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Live Blog: The Last Day Of The Missouri Legislature

The 2019 regular session of the Missouri General Assembly wraps up today in Jefferson City. Many legislative priorities for Gov. Mike Parson, including new abortion restrictions, bridge repair and the low-income housing tax-credit program remain on the to-do list.

Here’s how this is going to work: we’ll update from Jefferson City with the latest news and insights. The most recent news will be on top, meaning you can get a whole recap of the day starting at the bottom.

6 p.m. — Legislature adjourns

That’s a wrap for our live blog coverage, folks. Stay tuned for an in-depth roundup of the end of the 2019 legislative session later tonight.

5:45 p.m — Legislature eases access to medication-assisted treatment

In an effort to help stem the state’s opioid crisis, lawmakers have voted to require insurance plans sold in the state of Missouri to cover medication that can help treat addiction to opioids such as heroin or prescription painkillers.

Insurance plans could not place lifetime or annual caps on the medications, and drug courts or other diversion programs would have to make the treatment available, without limits.

The cost of the legislation to the state, or the various treatment courts was not immediately clear.

5:15 p.m. — As clock ticks down, bills start to move

The Senate found itself logjammed on and off, as members fought to add on or fight amendments. But the House pushed a bunch of omnibus bills to the governor, including:

  • The transportation omnibus bill that removes the requirement for motorcycle riders to wear helmets if they are over 18 and have health insurance, and starts a pilot program for a digital driver’s license;
  • An education omnibus bill that sets up “schools in need of intervention,” and new limits on how much tuition school districts can charge unaccredited districts for their transfer students;
  • New mandates for treatment courts. Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, was one of a few lawmakers to vote against the proposal, citing concerns with increased costs and language that kicks defendants out of diversion programs if they commit another crime while on diversion, which he called counterproductive.

The Senate approved a bill from Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, that makes it easier for neighborhood organizations to clean up nuisance properties, as well as new rules around discovery for electronic evidence.

4:05 p.m. — Statement from Gov. Mike Parson on the 2019 legislative session

Parson will have his end-of-session media availability around 4:30 p.m. today, but he released this statement before meeting with the press. It includes no mention of the abortion legislation sent to his desk today.

“This year’s legislative session was marked by historic progress on significant issues important to all Missourians. I applaud House and Senate leaders for partnering on the shared priorities of infrastructure and workforce development. Thanks to their leadership we were able to pass a comprehensive economic development strategy for growth across Missouri and take a substantial first step to meeting our state’s infrastructure needs.”

3:30 p.m. — 'Border War' bill on its way to Parson

The General Assembly has approved legislation that attempts to stop the poaching of jobs across the Kansas-Missouri border by blocking state tax incentives for companies that are moving across the state line.

The legislation does not stop cities or counties from offering incentives but its Senate sponsor, Mike Cierpoit, R-Lee’s Summit, said the state incentives are generally more of the reason companies leave.

Gov. Mike Parson told our colleagues at KCUR earlier this year that he was interested in signing the bill. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, would also have to sign a version in Kansas.

3:10 p.m. — Statement from St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson on the passage of the abortion bill

“During the Annual March for Life in January, I walked with those proclaiming a culture of life. We all have a responsibility to do what we can so that in this nation, in our families, in our archdiocese, we choose life unconditionally. What we are now witnessing here in Missouri are lawmakers exercising that responsibility, and we commend them for working to protect the innocent and vulnerable. We pray that the love of Jesus Christ touches our hearts, so we all become witnesses to the protection and nurturing of all life.”

2:40 p.m. — House sends statewide term limit ballot item to voters

Missouri voters will decide whether all statewide officials will be subject to term limits.

Currently, Missouri’s governor and treasurer are subject to two four-year terms. Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer’s constitutional amendment would apply that same standard to the attorney general, secretary of state, lieutenant governor and auditor.

If someone is appointed to one of those other offices and has more than two years left in an expired term, that person would only be able to serve one term in that statewide position.

Voters will decide on the measure during the 2020 election cycle.

2:35 p.m. — Bridge repair plan gets across the finish line

Members of the Missouri House voted 107-31 to approve a bonding package to fix the state’s bridges.

The proposal would allow the state to borrow $300 million if the federal government awarded matching funds to repair bridges. The proposal also calls for $50 million in direct spending for bridge projects.

Missouri senators ended up approving a bill from Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, in April. House members on both sides of the political aisle agreed that the proposal was a short term plan for the state’s transportation needs.

If the state ends up getting a federal grant, the plan is expected to fix about 250 bridges.

2:25 p.m. — Statement from Missouri Democratic Party on passage of abortion legislation

"Banning a woman’s right to choose before she even knows she is pregnant, even in cases of rape and incest is far too extreme to the majority of Missourians and does nothing to actually reduce the number of abortions. In their quest to join the legal challenge to Roe v. Wade, the extremist majority is putting $7 billion in healthcare dollars at risk for the most vulnerable Missourians, including children in parts of the state with higher infant mortality rates than in developing countries. This vote demonstrates in stark terms the importance of voting for candidates that will focus on policies that improve health outcomes rather than go backwards."

1:15 p.m. — Senate debating omnibus public safety bill

The Senate has spent an hour or more debating a 100-plus page bill dealing with a number of issues related to public safety, including the creation of several task forces, new language around the use of devices that can be used to shock a heart back into its proper rhythm, a ban on drones around correctional facilities, and language known as “Hailey’s Law.” (Some of this language is on multiple other bills — lawmakers try to get their bills on as many vehicles as possible to ensure they get across the finish line.)

The underlying bill, HB113, was originally a two-page piece of legislation that allowed judges to depart from mandatory minimums from crimes like brandishing a firearm. The Senate added language about vehicle hijacking and drones at prisons. The House then added other items, and sent it back to the Senate, which has added even more language.

With less than five hours left in the legislative session, it’s not clear whether both chambers will be able to reach a deal on this bill to send it to Gov. Mike Parson.

1:10 p.m. — Statement from NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri Board President Leah Boersig on abortion bill

“Let’s call this bill exactly what it is: a near total ban on safe, legal abortion. This cruel bill would ban abortion before most people know they are pregnant — with no exceptions in cases of rape, incest or human trafficking. It does absolutely nothing to improve the lives of women and families in Missouri; rather it robs women of the right to make deeply personal decisions about their body, life and future.”

“Instead of enacting proactive legislation to improve Missouri’s skyrocketing maternal mortality rate, extremist politicians are focusing on creating even more barriers to accessing critical reproductive healthcare. But the anti-choice politicians pushing this extremist bill don’t care that it is unconstitutional — the right to safe, legal abortion is protected under federal law. They only have one goal: To push Missouri to the forefront of a political race to overturn Roe V. Wade and criminalize abortion nationwide. With a majority anti-choice Supreme Court, they’re feeling more emboldened than ever.”

“The right to choose abortion belongs to women and their doctors — not politicians. As the Missouri legislature continues to wage an all-out assault on access to safe, legal abortion across our state, NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri will continue to fight tooth and nail against these cruel and deliberate attacks on reproductive freedom in Missouri.”

12:50 p.m. — Statement from House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, on abortion bill

“Today, the Missouri House stood for the unborn. Every child has an intrinsic value given to them by the Creator of life. The bold legislation we sent to the Governor’s desk is the strongest and most comprehensive pro-life bill in the country.

While the actions of some states this year said life is insignificant, the Missouri House made the statement that in Missouri, we believe an unborn child is a human life worth protecting. We value the life of every Missourian and renewed that commitment all session. In passing this bill, we took a powerful step forward to show this includes the unborn. Our children will remember the moral, not political, vote members took today to protect the voice to the unborn.”

Pro-choice supporters on Friday protest in the Missouri Capitol. The legislature sent a bill banning abortions after eight weeks to Gov. Mike Parson to sign. May 17, 2019
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Radio
Pro-choice supporters on Friday protest in the Missouri Capitol. The legislature sent a bill banning abortions after eight weeks to Gov. Mike Parson to sign.

12:10 p.m. — House passes abortion bill

The House voted 110-44 to send the bill banning abortions after eight weeks to Gov. Mike Parson.

Before the vote, protesters in the gallery started chanting — and eventually started marching to the governor’s office on the second floor of the Capitol.

Parson is expected to sign the legislation.

Noon — Abortion debate takes emotional turn

Lawmakers from both parties are sharing their personal stories as they prepare to send an eight-week abortion ban to Gov. Mike Parson.

Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, told her colleagues how she became pregnant at 15 — and had to subsequently deal with homelessness and poverty.

“And I do care for those who’ve gone through poverty after they are born — I’ve lived it,” Rehder said. “Pregnant and homeless at 15? I’ve lived it. With a family that I couldn’t turn to? I’ve lived it. And this bill is the right thing to do.”

Democrats decried the lack of exceptions for rape and incest. State Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, said that she was a victim of rape in college, and added, “I was lucky I didn’t get pregnant.”

11:40 a.m. — St. Louis officials oppose abortion bill

As the House debate continued on an eight-week abortion ban, almost the entire St. Louis Board of Aldermen, along with Board President Lewis Reed and Treasurer Tishaura Jones, released a statement condemning it.

“If Governor Parson and the Missouri General Assembly are truly concerned about Missouri women’s health and 'life,'” the statement said, they would take action on any number of urgent matters, including Medicaid expansion, gun violence and the opioid crisis, and leave “private medical decisions of people with uteruses between the patient and their doctor.”

11:20 a.m. — Senate votes to change helmet law

The Senate has sent to the House a bill that allows motorcyclists over the age of 18 to ride without a helmet as long as they have health insurance. Supporters of the bill call it an issue of freedom, while opponents say it will lead to more serious injuries and drive up costs for everyone.

The measure also extends the exemption for vehicle safety inspections from 5 years after the model year to 10 years after the model year, or 150,000 miles. There is also language creating a pilot program for digital driver’s licences.

The bill cleared the House earlier this week but had to redone because of a drafting error.

11 a.m. — House has begun debate on abortion ban

The Missouri House began an emotional debate on legislation that would ban abortion after eight weeks.

Rep. Nick Schroer’s bill would ban abortion after eight weeks if a heartbeat or brain activity is detected. It would ban abortion completely if Roe v. Wade is overturned, except in medical emergencies.

If that eight-week ban is struck down, there’s language in the bill that would increase the amount of time a woman could get an abortion. The first tier is 14 weeks. If that’s overturned by a court, the state would have an 18-week ban. And if that doesn’t hold up, Missouri would bar abortions after 20 weeks.

“So in sum, this bill is undoubtedly the most comprehensive, the most legally sound legislation not only in this state, but in this nation,” said Schrorer, R-O’Fallon.

Opponents of the bill believe Schroer’s legislation is unconstitutional, and will likely saddle the state with expensive legal costs. Democrats have also decried the lack of exceptions for rape, incest or human trafficking.

“To the fact that I as the rape victim may be mentally deranged, mentally unstable, may be depressed, may suffer other mental issues for the rest of that child’s life,” said state Rep. Barbara Washington, D-Kansas City. “This bill is not about pro-life. I am a woman. It is my body. It is my choice.”

Schroer’s bill is expected to pass, and Gov. Mike Parson is expected to sign it.

10:25 a.m. — House passes transportation bill

The House gave its approval to a wide-ranging transportation bill that is notable because House and Senate negotiators removed a provision that would have eliminated emissions testing in the St. Louis area. Opponents of that move would have cost the state millions of dollars worth of federal money.

The bill does include revoking a person’s driver’s license if they strike a road worker. It also renames a slew of bridges across the state.

The House also adopted a conference committee report that would expand a requirement for insurance companies to cover autism therapies. The legislation would require companies to cover diseases “attributable to cerebral palsy, epilepsy, or any other condition other than mental illness or autism spectrum disorder which results in impairment of general intellectual functioning or adaptive behavior and requires treatment or services.”

10:15 a.m. — The final day begins

Both the House and the Senate were set to resume. Though the House went into session around 10:05 a.m., the chimes calling the Senate back into session did not sound until around 10:15 a.m.

It’s not a huge delay, but any delay in either chamber means less time to get bills across the finish line. Both the House and Senate must adjourn by 6 p.m. today.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.