What’s left as lawmakers near mid-session

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri lawmakers are still days away from spring break, but before members leave the city, there’s still a long list of priorities waiting to be addressed.

Spring Break marks the halfway point in the legislative session. Back in January, members on both sides of the aisle said they were optimistic about the year before, but things like legalizing sports betting, investing in childcare and education, and reforming the initiative petition still don’t make it onto the governor’s desk done.

In this final week before the break, the House of Representatives is expected to debate open enrollment, a priority for the Republican leadership. Across the building in the Senate, Senate Majority Chair Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin told R-Shelbina that members should be ready to discuss legislation aimed at the transgender community.

“We’re working on a policy that addresses the transgender issues that we’ve been talking about for more than a year now,” O’Laughlin said. “We’re working closely with the Democratic Group on this and I think we can find a way forward.”

This means the Senate could consider legislation that would ban gender-affirming childcare or ban transgender women from competing on female sports teams. When asked what exactly the upper chamber would discuss, O’Laughlin said the goal was to make it law.

“We’d like to take care of how we’re going to do that in one fell swoop, we haven’t made those decisions yet,” O’Laughlin said Thursday. “We want to make sure we’re listening to everyone in the Chamber and we’re taking into account everyone’s different views and a path that everyone can live with.”

But the issue and the debate do not concern only one party.

“I think there are certain Republicans who are also trying to be a little sensitive to people who would be affected,” said Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence. “It will be extremely difficult for us. It’s just something they really want and are willing to take a lot of extreme options.”

Across the building in the House of Representatives, members are expected to discuss school choices.

“Of course education reform is something we want to address,” said House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, “I think education reform is going criminal. If you give children a good education, they are less likely to have crime.”

Across the aisle, Democrats are concerned that the state will not support the education system if they allow students to attend school outside of their district.

“Our teachers and our schools will receive their help if we are adequately funded,” Rep. Marlene Terry, D-St. Louis said. “They should spend their time putting their efforts into supporting education and issues and teachers, not trying to move students from school to school.”

The Senate earlier this session passed education reform legislation that would create a “parental rights constitution,” restricting discussion of race and establishing a transparency portal for the public to see what a district teaches. This bill has yet to be heard by a House committee.

As for reforming sports betting and unsolicited bidding, O’Laughlin said there will be no debate in the Senate until spring break.

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed legislation to increase the number of votes required to pass a referendum. Currently, all that is needed is a simple majority, i.e. more yes votes than no votes. After the approved measure, voters would have the final say on whether an initiative petition on the ballot should receive at least 60% approval. The bill was heard and passed by a Senate committee and awaits debate on the floor.

Once lawmakers return, there will be full power to finalize a budget and turn it over to the governor by May 5. The next fiscal year’s spending plan is expected to be the largest in the state’s history.

https://fox2now.com/news/missouri/whats-left-as-lawmakers-approach-sessions-halfway-mark/ What’s left as lawmakers near mid-session

Sarah Y. Kim

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