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Missouri Lawmakers Call For Special Session To Address Medicaid Funding, Voter ID Requirements

  Gov. Mike Parson talks to the media in Kansas City during a visit to Morningstar Missionary Baptist Church in April.
Carlos Moreno
Gov. Mike Parson talks to the media in Kansas City during a visit to Morningstar Missionary Baptist Church in April.

Calls for Gov. Mike Parson to hold a special session are piling up following the recent adjournment of the Missouri legislative session.

A spokesperson for Parson said he has not made a decision yet to call any of the special sessions, leaving lawmakers questioning when they will return to Jefferson City and why.

The list of issues is varied and growing, but what they have in common is lawmakers say they can't wait until the next legislative session starts in January 2022.

Medicaid Funding

Lawmakers adjourned in May without the renewal of the Federal Reimbursement Allowance, a tax on health care providers that pays for a significant portion of the state’s Medicaid budget.

According to St. Louis Public Radio, the typically-routine passage of the tax was halted by pushback from senators who wanted to attach items that would bar the use of Medicaid dollars for certain contraceptives and funding for Planned Parenthood.

Democrat Rep. Sarah Unsicker, whose district covers part of St. Louis, sent a letter Wednesday to Parson asking him to call a session “quickly” to renew the tax before it expires on Sept. 30.

“The FRA is not something that should be the subject of political games. People’s lives rely on Missouri receiving this funding for Medicaid,” Unsicker said in the letter. “There are currently over 1 million Missourians on the Medicaid program, including over 600,000 children.”

In the letter, Missouri’s acting Medicaid director, Kirk Matthews, said, “The existence of the program will be threatened by the end of the year” if the FRA is not renewed.

Unsicker said the program’s expiration would leave many Medicaid participants without access to necessary medical treatments, like asthma medication, diabetes treatment and cancer drugs.

Addition of anti-abortion items

A coalition of 38 Republican lawmakers from both chambers requested Parson on Thursday to include a general call for "pro-life" policies in a special session.

The group, led by Rep. Nick Schroer of St. Charles County, asked for the request to be included in any calling for a FRA special session or other matters.

The letter, which followed the day after Unsicker’s call, asked for the inclusion of language that would prohibit the use of public funds to go towards abortions or providers of them.

“Waiting until the next regular session of the Missouri General Assembly to deal with these problems is not a responsible or viable option … Missouri must become a better place for our children and grandchildren, born and unborn,” the letter read.

The letter cited the issue of Medicaid expansion back in the courts, and attempts by congress to repeal the Hyde Amendment as reasons behind the push.

Election Reforms

Republican members of the Missouri House called for a special session on election reform before the legislative session came to a close in May.

Members of the House Committee on Elections and Elected Officials, led by the committee’s chair Rep. Dan Shaul, accused the Missouri Senate of holding up efforts to overhaul the state's election laws.

The proposed reforms include Voter ID requirements, reforms to initiative petitions and restrictions on mail-in voting.

The committee claimed in its letter that the most recent presidential election featured "many discrepancies and issues with the election process in several states across this nation.”

Department of Justice officials say there is no evidence that voter fraud affected the 2020 election.

Critical Race Theory in Schools

Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin and Rep. Chuck Besye wrote a letter Wednesday asking Parson for a session that would attempt to restrict critical race theory and The New York Times’ 1619 Project from being taught in public schools.

The legislators, who both chair education committees, said in the letter that they heard concerns from parents and public school employees about teaching curriculum that included CRT and the 1619 Project.

The legislators called CRT and 1619-related materials “radical concepts” and “divisive and unnecessary.”

The letter wrote that attempts to add language that would prevent these teachings failed to pass during the last weeks of the legislative session.

Missouri joins legislatures in about half a dozen states that have adopted or advanced bills that aim to restrict critical race theory teachings.

Kansas City Police Department Budget

Republican lawmakers from Kansas City on Wednesday asked for a special session to address Mayor Quinton Lucas’s new police budget plan.

The plan would take about $42 million from the Kansas City Police Department budget and put it in a separate fund that would give the mayor and council more say in how the money is spent.

Rep. Doug Richey, Sean Pouche, Chris Brown and Josh Hurlbert, all of the Northland, signed the letter that called the move “dangerous and reckless.”

“Kansas City is a city in crisis. This move only pushes a city we love and represent closer to the brink of disaster,” the letter read.

The letter complained that the mayor’s plan did not take any public input and only took a few hours of review. The legislators also said that the police department will suffer from additional budget cuts.

The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners on Friday sued Mayor Quinton Lucas and the city council, stating that the plan is a violation of state law and could harm police operations.

Copyright 2021 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

Jodi Fortino