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Missouri governor threatens to call special session to restrict the rights of transgender kids

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson speaks on Monday, April 24, 2023, during remarks kicking off St. Louis Tech Week at World Wide Technology’s world headquarters in Maryland Heights.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson speaks on Monday, April 24, 2023, during remarks kicking off St. Louis Tech Week at World Wide Technology’s world headquarters in Maryland Heights.

While the Missouri House and Senate have both passed their own versions of bills restricting access for gender-affirming health care and sports participation for transgender youth, no bill has passed both chambers. With two weeks remaining in session, Parson said he’s prepared to call lawmakers back to pass the bills.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson says if the legislature is unable to pass bills restricting gender-affirming health care and sports participation for transgender youth, he is prepared to call a special session.

Parson made the comments Thursday with only two weeks remaining in this year’s regular legislative session.

The governor said he firmly believes both bills will be approved this session but wants to be ready if that doesn’t happen.

“If we don't get it done in session, we're going to go right into another session in a special session to complete both of those. Those two things are probably a priority in this state,” Parson said.

Both the House and the Senate have passed legislation that would bar transgender athletes from participating in school sport teams that align with their gender identity as well as bills that restrict access to gender-affirming health care for minors.

However, no bills have made it through both chambers yet.

Parson said he only wants the restrictions on gender-affirming health care to apply to minors, not adults.

“I've always said, when you're an adult, you're an adult in this state, and we're going to recognize that and you have rights to do what you want, whether everybody agrees with it or not, as long as it's legal and lawful in the rules of the state, you have every right to do that,” Parson said.

The governor’s comments came one day after a judge issued a temporary block on new emergency rules from Attorney General Andrew Bailey, a Parson appointee, restricting access on gender-affirming care to both transgender minors and adults.

Bailey has said the rules would affect transgender adults. However, Parson said Thursday that Bailey’s rules were targeted toward health care providers, not to transgender adults.

With the possibility of a special session looming, Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said the bills will be passed this session.

“The House is going to pass our bill. We've done our work, and everything else is hypothetical,” Rowden said.

The Senate’s version of the health care bill includes an expiration date of four years on the bans of some gender-affirming care like puberty blockers and hormone treatment.

It also includes a grandfather clause, allowing transgender minors who are currently receiving gender-affirming care to continue that care.

The Senate’s bill on transgender sport restrictions also expires after four years.

The House’s version of the healthcare bill is stricter, but Rowden said they will not pass either of the House’s bills, meaning the House must pass the Senate’s legislation to get the bills to Parson’s desk.

Speaker of the House Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, said the House versions of the bills are more conservative than the Senate’s.

“We'd be happy too if the Senate could actually take up and actually have a good discussion on what we sent them,” Plocher said.

However, Plocher also said everything is on the table on getting those bills to Parson.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said she doesn't know what the plan is and doesn’t think Republicans on either side of the building know either.

“They don't know how to govern. All they know how to do is to use culture wars as talking points. And unfortunately, this population of very vulnerable children especially, is the target of the year,” Quade said.

Interstate 70 plan and DEI language

Parson also spoke Thursday on the widening of Interstate 70 and anti-DEI language the House has approved in its version of the budget.

Parson supports the Senate’s decision to expand on his nearly $860 million plan to widen Interstate 70.

Instead of $860 million for sections in the St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City areas, the Senate wants to spend $1.8 billion to expand the entirety of I-70 to three lanes in each direction.

“We wanted to at least build the foundation and then let the legislators go from there. If they wanted to add to that, we were fine to whatever that was going to be,” Parson said.

On the anti-diversity, equity and inclusion language that the Senate didn’t put in its version of the budget, Parson said it’s better to pass such policies in issues legislation as opposed to in the budget.

Copyright 2023 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Sarah Kellogg is St. Louis Public Radio’s Statehouse and Politics Reporter, taking on the position in August 2021. Sarah is from the St. Louis area and even served as a newsroom intern for St. Louis Public Radio back in 2015.
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