As published in Front Line©, Vol. XLIII, No. 1, Spring 2022, 15820 Clayton Road, PO Box 37054, St. Louis, MO 63141, Fax (314) 434-7028
For just a few minutes, let’s pretend that we are in fourth grade. We’ve learned about the regions and the people of the United States, researched population density, studied agriculture of the Midwest, looked at water usage, geography and history of Missouri and worked to understand the economy of our state. And now, after we have scrutinized our state’s government, we are planning a train trip to the Capitol to see the lawmakers in action! What a trip across the state that will be!
Let’s see how much we remember from our studies in Mrs. Roberts’ fourth grade Social Studies class while we’re at the Capitol:
What is the Missouri General Assembly?
Missouri’s General Assembly serves as the legislative branch of the Show-Me State’s government and is the primary lawmaking body of the state.
Much like the U.S. Congress, its federal counterpart, the General Assembly is bicameral — made up of two separate chambers, the House and Senate.
It’s made up of 197 total lawmakers, 163 in the House and 34 in the Senate, all representing specific regions of the state. House members serve two-year terms, and a Senate term is four years. Both chambers have term limits: a lawmaker can serve a maximum of four terms in the House and two in the Senate, or eight years per chamber. All House members and half of the Senate are up for election every two years.
What and when is the legislative session?
The vast majority of legislation and action within the General Assembly happens within a five-month period at the beginning of each year, known as the “regular session.” During this time, lawmakers from all around the state meet in the state capitol in Jefferson City — attending committee meetings, debating on the floor of both chambers, and negotiating policy behind the scenes.
Missouri’s constitution requires the General Assembly to convene on the first Wednesday in January (January 5, 2022), and ends on May 30, 2022.
Once the regular session adjourns, bills can no longer be considered. At this point, the governor (currently Mike Parson-R), decides whether to sign the passed bills into law or veto them. If a veto is issued on any legislation passed during regular session, the legislature is called back in September for the opportunity to overturn vetoes (a “veto session”).
In 2021, the General Assembly returned for a veto session but did not end up overriding any of Parson’s vetoes.
The General Assembly can also return to Jefferson City in what is known as a “special” or “extra” session, called by the governor or petitioned by 75 percent of each chamber. Last year, a special session was called in order to extend a tax critical to funding Missouri’s Medicaid program, which stalled during the regular session due to disagreement among Republicans.
How is power divided in the legislature?
The Republican Party holds strong majorities in both the House and Senate, with 24 of 34 Senate seats and 112 of 163 House seats. Democratic power is concentrated almost exclusively in the St. Louis and Kansas City metro regions, as well as two House members from each of Columbia and Springfield; the GOP dominates exurban and rural regions of the state.
Those wide margins mean that the Republican priorities of both legislative leaders and the governor often dominate debate and legislation. Democrats often have to partner with lawmakers across the aisle to get any of their policies across the finish line, and spend significant time fighting and attempting to dilute conservative bills.
That large Republican presence has also resulted in disagreements between members of the party in recent years. The party’s House caucus frequently diverges on the details and implementation of key policies and bills.
The line in the Senate is drawn more clearly, with a dedicated Conservative Caucus — a group of several senators within the party that frequently takes more hardline right-wing stances on issues. Last year, they feuded with Republican leadership during disagreements about when and how to withhold public funds from Planned Parenthood, banning vaccine mandates and even the rules and decorum of the Senate itself.
Who are my state representatives and senators?
Not sure who represents you in the Missouri House and Senate? Don’t fret — the state has just the tool for that.
Both the House and Senate websites have legislator lookups that allow you to enter your address and find out who represents you (one representative and one senator). They also have full lists of members to peruse, including their party, committees and currently proposed legislation. The websites are house.mo.gov and senate.mo.gov.
Keep in mind that this year is special, in that within the next few months, new lines will be drawn in accordance with updated census data released this year — a process known as redistricting. House and Senate districts will be adjusted depending on how the populations of regions have grown or shrunk. (Each House district represents approximately 37,000 people, while each Senate district represents approximately 176,000.)
Redistricting will enter play come November, when the entire House and half of the Senate seek re-election. Good news, though — once the new lines are inked, they’re there for a decade until the next batch of census data is collected.
How does the legislature make laws?
The actual lawmaking process is composed of a number of steps, involving coordination between both chambers, committees and the governor.
Any member of either chamber can propose bills for the legislative session starting on December 1 (known as “pre-filing”) and can continue to submit them until the 60th day of the session. Members can only sponsor a bill in the chamber to which they belong, but can partner with another lawmaker to have a similar version proposed in the other chamber. (See the term “carrying a bill” below.) Every bill is assigned a number.
A bill is “read” twice in a chamber before it is assigned to a committee by chamber leaders — either the Speaker of the House or the President Pro Tempore. That bill will then receive a hearing in front of the committee, in which members of the public can come testify for or against the bill. The committee as a body can amend or alter the bill before taking a vote, either recommending that it “do pass” or “do not pass.” A committee can send a bill back to the full chamber without a recommendation, though it’s rare.
The full chamber then works to “perfect” a bill. Amendments to the bill from members can be proposed and voted on before the vote to perfect the bill, which requires a majority of members present voting to approve it. It then goes on to a third reading, at which point only minor technical amendments can be proposed. The perfection and third read stages are when the vast majority of floor debate over bills takes place.
If a bill receives a constitutional majority of votes in the chamber, it’s then sent to the other chamber, where it goes through the same process again. If significant changes are made to the bill in the other chamber, it has to go back to the original chamber for those changes to be approved. Finally, the bill will be sent to a conference committee, which is made up of five members of each chamber and designed to resolve any differences between the two chambers on the bill. If both houses approve the report from the conference committee, the bill is sent to the governor’s desk.
The complexity of the process can vary depending on the bill. For example, the controversial Second Amendment Preservation Act passed last year had over 50 actions taken on it as it made its way through the General Assembly.
Why should I care about any of this?
There are few things more important than being an informed and active citizen — Missouri’s state legislature (like those in every other state) makes decisions every single day that impact your life.
Lawmakers have the ability to pass new taxes or tax breaks that could see you spending a few more cents at the gas pump or cut your small business a break. They could decide to allocate more or less money to an institution, program or agency that you and your family benefit from or utilize. They could change how millions of residents go about accessing health care services, or how families can decide which school to send their kids.
The list goes on. While it’s always important to stay in tune with local and national government, state government is vital, too! Stay tuned however you can.
Where can I learn more about the legislature?
The News-Leader will have regular reporting from Jefferson City in the coming months, including exclusive stories focused on policy and policymakers for Springfield. Make sure to subscribe if you want to access all of our reporting.
Missouri’s official state website, mo.gov, has a vast array of links, documents and details about countless agencies, programs and more.
If you’re interested in a raw, unfiltered feed from the sphere of Missouri politics and government, consider tracking the Twitter hashtag #moleg (short for Missouri legislature), where elected officials, lobbyists, press, and others share their thoughts and happenings of the day.
Handy jargon, terms and definitions to know
Appropriations: State and federal dollars allocated to a certain agency, issue or entity. Several committees are dedicated to making recommendations on appropriations for certain issues and areas of state government. Appropriations bills assign funding.
Caucus: A subgroup of members in the General Assembly that often represent mutual interests or identities. The biggest and most important are the party caucuses, Republicans and Democrats; other caucuses include the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus, the Conservative Caucus in the Senate, and the Missouri Democrats Latino Caucus. Caucuses will often meet privately to iron out details of policy preferences and action.
Carrying a bill: When a member from one chamber is tasked with sponsoring a bill that has made progress or is a priority for a legislator in the other chamber. The bill carrier may be either chosen by the bill’s sponsor or the chair of a committee. The member carrying a bill in the other chamber is also called a handler.
Emergency clause: Can be attached to a bill to force it to go into effect when it becomes law sooner than the standard 90 days. Requires approval of two-thirds of each chamber to be attached.
Filibuster: Continuing debate in a chamber to stall action. Frequently occurs in the Senate, where the filibuster can last indefinitely; party colleagues, especially in the minority, often join forces in order to extend it as long as possible. Each member in the House is limited to 15 minutes of debate on a given bill or amendment.
Floor leaders: Elected by each party. Floor leader of the majority party controls how the chamber takes up legislation and actions, while the minority leader serves as the primary spokesperson for their party. Majority leaders are currently Republicans Sen. Caleb Rowden and Rep. Dean Plocher, of Columbia and St. Louis. Minority leaders are currently Democrats Sen. John Rizzo and Rep. Crystal Quade, of Independence and Springfield.
PQ (previous question): A procedural tactic that serves to shut down debate on a bill. It is frequently used in the House but rarely employed in the Senate, where it is seen as an absolute last resort tactic.
President pro tem: Presides over the Senate when the lieutenant governor is absent. Elected by members of the Senate and responsible for assigning legislation to committees. Currently Sen. Dave Schatz, a Republican from Sullivan is president pro tem.
Roll call vote: A vote in which every single member is asked to formally record their decision (rather than a voice vote). Both chambers must take roll call votes on final passage of bills and other actions, but any group of five members can request a roll call vote on any singular action (primarily driven by political motive to get lawmakers’ votes on the record).
Sine die: A legal term meaning adjourned with no appointed date of return. Marks the end of each legislative session.
Speaker of the House: Presides over the House of Representatives, traditionally the head of the majority party. Elected by the House body. Currently Rep. Rob Vescovo, a Republican from Arnold is speaker of the House.
Sponsor/co-sponsor: The member(s) who introduces a bill for the General Assembly’s consideration.
Original article published in the Springfield News-Leader, January 2, 2022. Galen Bacharier covers Missouri politics & government for the News-Leader. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, (573) 219-7440 or on Twitter@galenbacharier.
An elementary resource titled, “Do You Know MO,” may be found at www.house.mo.gov. And don’t forget the classic “I’m Just a Bill, Schoolhouse Rock,” which has information about United States Houses of government. Every state should also have similar resources online.
ABORTION/RIGHT TO LIFE
HB 1593 Creates the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act”: Rep. Sara Walsh (R-050) Provides that a child born alive during or after an abortion or an attempted abortion shall have all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state, including any other liveborn child. Any health care provider licensed, registered, or certified in this state who is present at the time a child is born alive during or after an abortion or attempted abortion shall: Exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as a reasonably diligent and conscientious health care provider would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age; and ensure that the child born alive is immediately transported and admitted to a hospital following the exercise of skill, care, and diligence … In addition to any criminal or administrative liability which may be incurred, a person shall be civilly liable when he or she: knowingly, recklessly, or negligently causes the death of a child who is born alive during or after an abortion or an attempted abortion. …
Last Action: Hearing scheduled February 22, 2022.
HB 1474/HB 1474-1 Establishes requirements for public schools regarding parents and curricula and HB 1995 Provides for protections for parental rights and transparency in public schools: Rep. Nick Schroer (R-107) and Doug Richey (R-038). Known and may be cited as the “Parents’ Bill of Rights Act of 2022.” “… empower parents to enforce the following rights against school districts and public schools in which their children are enrolled … the right to know what their minor child is being taught in school including, but not limited to, curricula, books, and other instructional materials; the right to receive information about who is teaching their minor child including, but not limited to, guest lecturers and outside presenters; the right to receive information about individuals and organizations receiving school contracts and funding; the right to visit the school and check in on their minor child during school hours; the right to view or receive all school records, medical or otherwise, concerning their minor child; the right to receive information about the collection and transmission of their minor child’s data; the right to have sufficient accountability and transparency regarding school boards; and the right to know about situations affecting their minor child’s safety in school.” Other items in bill include: “No school district or public school shall require nondisclosure agreements or similar forms for a parent’s review of curricula. Each public school or school district shall allow parents to make copies of curriculum documents. No school district or public school shall allow student involvement in school assemblies, field trips, or other extracurricular activities unless the child’s parents provide written authorization for such student involvement. No school district or public school shall collect any biometric data or other sensitive personal information about a minor child without obtaining written parental consent before collecting such data or information. Each school board meeting pertaining to curricula, safety, or other student issues shall be held in public and allow for public comments. Each school district and public school shall notify parents in a timely manner of all reported incidents pertaining to student safety including, but not limited to, any felony or misdemeanor committed by teachers or other school employees.”
“As used in this section, ‘curriculum implementing critical race theory’ includes, but is not limited to, any curriculum that: Identifies people or groups of people, entities, or institutions in the United States as inherently, immutably, or systemically sexist, racist, biased, privileged, or oppressed; and employs immutable, inherited, or objective characteristics such as race, income, appearance, family of origin, or sexual orientation to: define a person’s identity; classify persons into groups for any purpose including, but not limited to, the targeting of only certain groups for education, formation, indoctrination, viewpoint, or transformation; perpetuate stereotypes; or assign blame to categories of persons regardless of the actions of particular individuals. For purposes of this section, a curriculum implementing critical race theory includes, but is not limited to, the following: The 1619 Project initiative of the New York Times; (See article in this issue of Front Line.) The Learning for Justice Curriculum of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Teaching Tolerance, or any successor curriculum; We Stories; Programs of Educational Equity Consultants; or any other similar predecessor or successor curriculum. No school district, charter school, or personnel or agent of such school district or charter school shall: teach, use, or provide for use by any pupil any curriculum implementing critical race theory as part of any curriculum, course materials, or instruction in any course given in such school district or charter school; or teach, affirm, or promote as an accurate account or representation of the founding and history of the United States of America any of the claims, views, or opinions presented in The 1619 Project as part of any curriculum, course materials, or instruction in any course given in such school district or charter school.”
Last Action: HCS Reported Do Pass (H) – AYES: 12, NOES: 8, PRESENT: 0, February 16, 2022. Replaced with a substitute bill HB 1995 referred: Rules – Legislative Oversight.
SB 810 Establishes “The Parents’ Bill of Rights for Student Well-Being” and modifies other provisions of elementary and secondary education. Sen. Andrew Koenig (R-15). Each school district shall, in consultation with parents, teachers, and administrators, develop and adopt a policy to promote parental involvement in the school system, including a plan for parental participation, information related to the child’s course of study, procedures allowing a parent to object to the use of certain classroom materials, procedures for a parent to withdraw a child from certain sexual education coursework, procedures for providing information related to extracurricular activities, and procedures for providing access to other educational information to which parents have a right as provided in the act.
Last Action: Second Read and Referred S Education Committee 1/20/2022.
SB 645 Modifies and creates provisions regarding the use of certain training, instructional, and curricular materials in public schools and charter schools. Sen. Andrew Koenig (R-15). The state board of education and the department of elementary and secondary education shall not be authorized to mandate and are expressly prohibited from mandating or promoting the curriculum, textbooks, or other instructional materials to be used in public schools. Each local school board shall be required to approve and adopt the curriculum used by the school district at least six months prior to implementation.
Last Action: Second Read and Referred S Education Committee 1/10/22.
SB 647 Establishes a grievance process for parents and guardians of elementary and secondary school students. Sen. Andrew Koenig (R-15). Under this act, a parent or guardian may file with the school board a formal objection to any school policy, practice, or procedure which applies to the parent, guardian, or his or her child, including instructional materials or methods not required by state law.
Last Action: Hearing Conducted S Education Committee 2-22-2022.
HB 1833 Modifies provisions for concealed carry permits: Rep. Chuck Basye (R-047). This bill removes the ban on eligibility for a concealed carry permit or a Missouri lifetime or extended concealed carry permit if the applicant has pled guilty to or entered a plea of nolo contendere of such crimes. In a nutshell, the need for this bill has largely arisen out of the tendency to make all sorts of things felonies, even when some wrongdoing was either victimless or was not violent in any way, and then the law-enforcement tactic of pressuring a suspect into entering a plea deal.
Last Action: Hearing scheduled February 22, 2022, Special Committee on Government Oversight.
HB 2009 Modifies provisions relating to immuni-zations: Rep. Suzie Pollack (R-123). This bill reigns in the power of the Department of Health and Senior Services. The predominaant argument against the bill was based on a need to protect society from disease at the expense of the rights of individuals. Bill language: “The department of health and senior services, after consultation with the department of elementary and secondary education, shall promulgate rules and regulations governing the immunization against poliomyelitis, rubella, rubeola, mumps, tetanus, pertussis, diphtheria, and hepatitis B, to be required of children attending public schools. … Such rules and regulations shall not require immunizations against diseases that are not listed in this subsection. … This section shall not apply to any child if one parent or guardian objects in writing to his or her school administrator against the immunization of the child, because of religious or conscientious beliefs or medical contraindications. …”
Last Action: Bill currently not on a House calendar. Voted Do Pass on 2-16-2022.
HB 2615 Prohibits mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandates in public schools. Rep. Jeff Coleman (R-032) This bill prohibits school districts from requiring, as a condition to participate in school-sponsored extracurricular activities, immunization against COVID‑19. Schools are prohibited from requiring students to wear face masks, undergo COVID‑19 diagnostic testing, or encouraging or attempting to persuade students to be immunized without parental consent. This bill is similar to SB 646 (2022).
Last Action: Referred to Judiciary Committee, 2-10-2022.
HRM-1 Remonstrance against the governor for allowing the state of emergency related to COVID-19 to expire. Rep. LaKeySha Bosley (D-079)
Bill currently not on a House calendar.
SB 740 Modifies and creates provisions regarding elementary and secondary education. Sen. Bill Eigel (R-23) This act establishes the “Public Education Transparency Act.” Under the act, “all professional development materials sponsored by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall be posted on the Department’s website prior to use. The Department shall not contract with any vendor for proprietary materials that cannot be viewed by the public. No public or charter school shall implement or enforce any student dress requirements that include a mask or face covering mandate. No student shall be required, as a condition of school attendance or participation in school-sponsored extracurricular activities, to wear a mask or face covering. (Section 167.029).
“No student shall be required, as a condition of school attendance or participation in school-sponsored activities, to be immunized against COVID-19. No student shall be required to alternatively undergo COVID-19 diagnostic testing, provided that nothing in this provision shall preclude a school from requiring a student who has been in close contact with a source of COVID-19 to be tested as a condition of attending school or extracurricular activities. (Section 167.181). Under this act, middle school and high school sports teams which compete against public middle schools and high schools shall be expressly designated as male, female, or coeducational using terms provided in the act. No athletic team or sport designated for females, women, or girls shall be open to students of the male sex, as assigned at birth.”
Last Action: Sent to Senate Education Committee 1-3-2022.
HB 2117 Creates provisions for redistricting federal congressional seats according to the 2020 census. Rep. Dan Shaul (R-113) The states redraw district lines every 10 years following completion of the United States census. The federal government requires that districts must have nearly equal populations and must not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity. This has caused quite a stir in the Missouri legislature.
According to Galen Bacharier1 of the Springfield News-Leader, “The Missouri Senate ran for miles this week but didn’t move an inch. When the higher chamber gaveled in for a rare Friday session, members began discussion about the same bill they started the week on — a map establishing new congressional districts — with no noticeable progress.
“Highlighted by a 31-hour filibuster … action in the chamber has effectively come to a standstill. Hardline conservative Republicans have led debate over a proposal that they say is far from satisfactory for the GOP … Amendments have been proposed and then withdrawn … For most of the week, members of the Senate Conservative Caucus held the floor, touting the importance of a ‘7-1’ map favoring Republicans rather than the proposed ‘6-2’ map that would retain Missouri’s current partisan alignment in Congress; at times, Democrats took the floor to discuss the current situation among themselves. …
“One way out of the map miasma could be through a procedural move — called moving the previous question — that allows chamber leadership to effectively cut off debate and go to a vote. It’s used very rarely in the Senate, which traditionally prides itself on thoughtful back-and-forth and compromise.
“But when Sen. Bob Onder, a Lake St. Louis Republican and member of the Conservative Caucus, asked Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden of Columbia on Wednesday whether he would invoke the procedure on a member of his own party, Rowden responded, ‘I don’t think anything’s off the table.’ …”
Last Action: Placed on informal calendar, SA 1 pending, 2-1‑2022.
SB 736 Authorizes a property tax credit as a result of certain restrictive orders. Sen. Andrew Koenig (R-15). Beginning January 1, 2022, this act allows a taxpayer that owns real property located in a city or county that imposes one or more restrictive orders [health orders] for a combined total in excess of fifteen days in a calendar year to receive a credit against property taxes owed on such affected property. A restrictive order shall be any city-wide or county-wide ordinance or order imposed pursuant to state law relating to health orders.
Last Action: SCS Voted Do Pass S Ways and Means Committee 2-10-2022.
Contact your Senator or Representative for further information, and check the Missouri Secretary of States’ website to confirm your voting district (https://s1.sos.mo.gov/elections/voterlookup/)
1 Galen Bacharier covers Missouri politics & government for the News-Leader. Contact him at email@example.com, on Twitter @galenbacharier or at (573) 219-7440.