Halftime arrives for Missouri 2018 legislative session | St. Louis Public Radio

Halftime arrives for Missouri 2018 legislative session

Mar 16, 2018

Missouri lawmakers have left Jefferson City for their annual spring break.

Republican leaders are touting their accomplishments and suggesting that the scandal surrounding Gov. Eric Greitens has had little effect on the day-to-day business of the legislature.

“The ship of state is sailing in clear waters,” said Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin. “The (House) Speaker and I, and the two majority leaders, have a clear path forward of knowing what we want to do and how (we) want to accomplish this, and we’re moving.”

“We’ve passed substantive, meaningful legislation in nearly every major policy area that we set out to at the beginning of session, and we’ve had one of the best working relationships we’ve had with the Missouri Senate in a long time,” said Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff. “I don’t think it’s been a distraction that’s prevented us from doing the things that the people of Missouri sent us here to do.”

Democrats, including House Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty of Kansas City, disagreed.

“It’s a constant distraction,” she said. “I met with the consulate general of Canada this week, and that was a topic of conversation – what’s going on with our governor.”

While only one bill has been signed by the governor so far this year, an effort to stem sex trafficking, the Senate has sent more than 60 bills to the House. They include one requiring most criminal suspects under the age of 18 to be tried as juveniles. Another would legalize hemp for industrial use. It’s sponsored by Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, briefs the media as lawmakers prepare to leave for spring break.
Credit Tim Bommel | Missouri House Communications

“It (would) provide an alternative crop here in Missouri, one that had been grown widely across the state prior to the 1930’s,” he said.

In addition to rope and soap, hemp can be used to produce CBD oil, which is legal in Missouri – its medical uses include treating children with autism. Munzlinger said state and local prosecutors have been the main obstacle, due to hemp being in the same botanical family as marijuana.

“The two do not go together,” he said. “Industrial hemp (has) low THC levels, and marijuana (growers) want high THC.”

The House has sent 162 bills, including resolutions, to the Senate, including one passed Thursday making it illegal for welfare recipients to use their benefit cards, known as EBT, to withdraw cash from ATM’s. Democrat Karla May of St. Louis blasted the bill.

“You have to have cash to go to the laundromat,” she said. “You have to have cash to catch the bus, because these people have to catch the bus sometimes to go to the store to get things for their children.”

Supporters argued that using the cards for cash withdrawals makes it possible for recipients to spend state aid on liquor, pornography and other prohibited items.

House members are scheduled to vote on the state budget the week they return from spring break. Senate leaders are planning to focus on bills designed to reduce the number of lawsuits filed in Missouri.

Follow Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallGReport