Missouri’s lawmakers return to the Capitol in Jefferson City this week for the first session under Gov. Mike Parson. There’s a host of issues on the agenda for General Assembly’s 100th session, and here’s a look at the major ones.
After voters rejected a gas tax increase in November, lawmakers have to find money to pay for road and bridge maintenance and construction. Solutions won’t be easy.
“Frankly, I don’t know where we go next,” said Kansas City Democratic Rep. Greg Razer, who served on the task force that recommended the tax hike. “I know this is something the governor is passionate about, and as a Democrat, I’m more than happy to get together and work with him to try and fix our roads and bridges.”
Rep. Jeff Messenger, R-Greene County, prefiled a bill for the second year in a row that would tie vehicle registration fees to inflation, a plan he says would provide much needed revenue. It’s similar to what new House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, proposed last session as part of a tax reform package, but was later removed from the final bill.
An increased gas tax would have brought in an estimated $437 million in revenue for road and bridge improvements. Missouri ranks 46th among states in road funding, according to federal statistics.
Prescription-drug monitoring program
Will this be the year Missouri joins the rest of the nation in establishing a statewide prescription drug monitoring program? With Gov. Mike Parson on board, momentum seems to be moving that way.
Freshman Sen. Tony Luektemeyer, R-Parkville, prefiled legislation on the issue. His predecessor, Rob Schaaf, was one of the leading opponents to the plan.
“It's a huge issue in northwest Missouri and around the state, the opioid epidemic is one of the leading, non-natural preventable causes of death,” Luetkemeyer said. “These are common sense tools that we can give to physicians and other prescribers to make sure that they're not over prescribing these drugs which are needed for treatment, but at the same time, if abused, can lead to really tragic outcomes.”
Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, prefiled a similar bill in the House. She has been the leading proponent of the issue in the past few sessions.
Cleaning up Clean Missouri
Parson and other Republicans have indicated they want to make changes to Amendment 1, otherwise known as Clean Missouri, which passed by a large margin in November.
In particular, they’re objecting to the new process for drawing state legislative maps. Instead of fairness, they contend it’s aimed at reducing Republicans’ power. Democrats say they will fight any such plan.
Voters would have to approve any changes to Amendment 1, as it now part of the state’s constitution.
At the very least, some Republicans are seeking to change the state’s petition and initiative process by increasing the amount of signatures required and raising the threshold for passage.
“We are a democratic republic, not a pure democracy,” said Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville. “By going where you have so many initiative petitions that are financed by both liberals and very right-wing people from out of state and bringing millions of dollars in to try and change our constitution, it’s something I’m very concerned about.”
Sater said his concerns predated the passage of the redistricting measure and medical marijuana in November, as well as voters overturning right to work in August’s primary. But, he added, the general election proved his point.
Samuel King is the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter: @SamuelKingNews