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5 bills to watch as Missouri lawmakers finish their work this week

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Last day of the Missouri Legislature’s 2021 regular session

Missouri House lawmakers applaud Speaker Rob Vescovo on the House floor on Friday, May 14, 2021, on the final day of the legislative session at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — A frenzy awaits Missouri legislators returning to the Capitol on Monday for their final week of regular action in 2022.

Lawmakers finished the state’s $49 billion budget on Friday, clearing the way for debate on unresolved issues such as congressional redistricting and voter ID requirements in the last week.

The Legislature is required to adjourn by 6 p.m. this Friday. Here are five legislative issues to track as the session comes to a close:

Congressional redistricting

The House Redistricting Committee advanced House Bill 2909 last week, which would likely result in a 6-2 Republican advantage in Missouri’s U.S. House delegation.

The House will send the plan to the Senate on Monday, said Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, chair of the House Redistricting Committee.

St. Charles County Sens. Bill Eigel and Bob Onder balked at the map the House approved earlier this year. They argued most or all of St. Charles County should be placed in the same congressional district.

On Friday, Onder signaled a breakthrough on the second House plan was possible. He said he’d rather keep map-making responsibilities out of the courts.

“It’s not as strong as it should be,” Onder said of the new House plan, adding it “definitely makes a bigger split in St. Charles County ... than I’d like.

“But it shows, finally, people are willing to move and negotiate,” he said. “It’s good we’re moving in a better direction.”

The new House map places about 75% of St. Charles County residents in the 3rd Congressional District, Shaul said.

The Senate approved its own map in March, after negotiations with the St. Charles senators, landing on a map that placed 80% of county residents in the 3rd.

The new House map also splits Shaul’s home of Jefferson County between the 3rd and 8th districts.

“Everybody has to give a little bit at this point,” Shaul said.

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said Friday the map’s success depended on the actions of the two St. Charles County senators, Eigel and Onder.

“I think it’s going to come down to whether the St. Charles guys are willing to — to do what a lot of us have also done, which is to compromise a little bit,” Rowden said.

A copy of the congressional map approved by the House Redistricting Committee on May 4, 2022.

The new map in question, approved by the House committee last week, keeps the 1st Congressional District, held by Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis, similar in shape to what lawmakers negotiated earlier this year, maintaining the district’s majority-minority nature.

The new plan stretches the St. Louis County-based 2nd Congressional District west to Warren County and Franklin counties.

Education

Numerous education topics are attached to Senate Bill 681, which still requires final votes in both chambers.

The legislation originally directed the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to address literacy problems by developing a “comprehensive system of services for reading instruction.”

Lawmakers added legislation requiring school districts to initiate a gifted student program by 2024 if at least 3% of students are determined to be gifted.

A separate piece allows the state to create four “recovery schools” for “eligible students diagnosed with a substance use disorder,” according to the bill summary.

Also included in the latest version of the bill is the so-called "Get the Lead Out of School Drinking Water Act."

Multiple provisions seek to address current teacher shortages in schools.

The education bill allows individuals employed by districts in response to staffing shortages to obtain teaching certifications. And it allows retired teachers to hold full-time jobs with schools for four years without losing their retirement benefits.

The legislation would also incentivize districts to save on administrative costs. Districts that share superintendents would be able to draw down $30,000 in additional state aid for up to five years.

The legislation would also usher in new requirements for “coursework and instruction in computer science in public and charter high schools,” the summary said.

The bill would require parental permission for school officials to use corporal punishment.

The latest version of the legislation doesn't include requirements that schools teach cursive by the end of fifth grade and that schools submit information on salaries to the Missouri Accountability Portal.

Elections

A wide-ranging bill carrying a requirement that voters present photo identification at the polls requires one more vote in the Senate before heading to the House.

The House could then take quick action on the legislation to send it to Gov. Mike Parson.

Under the bill, House Bill 1878, voters without a photo ID on election day could cast a provisional ballot. These provisional ballots may be verified if a voter returns to the polling place with a photo ID or the election authority verifies the ballot signature matches a signature on file.

Senate Democrats negotiated an amendment to the elections bill that would allow two weeks of no-excuse absentee voting.

Separate efforts to make it harder to approve initiative petitions have not yet gained traction in the Senate. Rowden said “maybe” Friday when asked if the upper chamber would debate the changes in the final week.

Clean energy

A conference committee is set to meet on legislation that originally dealt with forbidding homeowners associations from banning solar panels.

Senate Bill 820 was widened to take aim at electric vehicle ordinances in St. Louis and St. Louis County. The legislation would limit the ability of local officials to require businesses to install electric vehicle charging stations — unless the local government pays the bill.

Crime

The House had yet to act on a Senate bill dealing with crime issues. But the chamber could move to load the bill up with amendments early this week.

Senate Bill 834 would establish the Correctional Center Nursery Program, which would allow inmate mothers to reside with their babies for 18 months.

Possible House amendments include requiring compensation for Missouri prisoners who are exonerated but not through DNA analysis.

Another amendment would cap the amount correctional centers could charge inmates for domestic calls at 12 cents per minute.

Editor's note: a previous version of this article included out-of-date information on provisions included in the education bill.

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