JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A tax that funds the $ 2 billion Missouri Medicaid program.
A push to ban the teaching of critical race theory in public schools.
An effort to undermine the changes to the Kansas City police budget.
A litany of bills to overhaul the way Missouri conducts its elections.
Calls from Missouri lawmakers for Governor Mike Parson to reconvene the recently adjourned Legislature in special session are many and varied. While there is no doubt that lawmakers will return to Jefferson City this year, what could end up on the agenda – and when they will meet – remains unclear.
“There are a lot of people who have reached out for special sessions,” Parson said in a recent interview with KCMO radio, “and it’s too early to talk about these things like that.”
Yet the list of issues lawmakers hope to resolve before the 2022 meeting next January seems to be growing by the day.
There are some things that will absolutely require a special session, and at the top of that list is a tax on health care providers that makes up a huge chunk of the state’s Medicaid budget. A brawl in the Missouri Senate over birth control and abortion derailed the tax renewal for the first time in its 30-year history.
Parson’s acting director of Medicaid recently said that if the tax is not extended by the September 30 expiration date, “the existence of the program (Medicaid) will be at risk by the end of the year.” “.
“I can’t overstate the impact,” said Kirk Mathews, acting director of the MO HealthNet program.
Obviously, Parson stayed on the sidelines during months of a legislative struggle over the tax, known as the Federal Rebate Allowance. In fact, as lawmakers scrambled in the closing days of the session to try and come up with a solution that would get a tax extension across the finish line, Parson wasn’t even in Jefferson City.
His public calendar, obtained through a Missouri Sunshine Law request, shows he left the Capitol at noon the day before the legislative recess for two events in Morgan County. After that, he appears to have been at home in Bolivar until he went to an event on Saturday in Springfield.
Parson’s hands-on approach to the matter angered lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, who quietly grumbled that he could have stepped in to try to make the tax extend and avoid having to come back for a potentially contentious special session.
This is especially true now, as the cracks that condemned the extension of the tax during the regular session appear to have only increased in the weeks since the adjournment.
“It would have been good for him to have been helpful. There were certainly some inflection points in the process where his involvement at least could not have hurt, ”said Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence. “Would his involvement have been the miracle solution that could have changed the outcome? I couldn’t tell.
Kelli Jones, the governor’s spokesperson, did not respond to a request for comment.
Beyond the federal reimbursement allowance, lawmakers will also have to meet later this year to redesign congressional districts.
The work is usually done every 10 years during the ordinary legislative session. But the census data needed to draw the lines has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and changes to the census schedule by the Trump administration.
Lawmakers hope to complete the new maps before Missouri’s candidacy period begins in February 2022. The chairman of the House Special Committee on Redistribution – Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial – has made it clear to lawmakers that the work of the committee would lie well in the grave.
Shaul is also part of a group of Republicans hoping Parson will call a special session to focus on election bills. To be at the top of his priority list would be to reinstate the requirement for a photo ID to vote – a provision that has been repeatedly struck down by Missouri courts – and a bill making it more difficult for people to change state law through the initiative petition process.
More recently, Kansas City-area Republican lawmakers have started calling for a special session in response to a city council vote to give the city more control over its police budget.
The council, headed by Mayor Quinton Lucas, voted to cut the police department’s $ 240 million budget by $ 42 million. This would mean that the city would spend 20% of its general revenue on policing, the minimum percentage required by state law.
The $ 42 million would go to a fund to find innovative ways to tackle violent crime in the city.
While they did not present specific legislative proposals to combat the city’s move, representatives Chris Brown from Kansas City, Josh Hurlbert from Smithville, Sean Pouche from Kansas City and Doug Richey from Excelsior Springs wrote a letter to Parson requesting a special session. because “Kansas City is in crisis.”
The chairs of the Senate and House education committees are also calling for a special session, this one targeting Critical Race Theory and The New York Times’ Project 1619.
Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, and Senator Cindy O’Laughlin, R-Shelbina, wrote in a letter to Parson that programs that include these topics are “divisive and unnecessary.”