Missouri Senate begins 2019 legislative session

Last week, lawmakers officially convened the 100th Missouri General Assembly


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Lawmakers returned to the State Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 9, to begin the 2019 legislative session, marking the official start of the 100th Missouri General Assembly.

In the Missouri Senate, nine new senators took the oath of office following the results of the November election. Eight senators returned for a second term after winning re-election.

The Senate also selected a new president pro tem, Sen. Dave Schatz, a Republican from Sullivan.

After the first day of session, lawmakers from both the House and Senate participated in the traditional Grand March and Legislative Ball in the Capitol rotunda.

In the coming weeks, legislative committees will begin meeting to evaluate some of the hundreds of bills and resolutions filed by lawmakers so far.

The president pro tem said one of his goals this session is to evaluate alternative sources for transportation funding following voters’ rejection of a fuel tax increase in November.

“I think that we see deferred maintenance is going to continue to cost more at the end of the day,” Schatz said. “But I think it’s going to be challenging. But there could be some new revenue streams that we could look at and have those conversations that may be able to help us fill that gap that we feel is there.”

The Senate’s minority floor leader, Sen. Gina Walsh, a Democrat from Bellefontaine Neighbors, expressed optimism about this year’s legislative session.

“I believe this session is going to be calmer and more focused, not just because of some issues that were put to rest on the second floor, but because we have put other issues to rest, and the people have spoken on right to work, Clean Missouri, the minimum wage,” Walsh said. “And I think that, as a body, we should respect the will of the people moving forward.”

The 2019 legislative session will conclude on Friday, May 17.

Record snows hit mid-Missouri

In the span of 24 hours, Columbia saw 14.5 inches of snow

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Starting Friday and continuing into the weekend, the mid-Missouri area was hit with record levels of snow.

According to the National Weather Service, the city of Columbia received more than a foot of snow during the first day of the storm.

Here are a few pictures of the University of Missouri campus, taken on Saturday afternoon:


Missouri lawmakers prepare for 2019 legislative session

The Senate and House of Representatives will meet from January to mid-May

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Members of the Missouri General Assembly will soon return to the state Capitol for the start of the 2019 legislative session, which officially begins at noon on Wednesday.

During the session, lawmakers will tackle several matters of business, including:

— Approving a state operating budget for the 2020 fiscal year

— In the Senate, evaluating a list of gubernatorial appointments to state boards and commissions

— Considering dozens of new bills on a wide variety of topics

As multimedia specialist for the Missouri Senate, I created a short news package with quotes from Senate leadership previewing the months ahead.

Watch the video below to see what Sen. Dave Schatz, the presumed incoming president pro tem, and Sen. Gina Walsh, the minority floor leader, have to say about the upcoming legislative session.

Missouri Capitol undergoes $27M renovation

The statehouse hasn’t seen a comprehensive update in more than a century

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri State Capitol is undergoing a full exterior renovation for the first time since the building was constructed in 1917.

The project officially began in March 2018 and is set to conclude by December 2020 — just in time for the governor’s inauguration in January.

With a budget of nearly $27 million, 50 to 75 construction workers will modernize the deteriorating stonework of the building’s façades, dome and drum. The Capitol’s south lawn will serve as a staging zone for the construction, with cranes and scaffolding surrounding the building.

During the project, eastbound traffic on Capitol Drive will be diverted onto West Main Street, while westbound traffic will condense from two lanes to one.

Upon completion, the project will improve the structural stability and overall appearance of the State Capitol, ensuring the historic structure is preserved for decades to come.


Missouri legislature concludes veto and extraordinary sessions

The General Assembly approved bills relating to STEM education and state treatment courts

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with additional details.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri General Assembly recently concluded its annual veto session as well as an additional extraordinary session.

Ultimately, the legislature as a whole chose not to override any of the governor’s vetoes, although the House of Representatives did vote to overturn a few line item vetoes in the state’s 2019 operating budget. The Senate confirmed several gubernatorial appointees, and the legislature passed bills dealing with STEM education and drug treatment courts.

Missouri Legislature Concludes Veto and Extraordinary Sessions.Still007

The STEM education bill approved by the legislature, House Bill 3, will allow high school students to take a computer science course, as a substitute for one mathematics, science or practical arts course, to fulfill part of their graduation requirements. It also allows for funding to train computer science instructors and creates a STEM Career Awareness Program for middle school students.

Supporters of the bill hope it will fill a growing demand for workers in computer science and related fields.

“Here in Missouri, 10,000 computer science jobs go unfilled every year because of a lack of graduates in those fields,” Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake Saint Louis, said.

Others voiced concerns that allowing students to swap math for computer science will leave graduates unprepared for the rigors of college-level math. Supporters of the bill argued computer science and math are overlapping disciplines, and so substituting one for the other will not harm a student’s education, especially when the substitution is only for one course.

“Three credits in math,” Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, said, referencing current high school graduation requirements. “One of those credits can be substituted for a vocational training course. Another one of those credits can be substituted by taking an agricultural course. And now that third credit in math can be substituted by taking computer science.”

House Bill 3 contains a provision requiring a student to be “on track” to complete math and science courses that require and end-of-course evaluation under the Missouri school improvement plan, so it’s not clear high school students would be able to forego math entirely and still graduate.

The General Assembly also approved House Bill 2, expanding the state’s drug court system, which helps offenders suffering from addiction become productive members of society. Studies have shown these types of programs lower recidivism rates, leading some lawmakers to support them on the basis of fiscal responsibility.

Under House Bill 2, Missouri’s alternative courts, such as drug and family courts, will be consolidated under one banner: that of “treatment” courts.

“Because treatment courts work,” Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, said. “As we heard in committee, a 49 percent reduction in recidivism rate if you’re looking at it, as defined, as it is, as the individual not coming back and being arrested for a felony offense.”

State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, proposed an amendment to the bill establishing separate courts for mental-health-related offenses. Some supporters of the bill as written argued mental health courts were unnecessary, as mental health already falls under the larger umbrella of “treatment” and is often a concurrent factor in many drug and substance abuse cases.

Nasheed’s amendment was voted down before the Senate gave its final approval to the bill.

During the week’s veto session, the Senate officially welcomed a new member: Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City. Arthur, who won a special election for the seat vacated by former Sen. Ryan Silvey in June, was sworn into office by Missouri Supreme Court Judge Mary Russell.


Previewing the Missouri legislature’s veto and extraordinary sessions

Lawmakers are set to consider a new STEM education program and reforms to drug treatment courts

Language for this article originally appeared in a legislative column for Missouri Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, drafted by Zachary Reger.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A few weeks ago, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson called for an extraordinary session of the Missouri General Assembly to deal with two ongoing legislative issues: STEM education and drug treatment courts.

On Monday, the legislature convened for the extraordinary session, which is currently set to conclude on Friday. On Wednesday, in the midst of the extraordinary session, the legislature will also conduct its annual veto session, when lawmakers consider whether to override any of the governor’s legislative vetoes.

While lawmakers are gathered in Jefferson City, several legislative committees will also meet to address various concerns.

Article IV, Section 9, of the Missouri Constitution grants the governor the power to call the General Assembly into an extraordinary session, so named because it occurs outside of the regular legislative session that runs from January to May of each year. Traditionally, the governor has only exercised this power when there is a pressing need for the legislature to address a certain matter before the start of a new regular session.

One goal of this extraordinary session is to consider a career awareness program for students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, often abbreviated as “STEM.” The legislature will also weigh an expansion of Missouri’s drug treatment courts, which seek to rehabilitate offenders suffering from drug addiction.

The extraordinary session is an effort by the governor to avoid a straight override of two of his vetoes. Parson vetoed Senate Bill 894, which deals with STEM education, after it appeared certain provisions were narrowly tailored to apply to a single company — illegal under Missouri law. He vetoed House Bill 2562, which reforms the state’s drug treatment courts, under the justification that the bill unconstitutionally deals with multiple subjects.

The extraordinary session gives the General Assembly an opportunity to address the governor’s concerns on these bills by passing replacement legislation, as opposed to simply overriding the vetoes with a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and House of Representatives.


Missouri receives grace period extension for Real ID compliance

State-issued IDs may be used for federal purposes until Jan. 22, 2018

Language for this article is taken from a press release from Missouri Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, drafted by Zachary Reger.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The United States Department of Homeland Security has extended the grace period for Missouri to make the switch to federally-compliant forms of personal identification. State-issued IDs, such as a Missouri driver license, may now be used for federal purposes until Jan. 22, 2019.

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act, enacting new federal standards for state-issued identification cards following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The act was aimed at strengthening national security at airports, military bases and various other federal facilities, but some critics raised privacy concerns over its document retention requirement.

Since then, many states have begun the process of switching to more secure forms of identification. Last year, the Missouri General Assembly approved House Bill 151, later signed into law, making future state licenses automatically compliant with Real ID unless an applicant specifically requests a noncompliant license.

According to the Department of Revenue, Missouri has applied for a full extension, through Oct. 10, 2019, for issuing federally-compliant licenses — a request which may still be granted at a later date. The department says it will not be able to issue compliant identification until March 2019.