The Missouri General Assembly, in a session shortened by the coronavirus pandemic, wrapped up its work Friday, sending a number of bills to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk.
It was one weird session, with legislators passing winners and some losers. After some interchamber skulduggery, lawmakers also killed an important measure that public health and safety advocates, the Globe, and numerous lawmakers have sought for years.
Common sense and restraint were big losers this session as lawmakers piled omnibus bills with pet measures to create hodge-podge legislation that will open the floodgates to legal challenges. While voters may not be surprised, we should be disappointed that those sent to Jefferson City to serve our interests could not check themselves enough to focus on essentials despite having lost more than four weeks to the pandemic.
Voter participation won in a big way with the passage of a bill to loosen the requirements to vote absentee in upcoming elections. The measure allows those at greatest risk from the coronavirus to vote without having their ballots notarized. Other voters will be permitted to vote absentee but will need the help of a notary.
However, Missouri voters lost when lawmakers put a new redistricting plan on the ballot in an effort to undo a redistricting approach voters approved as part of the Clean Missouri amendment less than two years ago. The best message voters could send to lawmakers who have trouble accepting the will of the people would be to defeat the measure overwhelmingly at the ballot box.
Schools and colleges were winners — sort of — when the budget process shook out. The fiscal year 2021 operating budget faced a beating from the economic shutdown in the pandemic. Big cuts were made in some places, and the state is counting on billions of dollars in federal funding to offset some losses. Education could have taken a beating, having often been a favorite pivot to balance the budget on in prior rounds of tightening. Instead, funding for education largely remained steady, though a $13 million cut in funding will hit school transportation.
Other losers include the hope of a statewide use tax and the safety of motorcyclists’ skulls in a bill eliminating helmet laws for those older than 26 who have health insurance.
On the winning side, taxpayers can be happy that their federal coronavirus stimulus payment won’t be taxed by the state.
Possibly the biggest loser is the hope that lawmakers would create a prescription drug database to track addictive medications. Missouri is the lone state that has not adopted a prescription drug monitoring program, a key element of efforts to battle opioid misuse and addiction. Making it even worse, the measure to establish one was killed by a political spat.