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Capitol Update: April 30, 2024 | Unfinished Business Lingers as Deadline Approaches

By Missouri REALTOR Party posted 18 days ago

  

Missouri REALTORS®

The Missouri Legislature is scheduled to adjourn at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, May 17. The clock is running quickly for legislative business and lawmakers have major unfinished business with the Missouri budget for the state fiscal year that starts July 1.

The budget is legally required to be passed by May 10. Senate leadership wants to debate the budget on the floor this week and advance it toward passage. But Senate members of the hard-line Freedom Caucus have a list of sometimes-shifting demands, including that they will hold up passage of a key measure that helps pay for Medicaid if their demands are not satisfied.

The key measure is the Federal Reimbursement Allowance Tax, known as the FRA. This is a tax paid by nursing homes, hospitals, and other providers of health services enabling the state to draw more than $4 billion to pay for Medicaid. The current FRA tax expires on September 30. Senate Appropriations Chairman Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, has said failure to renew the FRA would mean significant budget adjustments to cover costs, and that the budget cannot be completed without the FRA tax. 

The Freedom Caucus demands include stalling budget action until the Senate approves legislation strongly opposed by Missouri REALTORS® to weaken our citizens’ initiative petition process. All of this has the potential to slow down the pace of the Senate considerably, as time on the floor becomes more precious.

Protecting Citizen IP Power
Senate Joint Resolution 74 is one major legislative vehicle for undermining the citizen initiative petition process – a power that Missouri voters granted themselves constitutionally 114 years ago to go around politicians to put proposals directly before voters. Missouri REALTORS® oppose SJR74 because citizen IP power has been an indispensable tool in REALTORS® advocacy arsenal. 

The Senate earlier passed a version of SJR74 that requires not only the current simple majority for a measure to pass but adds a second legally questionable threshold – that the measure must concurrently be approved in at least five of the eight congressional districts. REALTORS® believe this violates the longstanding principle of one person, one vote, as it gives some votes more weight simply because of the voter’s ZIP code. An analysis by the Missouri Independent “found that under the concurrent majority standard being proposed, as few as 23% of voters could defeat a ballot measure. This was done by looking at the majority in the four districts with the fewest number of voters in 2020 and 2022.”

The House passed SJR74 after restoring so-called “ballot candy” that the Senate stripped out of the measure. Ballot candy is the term for provisions that have little actual impact while sounding appealing to some voters. For example, the House-passed version adds a requirement that voters be citizens, which has already been a constitutional requirement for 100 years. “What this is, is to deceive Missourians,” said Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern, D-Kansas City, who predicted during floor debate that if the proposal makes the ballot, voters “will see right through this. They will see that folks in power are trying to take their power away and give it to politicians.”

There is strong Senate opposition to the House changes, so a fight between the chambers is expected. Meanwhile, another piece of legislation that would make legally questionable changes to citizen initiative rights, House Bill 1749 by Rep. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill, received a do-pass vote from the Senate Local Government and General Elections Committee, but it has not been placed on a calendar for Senate floor debate.

Eviction Moratorium
House Bill 2062 by Rep. Chris Brown, R-Kansas City, to prohibit governmental moratoriums on evictions, has been recommended do-pass by the Senate Emerging Issues Committee without changes from the House-approved version. It is now awaiting Senate floor debate, handled by Sen. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield.

For questions, contact Erin Hervey, Vice President of Government Affairs and Local Board Relations, at erin@morealtor.com.

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