JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After five months of debate and long days, the Missouri General Assembly has adjourned, sending dozens of bills to the Governor’s desk, including a congressional map and the largest budget in state history.
While lawmakers left the Missouri Capitol with smiles on their faces, there were many ups and downs during the session, leaving some to wonder if they could get their constitutional duties done.
The biggest point of contention during session was a congressional map, something that has to be done every 10 years when the census is updated. The House passed a map back in January, but the Senate wasn’t able to find a compromise until March. Representatives agreed with that version of the map and asked to go to conference with the upper chamber, which never voted to meet with the House. During the final week of the session, a new map was proposed.
“It wasn’t pretty. The job is over. We got it done,” said Senate President Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan). “It goes to the governor’s desk. One of the most challenging things in my 12 years in the building.”
The new map, House Bill 2909, a 6 Republican-2 Democrat map, is similar to what’s already in place. It keeps both military bases, Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base in the 4th District. It also puts more of St. Charles County in the same district. It also puts more of St. Charles in the same district with 25% in the 2nd District and 74% in the 3rd District. In the current map, the population in the county is split 65% to 35%.
It also leaves the Democrat seat, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s district, in Jackson County but splits the county three ways, between the 5th, 6th, and 4th Districts. It also chops Webster County, near Springfield into two districts. Under the current map, nearly all of Webster County was in the 4th District. But under the new version, it would be split in half between the 4th and 7th Districts.
Jefferson City would also be split between the 3rd and the 8th Districts. In his version he proposed Monday, he said that they had to cut farther into Jefferson County in order to keep Phelps all within the 8th District.
Boone County is also split between the 3rd and 4th Districts along Broadway and I-70, frustrating the lawmakers who represent that area.
“I don’t remember a session, and I’ve been part of a few now where I’ve felt so emotionally drained and physically drained and trying to figure out the way out of the maze to get to the end,” said Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo (D-Independence).
Thursday night, the Senate approved the new version of the map, and then unexpectedly adjourned, ending the session for the upper chamber.
“It’s no secret this place was ugly at times, was difficult to watch at some times,” said Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia). “There were days I went home embarrassed partly because for better or worse, I knew I was part of the problem.”
The House convened Friday morning for the final day of the session. When Rep. Dan Shaul (R-Imperial) the sponsor of the map stood up to the tell the chamber the Senate approved the map, members applauded.
“I was disappointed that they adjourned and I think all of my colleagues are disappointed that they adjourned,” said House Speaker Rob Vescovo (R-Arnold). “Let’s be frank with each other. They haven’t been working in cohesion with each other all session. So who would have said they would have accomplished anything in the last 24 hours anyway.”
Sen. Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis) pushed most of the session for a 7 Republican – 1 Democrat map. He, along with other members of the Conservative Caucus, spent hours on the floor filibustering and reading books, trying to get the version of the map they wanted but did not prevail.
“We unnecessarily are going to be sending another Democratic member to Congress in a state with a Republican supermajority,” said Sen. Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis). “Democrats had a pretty good session, and unfortunately, that was the case as we look back. I think we could have done a lot better.”
A spokeswoman for the governor’s office says the map is currently under review. The governor hopes he will be able to take action on it soon.
Another big success in this year’s session, passing the largest budget in state history.
The spending plan totals $49 billion, roughly $10 billion more than last year’s budget. It includes increasing the baseline pay for teachers, fully funding the Medicaid expansion population, and some Missourians are going to be receiving a tax credit.
The Show-Me State has the lowest teacher pay in the nation and is nearly 20% under the national average, which is why lawmakers have given initial approval of raising it to $38,000 a year. But if there are districts that have teachers already making $38,000, they won’t see the extra money.
Lawmakers also allocated $214 million for school transportation, the first time it’s been fully funded since 1991.
Nearly a quarter of a billion dollars is being spent to increase minimum teacher pay from $25,000 to $38,000. The state would pay for 70% of the raise and the rest is on the district, but the money is only available for schools where currently teachers make less than $38,000. According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) roughly 4,000 teachers make between $25,000 and $35,000 a year. This increase will cost the state more than $21 million.
There’s also $37 million dollars for the Career Ladder program in the budget, giving raises to experienced teachers. Under the state statute, teachers who take professional credits, mentor students or participate in extracurricular activities fall under the program.
Higher education is also getting a boost in funds, with $10 million going to community colleges and an overall 5.4% funding increase for all colleges and universities.
There’s also $50 million in the budget to help students recover from learning losses that occurred while schools were shut down during the pandemic.
Other budget items approved by the Senate committee include $2.4 million to fully fund the twice-daily Amtrak service that runs between St. Louis and Kansas City, known as the River Runner. The train was reduced to one trip a day back in January due to a lack of funding.
The budget is in the hands of the governor who has until July 1 to either approve or veto it.
“The inescapable message of the 2022 legislation session is this, the guys running this place have no idea how to govern,” House Minority Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, told reporters after the session ended.
Quade did say despite the infighting, she feels like her party is walking away successfully.
Other legislation headed to the governor’s desk:
- House Bill 1878 requires a photo ID to vote and allows two weeks of no-excuse absentee voting. It also allows the Secretary of State’s Office to audit voter registration lists and prohibits ballot drop-boxes.
- Senate Bill 681 helps the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) establish a literacy plan for schools. It also addresses substitute teacher shortages and has funding to get lead out of drinking water at schools.
- House Bill 1552 would require the state to fund charter schools like public schools through their own formula. There are roughly 20 charters in Kansas City and 17 in St. Louis with more than 27,000 students combined. Charter schools are independent public schools that don’t have to follow state regulations. Charter schools also are required to post test scores online to receive the funding and their board members must live in Missouri. Another part of the legislation entails preventing school districts from being the gatekeeper of virtual schools. Back in 2018, lawmakers expanded access to online learning for kindergarten through 12th grade. The program is called Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program (MOCAP). Until this legislation, parents would be allowed to enroll their students as long as the local school district approved and pay for it, but families would never hear back from administrators. Now, families can choose on their own but take recommendations from the online course and the local district.
- Senate Bill 683 would establish the “Correctional Center Nursey Program” at the Vandalia women’s facility. It would allow inmates who give birth in prison to stay with their babies inside the facility for up to 18 months.
- Senate Bill 678 would require the city of Kansas City to allocate 25% of the city’s general revenue to the Kansas City Police Department. This comes after the council reallocated $42 million last year. Part of this legislation, Senate Joint Resolution 38 gives the voters a chance to weigh in. It received pushback from Kansas City Democrats, saying why would people from Springfield or St. Louis get a say in the department’s funding.