© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
The Midwest Newsroom is a partnership between NPR and member stations to provide investigative journalism and in-depth reporting.

What will the Missouri legislature do in 2024? Here's what Kansas City lawmakers want

 Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City
Harrison Sweazea
Missouri Senate Communications
Sen. Lauren Arthur (D-Kansas City) has filed a bill that would repeal Missouri's ban on abortion. It's one of six bill son the issue that have been pre-filed so far ahead of the 2024 legislative session.

From cutting taxes on groceries to legalizing sports betting and easing abortion restrictions, a look at hundreds of pre-filed bills in Missouri offers a glimpse into what Kansas City-area lawmakers hope to accomplish.

Missouri’s legislative session is less than one month away, and lawmakers are already working to make sure their priorities have a chance to become law next year.

In the Kansas City area, several lawmakers have pre-filed legislation focusing on easing the effects of inflation and restricting celebratory gunfire.

Many of the hundreds of bills lawmakers submit in December won’t even get a hearing, much less become law. But sometimes the process reveals what’s on lawmakers’ minds as they look to the year ahead.

The 2024 legislative session will begin Wednesday, Jan. 3.

Easing sales taxes on food and hygiene products

There were lots of proposals to cut taxes or exempt items from sales tax — everything from food to feminine hygiene products and diapers to bingo cards.

Rep. Robert Sauls (D-Independence) proposed a bill eliminating Missouri’s sales tax on groceries.

Missouri is just one of 13 states that tax groceries. Kansas passed a law in 2022 that will phase out the food sales tax by 2025.

Sauls said the bill would ease the financial burden inflation has put on Missourians. He pushed a similar law last year unsuccessfully.

“A lot of Missourians have had to struggle with a pinch on their pocket book,” Sauls said. “What I hear from constituents is that some of the cost of things over the past few years has impacted them and this is a way to correct that.”

A man wearing a blue windbreaker stands in front of a courthouse. There is a statue of Harry Truman next to him.
Savannah Hawley
KCUR 89.3
Democratic House Rep. Robert Sauls of Independence.

In a separate bill, Rep. Chris Sander (R-Lone Jack) proposed similar legislation that would effectively end the sales tax on groceries.

Other area lawmakers want to cut even further and reduce the sales tax for other day-to-day essentials.

Reps. Maggie Nurrenbern (D-Kansas City) and Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City) filed bills that would restrict the sales tax on diapers and feminine hygiene products from exceeding the rate at which groceries are taxed. On the Senate side, Clay County Democrat Lauren Arthur proposed a bill that would create a tax exemption on the purchase of diapers.

Sauls said he hopes to collaborate with other representatives working on similar bills that would make it easier for Missourians to make ends meet.

“Ideally we could have a joint bill that addresses all of it,“ Sauls said. “The attempt is to ease the burden on consumers and citizens.”

Hot-button issues remain top of mind

It appears legislators will try once again to find consensus on sports gambling in Missouri.

Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer (R-Parkville) filed legislation to legalize sports betting. Past efforts to legalize sports gambling have fallen short in Missouri, even as nearby states like Kansas and Illinois have legalized it.

Clay County Sen. Lauren Arthur (D-Kansas City) has proposed a bill that would repeal Missouri’s ban on abortion — one of a half-dozen bills filed in the House and Senate to either loosen or further restrict the procedure in the state.

On the other side of the aisle, Jefferson County Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R-Arnold) introduced a bill that would prohibit any public funding from going toward any abortion-related services.

 State Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, speaks at a rally held by LGBTQ advocacy organization PROMO early February on the steps of the Missouri Capitol. “We may lose the battle, but we will win the war,” he said.
Annelise Hanshaw
Missouri Independent
State Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, speaks at a rally held by LGBTQ advocacy organization PROMO early February on the steps of the Missouri Capitol. “We may lose the battle, but we will win the war,” he said.

Schools and diversity were also the topic of several bills.

Nurrenbern pre-filed legislation banning corporal punishment in any school districts or charter schools in Missouri. Sharp filed a bill that would make the observation of Black History Month a requirement in Missouri schools.

State Sen. Greg Razer (D-Kansas City) proposed prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The law would ban any type of gender or sexual orientation discrimination in housing, loan applications, employment or membership of an organization.

In an interview in July, Razer told The Pitch he believed Missouri had reached “rock bottom” when it came to LGBTQIA+ rights after a year of legislation targeting the rights of transgender Missourians.

Also among opening-day filings were several efforts to change election procedures, including a bill by Blue Springs Republican Dan Stacy that would require party registration for months before voting in a primary election in order to vote in it.

Blair’s Law

Sharp also filed a bill renewing efforts to establish Blair’s Law, a law banning celebratory gunfire within the limits of a municipality.

The law is named after Blair Shanahan Lane, an 11-year-old Kansas City girl killed during Fourth of July celebrations in 2011 by a stray bullet shot into the sky.

The law was passed by the House and Senate last year before Gov. Mike Parson vetoed the legislation.

Sharp said he’s confident Blair’s Law will pass this year, but vowed to keep introducing the legislation until it’s made into law.

“There are far too many instances in this state and unfortunately in our urban areas where people simply just lack the care they need to have with firearms,” Sharp said, noting that just last month, another11-year old girl was paralyzed by indiscriminate gunfire in Kansas City.

Sharp said he feels the bill will have the full support of the legislature in 2024 and noted that in Parson’s 2023 veto letter he stated he supported Blair’s Law but not the other laws included in Senate Bill 189.

“We still have people being shot and people scared in their communities,” he added.

Kavahn Mansouri is the Midwest Newsroom's investigative reporter. Contact him at kmansouri@kcur.org
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.