By Max Goodwin
After a chaotic legislative session in Jefferson City that adjourned in May, local state legislators presented their thoughts to the public at recent community meetings this month. The only year with fewer bills passed in the last 40 years was 2020.
“This legislative session was defined by dysfunction in the Senate,” said Greg Razor, Missouri State Senator of the 7th District, at a South Kansas City Alliance meeting
The Missouri State Senate currently consists of 24 Republicans and 10 Democrats, but a group of seven republicans held up work, filibustering entire days, most notably in effort to pass a congressional redistricting map that would more aggressively favor republicans. Another filibuster was because Sen. Mike Moon wanted to wear overalls on the senate floor.
The filibusters delayed much of the day-to-day work that happens in the state legislature, according to Sen. Razer. Even as the Missouri House of Representatives continued to pass legislation to the Senate, many of those bills were never voted on.
“I was concerned about the amount of time that was lost because of seven senators that were bickering over a map,” said Rep. Richard Brown, House Assistant Minority Leader.
Just 41 bills, 24 House bills, and 17 Senate bills reached the desk of Governor Mike Parson this year, not including appropriation bills. Gov. Parson is still signing bills and will wait until the last day, July 14, to sign the budget appropriation bills, according to Sen. Washington.
Sen. Washington was one of just two Democrats in the Senate to introduce a bill to pass through both the House and Senate. The bill she sponsored, SB 718, designates the third week of September as Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) week in Missouri and was signed into law by Gov. Parson on June 16.
An increase in federal spending gave state governments more money to work with and allowed Missouri legislators to pass the largest budget in the state’s history this year.
“We had a record budget to finally invest in infrastructure projects throughout the state that desperately needed it,” said Sen. Razer who gave credit to the passage of the federal government’s infrastructure bill.
Funding that made its way to south Kansas City included $350,000 to the South Kansas City Workforce Development Center located at the Blue River Commerce Center, Bannister & Troost. The learning and career center will partner with local school districts, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Metropolitan Community College and the South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.
At Smith-Hale Middle School in the Hickman Mills School District, a new unit for the Boys and Girls Club has recently opened at Smith-Hale Middle School in the Hickman Mills School District, named after former State Senator Kiki Curls.
Starting pay for teachers around the state will be increased from an average of $33,234 to $38,000 per year. Missouri ranked last in the nation in starting pay for teachers according to a review by the National Education Association before the change.
“The state actually put in 70 percent of the funding for that and the school district will provide the other 30 percent to match,” said Rep. Mark Sharp.
Rep. Sharp was the only Democrat in the Missouri House of Representatives to have a bill he sponsored pass both the House and Senate. HB 2627 will make Black History Month recognized by the state of Missouri for the first time.
Rep. Sharp came into the year hoping to get Blair’s Law passed through the Missouri legislature, legislation named after an 11-year-old who was killed by celebratory gunfire in 2011. Blair’s law would make celebratory gunfire a state offense. Instead, it was the second straight year that Rep. Sharp saw Blair’s Law not voted on by the Senate.
Sen. Greg Razer said many colleagues were disappointed in the small number of bills passed this year. “As a member of the super minority party, in some ways that’s a good thing because it kept a lot of bad legislation from making it to the governor’s desk.”