The Missouri Legislature has some unfinished business to take care of before the session ends this week, including restrictions on initiative ballot petitions and transgenderism. Gov. Mike Parson already has said that if the legislature doesn’t pass transgender healthcare and sports participation restrictions, he will call lawmakers into special session
Here are some of the big issues that legislators could tackle this week, according to St. Louis Public Radio.
Transgenderism. Missouri lawmakers followed several other GOP-leaning states by pursuing legislation curtailing treatments such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy for minors. But it’s likely that the final product will be less restrictive than in some of those other places, because Senate Democrats extracted compromises to exempt transgender youth who already are receiving treatment. The law would expire after four years, which gives Democrats in the upper chamber an opportunity to filibuster any effort to extend it.
Constitutional amendments. For years, Missouri Republicans have sought to make it harder to amend the state’s constitution, primarily through raising the required threshold from a simple majority to 60 percent. That seemed to be where the legislature was going early in the session, but things changed significantly after the Senate approved a ballot item that would raise the threshold to 57 percent, or a simple majority if a proposal gets a majority in five out of eight congressional districts.
Gun restrictions. Because of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s resignation, lawmakers may not take up proposals to exert more state control over the city’s circuit attorney’s office and police department. Those items were part of a multifaceted crime bill. Some GOP lawmakers are hoping that the final version of that legislation will restrict juveniles from carrying guns without adult supervision.
Foreign farm ownership. In 2013, Missouri Republicans overrode Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of legislation that authorized the foreign ownership of farmland. It was seen at the time as a critical piece of legislation after a Hong Kong-based company purchased Smithfield, which has a large footprint throughout rural Missouri.
Democrats have routinely blasted GOP candidates for that vote, contending it amounts to allowing China to buy Missouri farmland. And it’s also become a common attack tactic in GOP primaries against candidates who were in the legislature throughout the early 2010s.
Whatever the political motivations, both parties seem to want to restrict foreign companies from owning Missouri farmland. Given the sizable differences between the House and Senate on this topic, this may be something that has to be revisited in 2024.
Open enrollment. One issue that generated a lot of heat in the early part of the session, but not so much later on, is a plan that would allow students to transfer to adjoining school districts under certain circumstances.
This proposal, widely known as open enrollment, is seen as one avenue for kids in struggling districts to go to better ones. But because the bill barely passed the House, it’s likely to run into bipartisan opposition in the Senate, including from Republicans who represent largely rural areas.
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice