Missouri lawmakers move briskly during first month back

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

By DICK ALDRICH
Missouri News Horizon

The Missouri General Assembly is moving with unaccustomed speed through this year’s legislative agenda.

In years past, the House and Senate have often waited until February to begin floor debate. So far this year, both chambers have put in two solid weeks of debate. House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Tim Jones, R-Eureka, says his chamber is taking legislation as it comes.

“On the one hand, we don’t need to get up here in January and try to pass every little single agenda item,” said Jones. “On the other hand, it’s always good to try and move forward in a purposeful manner where you’re not gonna get behind the eight-ball in any fashion.” 

So far, the House has sent three pieces of legislation to the Senate. The Senate has sent two bills to the House.

In the House, members voted along mostly party lines in passing a proposed constitutional amendment that places limits on the amount of growth in state revenues. During the past week, the House sent two more bills to the Senate. One piece of legislation would add county government and public school district financial information to the state’s accountability website at mapyourtaxes.mo.gov/

The other bill mandates automatic review for all state rules and a ten year sunset provision on all administrative rules written after the bill is signed into law.

“These bills that the Speaker and I have moved early are just good government, common sense bills,” said Jones. “I think they’re easy to understand, and I would argue, not that controversial, but yet they take on some big issues that need to be done.”

The Senate this past week passed its first two bills of the session. One also deals with information posted on the accountability website. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, mandates that state agencies that receive federal funds, track the receipt and spending of those funds.

The bill also requires information about bonds issued by colleges, universities and community colleges be placed on the accountability website. In addition, the legislation would require the governor to submit a daily report stating the amounts withheld from the state operating budget on the portal.

The other bill passed by the Senate was sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton. The legislation increases the penalties for repeat drunk drivers.

To help Missouri regain $16 million in extra highway construction funds from the federal government, the Senate agreed to put harsher limitations on drivers whose licenses have been revoked due to multiple DWI convictions.

The sponsor of Senate Bill 443, Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, says his legislation moves Missouri’s DWI laws into compliance with the federal government and makes the state eligible for additional highway funds that were lost after the state granted leeway for additional hardship circumstances.

The same bill also increases the number of “hard walk” days were a convicted drunk driver can’t enjoy any driving privileges. Currently, drivers in Missouri must wait 30 days before applying for limited driving privileges. Stouffer’s bill increases the number of days to 45.

The session calendar would seem to give lawmakers extra time to work on legislation. The session does not conclude until May 18, making this year’s session the longest it can be. Jones says he would like to avoid, as much as possible, a last minute rush.

“I think it’s just good to set the tone that we’re going to work hard this year,” said Jones. “We’ve got a lot of things to do, and we’re going to take things one step at a time.”