Lawmakers representing district in the Kansas City metropolitan area have introduced hundreds of bills to this year's session of the Missouri General Assembly.
Some of the bills, like a statewide prescription drug monitoring program or banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, have been priorities for years but didn't get to the governor's desk. Other proposals, like those dealing with violent crimes, have come into focus with a climb in homicides.
KCUR talked with eight local lawmakers to find out what they’re prioritizing this session.
Sen. Dan Hegeman, Republican
District 12 (part of Clay County and 14 others in northwest Missouri); Majority Caucus Chairman Elected: 2014
Top priorities: As the chairman of the Senate appropriations committee, Hegeman’s prime concern is the state budget.
He’s also keen on instituting an internet sales tax, though he’s not sponsoring that bill. Missouri is one of the few states without one following a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision that lets states tax purchases from out-of-state businesses. The area of contention is where the money would go: Some lawmakers want to see it offset by a tax decrease while others want it to go into a rainy-day fund.
Hegeman would rather take a wait-and-see approach, adding “I really want to make sure that we have the revenues come in, and that we know what exactly the amount of money that we'll be dealing with.”
Hegeman is sponsoring a constitutional amendment that would roll back a key provision from the so-called “Clean Missouri” constitutional amendment that passed in 2018. An Associated Press analysis says Clean Missouri's focus on competitiveness and partisan fairness when drawing state legislative districts would likely result in Democrats picking up some seats. Hegeman's proposal, which would have to get voter’s approval, would make competitiveness and partisan fairness the last criteria considered.
Sen. Lauren Arthur, Democrat
District 17 (part of Clay County)
Top priorities: Arthur said her focus this session is on legislation dealing with education, health care and making sure people can pay for “living necessities” like child care.
One bill would allow teachers to get a tax deduction for buying supplies for their classrooms. Another would require health insurance policies to cover mammograms for women who have an above-average risk for breast cancer.
“We've seen in recent months that the Clay County Commission hasn't been held accountable and citizens are running out of tools to hold their commissioners accountable,” Arthur said, “specifically around the citizen-led audit and [the commissioner’s] refusal to cooperate and turn over documents that should be public and are in the interest of transparency and good governance.”
Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, Republican
District 34 (Buchanan and Platte counties)
Top priorities: Luetkemeyer said he’s looking to pass legislation dealing with violent crime.
This includes a measure that would prohibit someone who is found guilty of second-degree murder or a dangerous felony involving a deadly weapon from getting probation. Another bill would change the minimum prison term for armed criminal action from three years to five years and increase the number of years someone has to serve before being eligible for parole.
“I think that this really responds to a lot of the concern right now that people have about gun-related crimes,” Luetkemeyer said. “My perspective is that we need to be attacking the crime at the point of the crime as opposed to infringing upon the rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Rep. Greg Razer, Democrat
District 25 (Kansas City)
Top priorities: Razer has introduced bills that look to stem gun violence. One would create a so-called “red-flag law,” which would allow a court to temporarily take someone’s gun if they are deemed to pose a significant risk to themselves or others. Another would require a background check before purchasing a firearm.
For the fourth year, Razer is sponsoring the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We are slowly but surely — very slowly — seeing increases in the amount of support we're getting on the other side of the aisle,” Razer said. “It's been filed by both myself and Representative Tom Hannegan, Republican from St. Charles. And it's time we get the leadership of the GOP to take this issue seriously and to care enough to put it before the legislature.”
Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove, Democrat
District 26 (Kansas City)
Top priorities: Several of Bland Manlove’s bills deal with criminal justice and law enforcement.
She’s proposing that people should be able to sue (civil action) someone who calls the police with the intention of discrimination. This came after national coverage of white people calling the police on black people for doing things like napping in a dorm’s common room or sitting at a Starbucks.
“My goal is to get those conversations started,” Bland Manlove said. “Even though we've picked up an extra [House] seat, we're still in the super minority. So it'll be a lot of negotiations back and forth with us and the majority party to get our bills even heard [in a committee].”
Rep. Doug Richey, Republican
District 38 (Excelsior Springs)
Top priorities: As a member of the House Budget Committee, Richey said his focus is on approving a balanced budget.
Richey also has introduced a bill that requires traditional public schools and charter schools to equally divide local aid by student; it would exclude any grant or charity money. If passed, Kansas City Public Schools would be giving charters about $9.4 million, according to the fiscal note.
Another focus is expanding the Missouri Law Enforcement Assistance Program, which gives state money to local police departments for things like community policy.
“Violent crime and education are certainly going to be a part of a lot of conversations that I'm having going into this session,” Richey said.
Rep. Jerome Barnes, Democrat
District 28 (Raytown)
“People, you know, get into their own little world and they threaten officials that they’re going to beat them up after the game,” Barnes said. “Now, instead of the official concentrating on the game, he’s concentrating on whether he’s going to get beat up after the game.”
Rep. Brenda Shields, Republican
District 11 (St. Joseph)
Top priorities: Most of Shields’ bills deal with education, including raising the minimum teacher’s salary by $1,000 a year for seven years and allowing students to use their A+ scholarship toward a bachelor’s degree.
Shields said she introduced a bill requiring bleeding-control kits in every classroom after reading that a choir teacher at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, used a gunshot wound kit to dress wounds from a school shooting.
“The fiscal note on this will be about $1.6 million to be able to provide Stop The Bleed Kit for every classroom,” Shields said. “And when I was asked about why don't we just provide a Stop The Bleed kit just in every school, I said, ‘Well, just think about it, though, by the time it takes someone to run to the nurse's station and find a Stop The Bleed Kit to bring it back, it might be too late.’”
Two notable absences
Large parts of Kansas City are without representation in the Senate, as Democratic Senators Kiki Curls and Jason Holsman, both of whom were in their final year, resigned to serve on two separate commissions. It leaves Senate Democratic caucus with just eight members.
Aviva Okeson-Haberman is the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter: @avivaokeson.