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Missouri lawmakers heading back to Jefferson City at end of the month

Missouri lawmakers heading back to Jefferson City at end of the month

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$6 billion coronavirus spending plan heading to Missouri governor's desk

House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, calls the session to order on Wednesday, April 8, 2020, in the House of Representatives at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City. Meeting under unprecedented circumstances, Missouri lawmakers approved a $6.2 billion emergency aid package targeted at helping the state respond to the broad effects of a global coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers will return to the capital city on April 27, House and Senate Republican leaders said Wednesday in a joint news release.

The Legislature, besides returning briefly last week to approve a $6 billion emergency spending package, has not met to debate legislation since mid-March, as concerns over the novel coronavirus intensified.

Lawmakers face a May 8 constitutional deadline to approve the state’s budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

It was not clear from the Wednesday statement whether lawmakers would take up anything besides the spending plan when they return.

House Speaker Elijah Haahr, House Majority Leader Rob Vescovo, Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz and Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden in a joint statement acknowledged the Legislature’s “constitutional obligation” to approve a budget by May 8.

“The decision to move forward on April 27 was not an easy one, however it is absolutely critical for the people of Missouri that we keep the state government funded and services operating without interruption,” the statement said. “We will use the intervening time to monitor the trajectory of Missouri’s coronavirus cases as well as assess the impact of newly issued federal guidance and disaster funds on the state budget.

“The General Assembly will continue to adhere to social distancing and infection mitigation procedures when members return,” the statement said.

It said committee hearings and floor proceedings would still be open to the public.

“We strongly encourage members of the public to follow social distancing guidelines and participate in the legislative process electronically when possible,” the statement said.

Democrats, who have little leverage in the Legislature, on Tuesday raised concerns about returning to the Capitol during a pandemic.

Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, said the Legislature’s actions should focus only on sending a budget to Gov, Mike Parson.

“Bringing the General Assembly back to the Capitol during the coronavirus peak for legislation that has nothing to do with coronavirus is irresponsible,” Rizzo said.

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