It's been an eventful week at the State Capitol. Tuesday, July 14, was the deadline for the governor to sign legislation approved during the 2020 session. He put his pen to 17 bills during the final days, bringing the total number of measures signed to 45. Of the 29 statutory bills passed by the Legislature, the governor vetoed two: House Bill 1854, which modifies provisions relating to political subdivisions, and Senate Bill 718, which relates to veterans, service men and women and their families. The two vetoes are in addition to line-item vetoes of specific appropriations in 11 of the 18 budget bills passed this year.
The governor cited what he deemed to be an excessive number of provisions relating to different topics as his reason for striking HB 1854. Missouri’s Constitution says legislation must be limited to a single subject, and the governor said he believed this bill violated that requirement. The good news is many of the provisions of HB 1854 were duplicates of measures contained in other bills the governor approved. As an example, legislation I authored to distribute remaining money in the Ripley County Hospital Trust Fund was part of the vetoed HB 1854, but that measure will still go forward as it was also included in House Bill 1682. One provision that did not survive, however, would have freed third-class counties from undergoing review by the state auditor if they were recently audited by a CPA. This portion of the bill began as Senate Bill 615, which I introduced at the behest of local officials in my district.
Senate Bill 718 was largely a mirror of a similar measure relating to veterans, Senate Bill 656. The major difference between the two versions was a provision creating a new cabinet level Department of Military Forces, which would assume oversight of the Adjutant General’s office from the Department of Public Safety. Although the governor said he supported creating the new department, the Legislature failed to pass a corresponding and necessary resolution asking voters to amend the Constitution.
The General Assembly will convene in September for a required veto session, at which time we can attempt to override the governor’s actions. Since most of the provisions contained in the two vetoed bills are duplicated in other bills, I don’t expect much activity to take place.
Perhaps the bigger news this week is the governor’s announcement of an extraordinary session focused on addressing violent crime in Missouri. A 22-year veteran of law enforcement, the governor said his decision to call lawmakers back to Jefferson City was prompted by rapid increases in crime, with both Kansas City and St. Louis reporting an alarming number of homicides this year.
The governor has asked legislators to consider six new provisions during the extraordinary session, which is scheduled to begin July 27. Specifically, he calls for passage of legislation relating to unlawful transfers of weapons to minors, child endangerment, the certification of juveniles for trial as adults, the creation of a witness protection fund, the admissibility of certain witness statements and residency requirements for police officers in St. Louis.
The scope of legislation the General Assembly may consider during an extraordinary session is limited to the specific proposals outlined in the governor’s call. So far, the governor has indicated calls to limit police use of force or make changes to Missouri’s gun laws should be addressed during a regular legislative session in the future. He stated he doesn’t believe legislators can settle such contentious issues during a special session expected to last just one week.
I’ll be sure to keep you informed about whatever the Legislature accomplishes during the upcoming extraordinary session. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to vote on Aug. 4. As I discussed in my legislative column last week, your vote during the August primary will determine the outcome in five of the seven races for Missouri House of Representatives seats that overlap my Senate district. Also, voters will be asked to determine whether Missouri’s Medicaid program should expand, perhaps providing taxpayer-funded health care to several hundred thousand additional residents of our state. As Medicaid already accounts for nearly 40 percent of the state budget, your vote will have a tremendous impact of the future of Missouri.
It is my great honor to represent the citizens of the 33rd Senatorial District. Although the Legislature has adjourned for 2020, I remain your senator throughout the year. If there’s anything that I can do to assist you, please feel free to contact my Capitol office at 573-751-1882.