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Child care to gambling: Missouri Legislature has full agenda in 2024

The 2024 Missouri legislative session began on Wednesday with a full agenda of issues that can have an impact on everyday life. What can Missourians expect?

“There will be shenanigan days; hopefully those are outnumbered by the normal ones,” Senate President Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, says.

House leadership is expecting fewer pieces of legislation to make it to the governor’s desk this year.

“I expect fewer bills, but I think we want to pass quality bills instead of quantity,” House Majority Leader Jon Patterson, R-Lee’s Summit, said. “I think at the end of the day, we’ll be fine.”

One topics expected to be debated over the next five months is improving access to child care, a bipartisan issue that fell short of the finish line last year.

“You have people out there making decisions on whether or not the job is more affordable if they are going to take it or if it’s cheaper to stay home,” Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, said. “That is diminishing our workforce, and it should be a top priority.”

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce said the state’s economy has lost out on more than $1.3 billion because of a lack of child care providers. One of the governor’s priorities last year was child care tax credits for businesses, providers and families. Lawmakers failed to enact it, and it’s expected to be one of Gov. Mike Parson’s priorities again this year.

Getting kids in day care so people can work really affects the workforce that we have in Missouri,” Patterson said. “Anything we can do to get people back to work. Get working families some assistance, I think, will go a long way.”

Another big-ticket item includes changes to the initiative petition process and how Missourians amend the Constitution.

“I think Missouri voters deserve a greater transparency in what we’re putting into the constitution,” House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, said. “I think it needs to be vetted more. I think information and dissemination of that information on what we’re putting into our Constitution is very important.”

Missourians also can expect a conversation about education, including open enrollment and charter school expansion.

“Nobody is saying that public education is knocking it out of the ballpark, right?” Rowden said. “So there’s some ways we can partner, things we can do, choices are good for parents and that’s not always the traditional public option.”

With the topic of sports betting on the minds of many in the Show-Me State, a pathway forward is unlikely. “Especially with all the states around us, it makes no sense to me,” Rizzo said. “I wish that both sides would sit down and try to figure out a compromise so people can get the services they want.”

Besides the budget, lawmakers are required to renew the federal reimbursement allowance program. It’s a tax that is critical to the state’s Medicaid funding, paid for by health- care providers. Back in 2021, the General Assembly failed to get it done in time, forcing them into a special session.

–Alan Goforth | MV

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