The Missouri Legislature has adjourned after wrapping up business during the coronavirus outbreak. Legislators passed several key bills, and await the signature of Gov. Mike Parson. They include a measure to let voters repeal a redistricting scheme that was funded by liberal billionaire George Soros.
Budget. The $35.2 billion state budget banks on billions of dollars in federal funding making its way to Missouri’s bank account. If Washington’s help falls short, the state will have to shift cash around to balance the budget. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, anticipates lawmakers to get called back in later this year to make some tweaks to the state’s financials.
Motorcycle helmet repeal. Motorcycle riders 26 years and older could go helmetless if they have their own health insurance. Under the plan sponsored by Representative Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, motorcycle passengers would still be required to wear a helmet.
No stimulus taxes. Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville wants to prevent Missourians from being taxed by the state for their federal coronavirus stimulus payment. He said the money was already free of federal taxes, but was subject to state income taxes. Senate Bill 676 would also require county assessors to do a physical inspection of real estate prior to increasing a property’s assessment more than 15 percent.
Crime. Features of Senate Bill 600 include creating a vehicle hijacking felony offense, defining street gangs and specifying that gang members could face a felony for being part of a gang. Under Luetkemeyer’s bill, criminals found guilty of armed criminal action would also face much stiffer prison sentences, depending on how many times they’ve committed the crime.
Voting by mail. Under Senate Bill 631, sponsored by Hegeman, voters can say they are ill if they are 65 or older, live in a nursing home or have certain health conditions, including heart problems, asthma or chronic lung disease.
Redistricting. Missouri voters will get to decide in November if they should change a legislative redistricting process they passed in 2018. Senate Joint Resolution 38, sponsored by Hegeman, would let a bipartisan commission redraw districts, instead of Clean Missouri’s process of using a nonpartisan demographer. It would also ban lobbyist gifts, instead of Clean Missouri’s $5 limit, and put a $2,000 cap on Senate candidate political donations, instead of the current $2,500. States rights experts have expressed concerns over the influence that George Soros had in passing Cleam Missouri and the implications for having fairly-drawn districts.
Medical marijuana/ Lawmakers passed changes to the state’s new medical marijuana industry. The FBI informed the state health department, which regulates the industry, that DHSS will not have access to its national fingerprint background check database. Representative Lane Roberts, R-Joplin, said his legislation would clear up that problem.
Tort reform. The Legislature has passed new limits on punitive damages in liability lawsuit. The legislation, Senate Bill 591, would allow juries to award punitive damages only when plaintiffs prove by clear and convincing evidence that defendants “intentionally harmed” someone without just cause or acted with “deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others.”
Rape kit testing. Sen. Andrew Koenig’s legislation would require Missouri hospitals to perform a forensic exam using an evidence kit upon the request and consent of a sexual assault victim. Senate Bill 569 would give hospitals access to virtual and in-person training on how to use the kits. It would also require the state to create a centralized place to store unreported rape kits and require those kits to be stored for at least five years.
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice