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Government, Politics & Issues

LIVE BLOG: The Last Day Of Missouri’s Legislative Session

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Daniel Shular
/
Special to St. Louis Public Radio
Though it has been a productive session already, lawmakers still have a lot of work left to do on the last day.

It is the final day of the legislative session for the Missouri General Assembly.

Tune in here to follow along. The most recent stories will be on top, so read from the bottom up to get a picture of the day under the dome.

6 p.m. — COVID-19 liability bill caps off session

Missouri lawmakers ended the 2021 legislative session by passing limits on COVID-19-related lawsuits.

Sen. Tony Luetkeymer’s bill would provide curbs to litigation against businesses, churches, manufacturers and health care facilities like nursing homes. Lawsuits would only be successful if an entity “engaged in recklessness or willful misconduct that caused an actual exposure to COVID-19.”

The bill was one of Gov. Mike Parson’s top priorities, primarily because he wanted businesses to be protected from lawsuits.

“Hopefully this will be the last bill,” said House Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann, R-St. Charles County. “But it should have been the first bill we passed at the beginning of the year.

Democrats slammed the bill for shielding nursing homes and long term care facilities that didn’t take enough precautions to prevent people from getting COVID-19. Rep. Ashley Aune, D-Platte County, said it could prompt people to pull their loved ones out of those facilities.

“What bills like this will do is it threatens the longevity of our long term care facilities,” Aune said. “Because people are not going to want to take the risk of leaving their loved ones in a place where there’s no recourse if something awful happens to them.”

5:40 p.m. — Second Amendment Preservation Act goes to Gov. Parson

A bill that declares federal gun laws null and void in Missouri is on its way to the governor’s desk.

With about an hour left in session, the state House passed the Second Amendment Preservation Act on a nearly party-line vote. It passed the state Senate Thursday after a Democratic filibuster.

The measure says state law enforcement officials cannot enforce federal gun laws in the state, except in certain circumstances. Efforts to do so could mean a lawsuit and $50,000 fine against police departments.

Supporters call it a needed check on federal overreach. Opponents call it a dangerous and unconstitutional bill.

Democratic Senators tried to attach an amendment to state law that would have made it illegal for those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence to possess a firearm. There’s similar language in federal law.

2:55 p.m. — Senate’s abrupt adjournment leaves major legislation in limbo

Democratic anger over how they have been treated in the Missouri Senate has boiled over into an abrupt adjournment, bringing the 2021 legislative session to a screeching halt.

Sen. John Rizzo, D-Independence, made the motion to adjourn a little bit after 2 p.m. Friday. Such a motion cannot be debated. That means any legislation that had not yet cleared the chamber is dead for the year, the biggest of which is a renewal of a tax that helps fund the state hospitals.

In retaliation, State Rep. Don Rone, R-Cape Girardeau, pledged to make a motion to send every Senate bill, including conference committee reports, back to the House fiscal review committee.

“We should not be rewarding bad behavior,” Rone said.

The Missouri Senate Chamber sits empty after Senate Democrats adjourned on the final day of the session after a filibuster was held for over two hours on Friday, May 14, 2021, in Jefferson City.
Daniel Shular
The Missouri Senate Chamber sits empty after Senate Democrats adjourned on the final day of the session after a filibuster was held for over two hours on Friday, May 14, 2021, in Jefferson City.

1:43 p.m. — House finally passes online retailer sales tax

Missouri lawmakers have finished work on taxing certain online businesses the same as brick and mortar ones.

The legislature sent a bill to Gov. Mike Parson that would make some online retailers pay sales taxes. It would also pair those taxes with income tax cuts that would be dependent on revenue the state brings in.

Lawmakers said the state needed to level the playing field for stores, especially when more and more people are buying goods online. But Republicans didn’t want to institute the so-called Wayfair tax without subsequent tax cuts.

State Rep. Steve Butz said while he wasn’t completely enamored with the bill, he was happy that lawmakers included an earned income tax credit in the final product.

State Rep. Peter Merideth said that he wanted to support the final bill — but added that the GOP-controlled legislature pursuit of tax cuts was a nonstarter.

1:23 p.m. — House votes to lift tuition caps

The Missouri House has sent a bill to Gov. Mike Parson that would lift the tuition caps in place at the state’s universities

The measure takes effect in July 2022. A priority of the University of Missouri system, it allows for charging more for degrees that need a lot of supplies or infrastructure, like engineering or science. Right now, the extra costs are covered by course fees charged to those students.

Universities would have to let the state’s higher education department know they are using differentiated tuition, and could not charge course fees. Supporters say it creates more transparency in the cost of college.

The measure also allows student athletes to benefit financially from the use of their names, images or likenesses.

While the bill got wide, bipartisan support, many Democrats said the General Assembly needed to make sure it boosted funding for higher education.

1 p.m. — Democrats start last hours of session with a filibuster

With less than seven hours remaining before the end of session, Democrats in the Senate seem to be mounting a filibuster that could grind any action to a halt.

The move looks to be a reaction to Democrats’ frustration over not being included in some negotiations and Republicans going back on some deals.

“After the way I was treated and my caucus was treated yesterday, I don’t feel like there is a reason to move forward on anything today,” said Sen. John Rizzo, D-Independence. “We tried to sit down with leadership, and tried to come to an agreement. Their word is no good.”

Further evidence of plans to filibuster today came from Sen. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, who said to a colleague who had been speaking for more than an hour, “I can take over for a little bit.”

The Senate’s day started with an update on the health of Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, who is missing on the last day recovering from exhaustion. He fainted at the Capitol last night, but is reportedly ok.

Work to be done

There’s a major but temporary proposal to change primary voting that some say is designed to make it harder for Eric Greitens to win the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
Lawmakers also need to decide if they are going to tax online retailers the same as brick-and-mortar ones, known in shorthand as the Wayfair tax.

Perhaps the most pressing item to complete is legislation renewing a tax on medical providers, such as hospitals, that’s used to drum up revenue for the state’s Medicaid program. If that doesn’t pass, Gov. Mike Parson will have to call a special session.

Lawmakers have until 6 p.m. today to finish their work. They will at least be coming back later in the year to work on congressional redistricting.

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Daniel Shular
The members of the Missouri legislature meet for the final day of the session at the Missouri State Capitol Building on Friday, May 14, 2021, in Jefferson City.

10:40 a.m. — Good morning from Jefferson City

It is the final day of the legislative session for the Missouri General Assembly.

Tune in here to follow along. The most recent stories will be on top, so read from the bottom up to get a picture of the day under the dome.

It’s been a productive final week for lawmakers so far. They’ve passed a gas tax increase, a prescription drug monitoring program, and a comprehensive overhaul of law enforcement policy.

— Jonathan Ahl and Rachel Lippmann

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