May 4, 2020

Weekly Update May 4, 2020

Your state legislature returned to the Capitol last Monday. The priority was on the budget, and the House passed the budget on Wednesday.
This is not the budget that was written in committee. Truthfully, that budget wouldn't make sense. There is a large revenue shortfall due to the Coronavirus and associated stay-home orders. People are not shopping as much so sales tax revenues are down, and income tax revenues are down dramatically because the tax filing deadline was moved from April to July. They are expected to increase, but income taxes and corporate tax revenues will be down next year because people aren't working. Unemployment is significantly increased, as has our need for social services like SNAP (food stamps) and Medicaid.
So a new budget had to be created out of whole cloth. This was done, not with committee hearings and department requests, but with the budget chair sitting down with people from the Governor's office and the Senate and drafting a new budget. This new budget is essentially what the House voted out last Wednesday, with few amendments.
The budget is not the only sausage being made right now. Committees are amending bills to add sections that have not been vetted in committees. Bills that were initially 3 pages are now 80 pages or longer. You can see the list of House Committee Substitutes for bills here .
Perhaps most frustrating is the partisan agenda that is being pushed through. On Friday, the House General Laws committee voted along party lines to push through a bill that would require language be placed on the ballot to undo the Clean amendment--specifically, to allow gerrymandering and to change how people are counted in legislative districts. It is not clear how this change would be implemented, but it is clear that the state would have to defend it in court. (Reference my discussion on the budget earlier.)
I cannot go through all the bills that are being discussed on the floor, but with people discouraged from coming into the Capitol, this legislation is mostly being done without public comment.
I do have a bit of good news to share. Republicans have repeatedly refused to expand Medicaid (and there was a heated debate about it during the budget debate on Wednesday!) They even went so far as to put language in the budget specifying that we will not expand Medicaid. But people have been gathering signatures to put it on the ballot, and those signatures were turned in on Friday! So Missouri voters will get a chance to determine whether Medicaid should be expanded in Missouri.