With plenty on agenda, Missouri lawmakers gear up for final weeks of legislative session

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri lawmakers, by state constitutional rule, must adjourn by next Friday, and there are still a handful of items left on the agenda. 

Besides passing a budget, one of Gov. Mike Parson’s top priorities this session still hasn’t passed the finish line. COVID-19 liability would protect businesses, churches and schools from lawsuits regarding the pandemic. 

The Senate majority leader said he feels good heading into the last two weeks of session. 

“Nothing this week makes me think we’re not going to end the session on a high note and get some key things done and pass a bunch of local priorities for folks, so I remain optimist at the moment,” Sen. Calen Rowden, R-Columbia, said last Thursday. 

The legislature now has less than two weeks to get bills passed before they adjourn for the summer. Senate Minority Floor Leader John Rizzo, D-Kansas City, said Democrats normally stand their ground during the last few days. 

“We play a lot more defense in these next couple of weeks, and we’re ready to work with the majority and reasonable legislators and senators across the aisle to get good stuff passed,” Rizzo said. 

Last week, the General Assembly agreed to not fund Medicaid expansion. Voters approved expansion on the August ballot, and it goes into effect July 1. It’s now up to the governor if he’s going to expand Medicaid to those eligible under the constitution later this summer. 

“Our position is to really try to make sure that nothing catastrophic, nothing else catastrophic in my opinion because not passing Medicaid was pretty bad,” Rizzo said. 

With a deadline of May 14, lawmakers are working all five days this week in the Capitol. 

“Find important subject matters and find some places to load some stuff up to get to conference,” Rowden said. “It’s what it always looks like at the end.”

Still left on the agenda, Rowden said he wants the Senate to take up education reform. The House has previously passed legislation to establish the “Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program,” giving tax credits to help pay for tuition, fees and education expenses.

“I’ve been working with folks on all sides of the issue and both sides of the aisle on a compromise that a bunch of folks on our side could live with,” Rowden said. “I think the House has some concern that if we send something back to them, then they won’t be able to get it through.” 

Parson’s agenda for lawmakers included passing COVID liability protection and Wayfair tax, an online sales tax for any business outside of Missouri. The budget is another big item that needs to be resolved. 

“We still have the Capitol budget to do as well and take that to conference unless we’re able to get that agreed to ahead of time,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, said. 

Hegeman said he expects the two chambers to start conferencing to find a compromise for the budget on Wednesday. Lawmakers are required to have a budget to the governor Friday. 

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