special session in a few months for the General Assembly to address the ARPA funds and supplemental budget issues.
INTERIM COMMITTEES FORMED; OTHERS LIKELY TO BE COMING
On May 25, several interim committees were formed under existing House and Senate Rules. In addition, as passed in several bills this session, upon signature by the Governor several Joint Committees and Task Forces will likely begin their work over the interim.
One committee, the House Special Committee on Broadband Development, has already met to hear from the Department of Economic Development and has scheduled another meeting July 20, when it will hear testimony from several internet service providers.
The following Interim Committees have been formed:
• House Special Committee on Broadband Development
• House Subcommittee on Mental Health Policy Research
• Senate Interim Committee on Elections
• Senate Interim Committee on Greater St. Louis Regional Emerging Issues
• Senate Interim Committee on MO Underground Safety Review
Additional Committees and Task Forces anticipated, due to recently passed legislation after July 31:
• Alzheimer State Plan Task Force (DHSS)
• Food Security Task Force
• Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight – Commercial Vehicle Towing Committee
• Electric Vehicle Task Force (DOR)
• Joint Task Force on School Bus Safety
• Joint Oversight Task Force of Prescription Drug Monitoring (OA)
• Task Force on the Future of Right-of-Way Management and Taxation
POTENTIAL SPECIAL SESSION AND VETO SESSION AHEAD
The chatter continues in Jefferson City that Governor Mike Parson may be calling the legislature back this summer for a special session to revisit issues that did not reach final passage during the regular session. As previously noted, the General Assembly failed to extend the sunset on the Federal Reimbursement Allowance tax that is set to expire on September 30, and the FRA tax allows the state to draw down additional matching federal funds and is key to maintaining a balanced budget regarding Medicaid spending.
In addition, there have been calls for the Governor to call the legislature back to address election integrity and reforms to the state’s initiative petition process. It is unknown if the Governor will make a call for a special session, however, the Missouri General Assembly is set to return to Jefferson City on September 15 for the annual veto session that is required by the state’s Constitution.