JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Now that the state elections are over in Missouri, lawmakers are in Jefferson City for another special session.
It’s the second special session for legislators in less than six months. The General Assembly adjourned in the middle of September for Gov. Mike Parson’s anti-crime package. This time lawmakers are back to discuss CARES Act funding.
“I think the governor is doing the right thing in calling us back in to try and get some of this budget issue straightened out,” said Sen. Ed Emery, R-Barton County. “We didn’t deal with it in the last special session, and I think that’s because that special session ended up being more complicated.”
“We came back previously and gave the governor broad power as far as how we are going to use this funding,” said Rep. Steve Roberts, D-St. Louis. “I don’t think we necessarily need to come back.”
Parson called lawmakers back two days after the election to talk about $1.2 billion in CARES Act funding in hopes to distribute it across the state.
“He needs to be working with everyone to make it successful, unlike the last failed special session,” said House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield.
“I think it is important that we come back,” said Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Kansas City. “The state received some additional federal dollars that are going to be part of the ongoing COVID relief efforts.”
The governor called for a special session to reduce violent crime at the end of July, which lasted until September. That special session cost more than the two previous special sessions combined. The long session cost taxpayers $214,652.73.
“The last special session he called us back for cost just over $200,000 and he laid out seven different priorities and we barely passed any of them,” Quade said.
One of those provisions that passed was the creation of a witness protection fund, but it currently doesn’t have any funding.
“That particular fund was not funded during the regular session, so one thing the governor is going to have us do is come back to fund that program,” said Luetkemeyer, one of the bill’s sponsors.
Democrats said the governor is hiding the agenda for this second special session.
“I feel like I’m kind of going up there in the dark,” Roberts said. “Hopefully there’s a clear-cut plan because there are people who are struggling to make their rent payments.”
“We are asking what you (the governor) are wanting us to come back for. Can you give us some information, especially considering we are dealing with appropriations within the budget and we need to know exactly what it is that the governor is wanting from us,” Quade said.
Republicans said distributing these funds and discussing COVID-19 liability is needed.
“It could be costly for the state if we don’t address some of these budget issues, and it could be very costly for the state if we don’t address the COVID liability issues as well,” Emery said.
According to the Chief Clerk for the House of Representatives Dana Rademan Miller said this session is expected to cost the House $126,834.38 and be much shorter than the last session. Overall, this special session could cost around $140,000 for both the House and Senate.