KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Legislative sessions wrapped up in both Missouri and Kansas last week, but that doesn’t mean the work is over for lawmakers.
Tim Carpenter with the Kansas Reflector, and Jason Hancock of the Missouri Independent join FOX4’s John Holt and Kansas City Star Editorial Board member Dave Helling on the latest episode of “4Star Politics.”
The latest session in Jefferson City was historic as lawmakers approved a statewide prescription drug monitoring program, a hike in the gas tax, and addressed school choice issues.
But that’s not what will likely be remembered about the 2021 session.
“It will be most remembered for that they didn’t do,” Hancock said. “They did not fund the expansion of Medicaid that voters asked them to do.”
Hancock agreed with Holt and Helling that the issue of Medicaid expansion, and how to pay for it, will likely end up in court for the Missouri Supreme Court to decide.
Hancock also pointed out that Missouri lawmakers didn’t pass a bill they’ve been passing for 30 years that would implement a tax on healthcare providers in order to pay for Medicaid. It’s a tax that brings in $2 billion for the state.
“Those are the two big things they didn’t get done. They’re gonna have long-lasting implications,” Hancock said.
It was also a tough session for lawmakers in Topeka.
Lawmakers discussed a lot of the same issues they always do, such as education, concealed carry and abortion. But, COVID-19 really changed the way issues were handled.
“One of the primary motivations of Republicans was to strap down Gov. Laura Kelly,” Carpenter said. “They did that by restricting her authority to spend money and make decisions about the pandemic.”
But, Kelly did get lawmakers to approve $20 million in school funding for K-12 education. It’s money that districts expected to receive, but it’s also funding lawmakers could have cut.
Kelly campaigned on expanding Medicaid, but that did not pass during the 2021 session. A medical marijuana bill didn’t pass either, and voters haven’t heard the end of it.
Missouri voters haven’t either.
According to the state constitution 225,000 additional people will be eligible for Medicaid on July 1, 2021. It was an amendment voters passed last year.
Right now there is no way to fund that expansion. Lawmakers did not include it in the budget that Governor Parson signed.
The issue is likely to head to the courts, and it could take months before there is a decision.
“Advocates for expansion are telling people to find out if they are eligible and to sign up. If you’re denied, that’s the next bridge to cross,” Hancock said.
Lawmakers on both sides of the state line also discussed the prospects of legalizing sports gambling. Again, each state has specific issues with the topic.
“There’s a lot of people who have an interest in sports gambling, the problem is they can’t agree on who’s going to get the money,” Carpenter said. “One faction wants the Kansas Lottery to run it and have 2,000 retailers and sports gambling items at gas stations. The other faction wants casinos to control the process.”
In Missouri, the debate is more focused on legalizing video lottery terminals that are popping up across the state.
“Fans argue that they’re not actually gambling, even though they look and sort of function, essentially as a slot machine. But there’s a lot of pushback from that industry. And their losses have been essentially a mixture of those for the free market,” Hancock said.
There is also a strange dynamic playing out in the Missouri Senate, according the Hancock, who covered the session extensively. He said lawmakers are splitting into almost three parties. It’s something Kansas has seen for years. There are conservative Republicans, moderate Republicans and Democrats.
That makes everything just a little more difficult.
“There is a lot of tension and anger right now, and it’s sort of spilling out into the whole building,” Hancock said. “And you can see evidence on the last day of the session in the Senate adjourning four hours early, completely broken.”
Those relationships are only expected to get worse as lawmakers inch closer to the 2022 election.
Watch the full episode of 4Star Politics in the above video player.
FOX4 and The Kansas City Star are partnering to bring you 4Star Politics, a special digital venture with new episodes released Wednesdays at 5 p.m.