100th General Assembly Convenes for 2020 Legislative Session
House members returned to the State Capitol on Wednesday, January 8 for the start of the 2020 legislative session. This is the second regular session of the historic 100th General Assembly. The beginning of the 2020 session also marked the start of the legislative careers for six new House members who were elected during November 2019 special elections. The new members were officially sworn in by House Speaker Elijah Haahr. With their addition, the House now has 114 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and one vacancy.
After the traditional opening day ceremonies, members made their way to the House Lounge to meet with the press about their upcoming priorities for the year. When asked by the media if he preferred to avoid tough issues and keep the session at a dull roar, Speaker Haahr responded by saying, “I prefer the loudest roar we can have.”
Haahr said the legislature would look at policies to help address the violent crime problem in the state’s largest cities. He noted that the police force and investigatory unit in St. Louis are overwhelmed, and said legislation that would enhance the protection of witnesses could find support this session. “We stand at the ready to try to do what we can as a state to help the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City as they deal with this,” Haahr said. He went on to say that House is pro second amendment and that we would not being doing anything to jeopardize that. I believe everyone knows where I stand when it comes to the second amendment, but in case you don’t, I will not be voting on anything that would open the door to having any of our second amendments rights taken away.
Haahr also said the House would not be supportive of an increase in the gas tax, but would consider a Wayfair fix that would level the playing field for Missouri businesses. Missouri is currently one of only two states with a general sales tax that does not tax remote sales. A Wayfair fix would allow the state to collect taxes from out-of-state retailers.
During the press conference, the Speaker also said the legislature is ready to craft a fiscally responsible state budget. He said lawmakers are ready to budget judiciously in preparation for possible expenses that could put additional strain on the state spending plan. Lawmakers will again make education funding a top priority as they prepare the state operating budget.
Haahr noted that the House already has 866 pieces of legislation filed. His office will refer approximately 100 bills to committee this week so work on the bills can begin. The legislature has until May 15 to get bills across the legislative finish line and to the governor’s desk.
The Speaker has a lot of power as to what will or will not come to the floor for debate. It is important to pay close attention to his responses to the media as we look to the future as to what we can expect in the coming months.