The 2023 legislative session came to a close at 6:00 pm on Friday, May 12, and will likely be remembered as being filled with missed opportunities. Many bills that were close to passing became casualties of dysfunction in the Senate during the final week of session. While House members spent the final hours of session passing numerous pieces of legislation, the Senate became a place of drawn-out theatrics that plagued the passage of many bills. Each senator has substantial power to hold the floor for an extended period of time, but the final week saw this practice taken to the extreme as a handful of senators used this power to hold the entire body hostage in order to pass their own policy objectives.
The result was another year where very few policy-related bills found their way to Governor Mike Parson’s desk. Of the over 2,000 bills that were filed this session, only 41 policy bills await the Governor’s signature.
Several Republican priority bills fell victim to the delay tactics, including initiative petition reform, which was a priority of the Speaker of the House, legislation to limit the ownership of Missouri farmland by foreign investors, and a provision to legalize sports betting in Missouri. We are certain each of these topics will be revisited next session.
The Governor has until June 30 to determine if he will sign or veto budget related bills and must decide the fate of policy bills by July 14. Bills that are signed into law will become effective on August 28, unless the bill has an emergency clause or specific date of implementation.
Listed below are brief descriptions of bills of interest to our members that passed. For a full listing of all bills that were truly agreed to and finally passed, please click on this link: https://senate.mo.gov/23info/BTS_Web/TrulyAgreed.aspx?SessionType=R. Please note that many of the Senate bills do not have the final versions available on the Senate website. The truly agreed versions should be available in the coming days as Senate staff is able to complete their work of bill reviews.
SB189 developed into one of our priority bills as session progressed. What began as a bill to increase penalties for assault of a law enforcement animal, developed into a lengthy omnibus public safety bill. Thanks to Senator Tony Luetkemeyer and Representative Lane Roberts, we were able to add several important provisions to this legislation. Contained in the bill is language to limit the authority of civilian oversight boards, a provision to add PTSD as a compensable injury for first responders under workers’ compensation, the elimination of residency requirements for St. Louis police officers, and language to remove the salary caps for members of the Kansas City Police Department.
SB186 is also a bill that became a priority for us as it transitioned from a bill dealing with theft from an ATM into another omnibus public safety bill. Provisions of interest to our members include adding dispatchers to the definition of a first responder, our PTSD language, removing St. Louis residency requirements, removing salary caps for KCPD officers, and new language dealing with POST disciplinary procedures. Thanks to Senator Justin Brown and Representative Jeff Myers for their assistance with this legislation.
SB24 creates the First Responder Mental Health Initiative Act. While several sections of the bill deal primarily with mental health for firefighters, we were successful in adding our PTSD language to this bill. Senator Lincoln Hough and Representative Ron Copeland were key to the success of this bill.