Missouri General Assembly | KCUR

Missouri General Assembly

Coronavirus concerns have made gathering signatures for ballot items basically impossible, especially with state and local governments placing restrictions on public gatherings.

But a group seeking to put a Medicaid expansion proposal before Missouri voters says it started early enough to get the necessary signatures for the 2020 ballot.

Democrats in the Missouri House are ramping up their efforts to pass legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, known as MONA, was filed weeks ago but has yet to have a public hearing.

The current Missouri Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex and disability in employment, housing and “public accommodation,” which refers to access and service at businesses and facilities. MONA would add sexual orientation and gender identity to that list. 

Brandon Reid remembers watching Barack Obama win the presidential election from his living room couch in 2008. 

Most of his friends had gone to the polls that day to vote in what became a historic election. But Reid, who was in and out of prison because of drugs, couldn’t vote. He was on criminal supervision at the time. He missed the 2012 presidential election for the same reason. 

“If you don’t have the right to vote, of course, you are going to know about it, right? You see it on the news. It’s voting day. You want to be a part of it,” Reid said. 

As the Missouri General Assembly is poised to give voters another chance to decide how to draw state House and Senate maps, one of the lesser-discussed parts of the debate is how judges will gain expansive power if voters scrap the Clean Missouri system.

Under a ballot measure that recently passed the Senate and will likely be approved in the House, bipartisan commissions will have first crack at redistricting instead of a demographer. But the truth is the commissions have been historically irrelevant because they tend to deadlock along party lines and then turn over authority to appellate judges. 

There’s been little insight into how the judges actually came up with House and Senate districts — until now.

Hundreds of gun-restriction advocates visited the Missouri Statehouse on Tuesday to encourage lawmakers to pass stricter gun control measures. 

The specific legislation Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action want would prohibit anyone with a domestic offense conviction or an order of protection from purchasing a firearm.

leyla.a / Flickr - CC

If you placed a Super Bowl wager in Missouri or Kansas this year, chances are good it was probably illegal.

But in Missouri, the smart money is increasingly on legal sports betting. That might become a reality by the end of the year, thanks to a 2018 Supreme Court case that gave states the right to organize sports betting.

Segment 1: Odds are good that sports betting won't be illegal in Missouri for much longer.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled two years ago that states have the power to legalize sports betting, and 2020 may be the year that the Missouri General Assembly gives it the green light. If new tax revenue from legalized sports gambling in Iowa is any indication, the initiative could be a moneymaker for the Show-Me State. 

The Missouri Senate approved a ballot item Monday evening that would change how state House and Senate districts are drawn, repealing a system approved by voters in 2018. 

The proposal, which passed 22-9, now heads to the House, where it is almost certain to be approved, and then will head to voters again. They’ll choose between keeping a system they overwhelmingly passed as Clean Missouri, in which a nonpartisan demographer holds much of the power, or a modified version of the previous system. 

Segment 1: Missouri Republicans want to see a "Cleaner Missouri" version of an initiative voters passed in 2018.

Missouri Republicans argue that Amendment 1, also known as Clean Missouri, is biased when it comes to drawing legislative boundaries, and that the state's Democratic Party will get an unfair number of seats in the General Assembly. Now, a so-called "Cleaner Missouri" proposal has been introduced. Proponents say it will not only expand upon some of the original initiative's language, but it will also make redistricting more fair. 

Missouri’s Legislative Black Caucus on Monday highlighted legislation they’ve filed to honor and remember the work done by African American Missourians. 

State Rep. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, spoke about the “perseverance and triumphs” of African Americans to begin the celebrations of Black History Month at a press conference at the Capitol. 

“When I think about black history in this country and in this state, ‘celebrate’ is not the first word that comes to mind,” he said. 

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley has been critical of how state Auditor Nicole Galloway is conducting a closeout audit of his former state office, contending that the Democratic official has been treating him unfairly.

Galloway’s office directly addressed some of Hawley’s objections on Wednesday about the unreleased audit, noting that a staffer overseeing the look into his two-year tenure as attorney general was replaced to avoid any appearance of bias. Galloway’s director of quality control told House lawmakers that he doesn’t believe any bias occurred during the audit.

Missouri voters will almost certainly have another say this year on how state Senate and House districts are drawn.

They’ll choose between keeping a system they voted for in 2018, in which a demographer holds much of the power to draw maps, and a modified version of the old system.

It’s a debate that’s elicited national attention from redistricting enthusiasts and political parties, especially since the complex and wonky subject of mapmaking has an immense impact on how citizens are represented in government. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3 file photo

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.

The chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court says the state needs to properly fund its public defender system to continue the criminal justice reforms it has passed in the past several years.

Speaking to a joint session of the state Legislature on Wednesday for his first State of the Judiciary address, Chief Justice George Draper applauded the General Assembly for boosting access to treatment courts and allowing more individuals to enter diversion programs. However, he cautioned those reforms can only go so far.

Facebook/Aviva Okeson-Haberman

The Missouri Senate conservative caucus formed just last year, but its six senators are already shaping the direction of Jefferson City politics. The caucus was among the staunchest supporters of a sweeping anti-abortion bill, which is being challenged in court. They also broke with their party to oppose one of Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s key workforce development proposals (though it eventually passed). 

And the caucus could get some concessions in the 2020 session using their threat to filibuster as a bargaining chip, though it also could further the division within the Republican Party if they kill priorities like a prescription drug monitoring program. 

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

For the second time in two years, Planned Parenthood is challenging Missouri’s denial of its claims for Medicaid payments.

The first time Missouri cut off the organization’s Medicaid funding was in fiscal 2019, after the legislature enacted an appropriations bill denying it reimbursement under the program.

Now Planned Parenthood’s Overland Park affiliates are challenging the state’s cutoff of their fiscal 2020 funding. An administrative law judge ruled against them last month and Planned Parenthood wants a Jackson County judge to overturn the ruling.

The Missouri General Assembly’s 2020 legislative session began with procedure and ceremony: lawmakers reading the Bill of Rights, new legislators being sworn in and hundreds of bills being formally introduced.

But even though Wednesday’s opening was fairly mundane, legislators from both parties are expecting fierce debates in the coming weeks over state legislative redistricting and gun violence — issues that could play a big role in the impending 2020 elections.

The 2020 session of the Missouri General Assembly, which convenes Wednesday, promises the usual array of legislative wrangling and partisan bickering — all with an election looming in November.

In this episode of Statehouse Blend Missouri, we bring you a preview, which first aired on KCUR's Up to Date on Jan. 6. Host Steve Kraske spoke with Brian Hauswirth, news director of Missourinet, and Jaclyn Driscoll, the statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.

Segment 1: Previewing the next session of the Missouri General Assembly

Today's guests run down some of the issues that lawmakers could tackle during this upcoming legislative session. They also explored how this year's presidential election might influence how this myraid of issues plays out.

Gun control, Medicaid and redistricting are expected to be the most contentious issues Missouri lawmakers will take up this legislative session. 

House and Senate members return to the state Capitol on Wednesday, and the governor is to deliver his State of the State address a week later on Jan. 15. 

Democrats in both chambers say gun control and urban violence will be at the top of their list of priorities. 

Editor's note: This story is part of a collaborative-reporting initiative supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. All stories can be found here

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that police had to abide by the Bill of Rights when they seize property from people, Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Baldwin, thought he finally had the momentum to reform civil asset forfeiture and end what he calls “policing for profit.”

He thought he would be able to stop Missouri police from pulling over motorists, seizing cash without a crime and keeping the money for departmental expenditures.

Illustration by Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

In the spring of 1989, Missouri lawmakers were motivated to figure out how climate change would affect the state’s economy, political future and social capital. 

A year after California started looking into climate change, the Missouri General Assembly created a commission of 14 experts and politicians to study the issue and come up with solutions. The result was more than 100 policy suggestions, covering everything from the use of solar and wind energy to transportation and teaching about climate change.

Three decades later, experts say Missouri hasn’t achieved its goals. 

Pro Sports Leagues Pitch Gambling To Missouri Legislators

Nov 10, 2019

Missouri legislators heard from Major League Baseball, the NBA and the PGA on Thursday about their leagues’ role if legalized sports betting comes to the state.

The General Assembly is expected to consider legalizing sports betting in the 2020 legislative session. 

Among the details that need to be worked out is whether lawmakers will consider a sports gambling proposal that includes college sports as well as professional sports, mobile phone betting and in-game wagering on a particular play during an event. 

Segment 1: Republicans in Missouri say gun control is not the answer to gun violence.

Missouri Senate website

Former Missouri state lawmaker and educator Yvonne S. Wilson died Monday. The 90-year-old Democrat from Kansas City was remembered by many as a community advocate, especially for children. 

Aviva Okeson-Haberman / KCUR 89.3

Missouri's methods of reimbursing community providers who care for people with developmental disabilities are complex, confusing and conflict with federal Medicaid rules. That’s because providers are reimbursed at vastly different rates for the same level of care.

It’s a situation that’s also leading to low pay for the providers’ workers and exacerbating the state’s already high turnover. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services put the state on a five-year corrective action plan earlier this year. So to address the issue, the Division of Developmental Disabilities will request $58.1 million from Missouri lawmakers next year on top of the $20 million extra it received this year. Many providers say it’s long overdue.

Segment 1: A new state system to determine Medicaid eligibility is under fire.

In Missouri this year, Medicaid enrollment numbers have dropped at more than twice the national rate, topping 7%. This means 120,000 people, including tens of thousands of children, have been dropped from the program. We heard answers as to why this is happening and how the state can and should respond.

As Jean Peters Baker spoke to a packed room at the Missouri Democratic Party’s Truman Dinner last weekend, she acknowledged the obvious: The past few years have been bruising for a party that used to dominate state politics.

Republicans up and down the ballot generally prevailed in the past three election cycles — leaving Democrats on the outside looking in when it comes to policy and leadership. But Baker, chairwoman of the Missouri Democratic Party, said this isn’t a time to sulk. Instead, Democrats should use the 2020 election cycle as a prime opportunity for a comeback.

Pixabay

Elyshya Miller’s son was 13 when she gave him the talk: racial profiling and what to do if the police approach him. 

It was a common occurrence, Miller said, because for about 15 years, her family was the only black family in her Blue Springs subdivision. 

Office of Missouri Governor

Before Kenneth Wilson became a Missouri House member, he worked his way up the ranks in the Platte County Sheriff’s Office. It was there, he said, his view of crime went from “bad guys go to jail” to seeing dads lose their jobs because they were jailed for not being able to pay child support.

And that’s when Wilson, a Republican from Smithville, thought there must be another way. 

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