JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – There’s one month left in the legislative session, and Missouri Senate Leadership said it has four big priorities left to accomplish before adjourning.
Unlike last year at this time, senators on both sides of the aisle say relationships are still good in the upper chamber but with some major Republican priorities still on the agenda and the House pushing for the Senate to do more, it’s possible that all could change.
“The one thing we know about the Senate is it can change on a dime,” Sen. Doug Beck, D-Affton, said. “I come in here in a certain mood and it’s easily changed within 20 minutes.”
The Missouri General Assembly is in the home stretch of the 2023 legislative session. With four weeks left, Senate Leadership said there are four big issues left to tackle, along with next year’s budget.
“Some form of school choice because we have open enrollment, initiative petition reform, we have a couple of crime bills,” Senate Majority Floor Leader Cindy O’Laughlin, R-Shelbina, said.
Republicans want to make it harder for voters to change the state’s constitution by passing initiative petition reform. This process is how recreational and medical marijuana became legal.
Another priority, allowing the governor to appoint a special prosecutor, targeting St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner and the backlog of thousands of cases.
Both of these items the House has already passed. The initiative petition reform would increase the threshold of votes needed to approve a referendum from a simple majority, meaning more votes for than against, to 60% in favor to pass. This bill came up for debate in the Senate for a few hours, before the legislation was laid over, ending debate for the day.
Last month, the House also approved to allow the governor to appoint a special prosecutor for every 35 homicide cases per 100,000 people. Gardner’s office testified in a House committee saying the office has a backlog of more than 3,500 cases but none of them are violent crimes. The Senate is expecting to debate this bill on the floor next week.
“I argue the ball is in their court, we’ve delivered,” House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, said. “The people in Missouri need to know that the House has worked and we’ve delivered.”
Unlike 2022, when members spent weeks and months infighting to pass a congressional map, senators say there have been more compromises this year.
“I think the relations in the Senate have been pretty good,” Beck said. “I went through last year, like everyone else, it’s definitely better than that.”
O’Laughlin said she is prepared to have the upper chamber work overtime in these final weeks.
“We will have some longer days, maybe I hate to say it, an overnight but I will do what I have to do to get things done. I think we get a lot of things done this year,” O’Laughlin said.
As for the topic Missouri sports fans want to know, Republicans say legalizing sports wagering isn’t off the table yet, but changes a bill makes it to the governor’s desk gets smaller every day. Session ends May 12.
This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee will be holding hearings on next year’s fiscal budget. The House passed the $45.6 billion budget last month. Members have until May 5 to get the spending plan to the governor’s desk.