Representative Ed Lewis's Capitol Report

September 08, 2023

The controversial waste basin proposed by Denali east of Cairo in Randolph County has run into an impressive roadblock. The grass roots group Citizens of Randolph against Pollution LLC has filed a lawsuit against DNR regarding the proposed waste lagoon. Steve Jeffery, attorney for the citizens group indicates the lawsuit alleges: (i) DNR failed to require Denali to obtain a solid waste processing facility permit, and (ii) DNR improperly allowed Denali to apply for a water permit. Thursday, Judge Green in Cole County Circuit Court in Jefferson City entered a Writ of Prohibition against DNR. Under the Writ, DNR cannot take any action concerning the proposed lagoon (including further processing of the water permit application) without the Court's permission. This effectively puts the permitting process on hold until a ruling by the Judge.

Veto Session Arrives on September 13th

Just as a reminder, the Missouri Legislature is scheduled to meet this month on September 13 for the annual veto session. This is the time in which the legislature has the option to attempt to override a governor’s veto, which requires a two-thirds majority vote by both the House and the Senate. This year, Governor Mike Parson vetoed 201 line-item vetoes to the FY 2024 operating budget, to the tune of $555.3 million, as well as one veto used on a legislative package dealing with crime prevention and public safety.

Dozens of new laws took effect at the end of August, with the work of the Missouri Legislature in the 2023 legislative session finally coming to fruition. Several new laws and provisions are set to become law on August 28, ranging from tax relief for senior citizens, extending healthcare coverages, removing financial barriers in the adoption process, combatting the opioid epidemic, simplifying the state’s vehicle sales tax, increasing public safety, and preparing Missouri’s workforce for the future. Here is a look at some of the bills passed this session.

Improving Education and Addressing Teacher Shortages

This year, Missouri’s legislature continued pushing for more funding and changes aimed at improving the educational status in the Show-Me State. The state has once again fully funded the K-12 Foundation Formula for the fifth year in a row, securing $3.6 billion in state aid, alongside $233 million for school transportation.

The legislature has also made moves to address the issue of teacher shortages and the salaries paid to those in charge of educating our children. Some school districts are facing shortages of qualified educators, and in an effort to keep teacher pay competitive, Missouri has fully funded the Teacher Baseline Salary Grant Program, which increases baseline K-12 educator pay to $38,000 per year. In addition to that, the state has put aside $32 million for the Career Ladder program to reward educators who go beyond normal duties.

The Missouri General Assembly passed legislation that would also enable K-12 schools to hire more retired teachers longer under SB 75. Under current law, retired teachers can only return for two years, and school districts can hire no more than 5 retired teachers or 10 percent of their teaching staff, whichever is smaller. SB 75 will extend the limit from two years to four, and would revive a retirement allowance for teachers who have served 31 years or more, allowing them to receive 2.55 percent of their previous salary multiplied by their years of service.

Offering an Elective Social Studies Course on the Bible

SB 34, passed by the Missouri Legislature this year, would allow Missouri school districts and charter schools to offer a new elective social studies course focusing on Hebrew Scriptures and the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Bible. The course will focus on the content of the texts, as well as their history, literary style and influence. Schools could not require students to limit themselves to a specific translation of the texts and would have to maintain “religious neutrality.” The goal of offering such a course is to provide knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives in an effort to give context and understanding of contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy through the lens of the scriptures.

Veto Session Just Around the Corner

Every year, the Missouri Legislature passes new laws with the intent of bettering our state, improving programs, and cutting red tape. The legislature’s power to pass new laws comes with checks and balances, one of which is the power granted to the executive branch to veto legislation passed by the Missouri General Assembly. In the event of a veto by the Governor, Missouri’s lawmakers get the chance override those vetoes, if they so choose, each September.

The Governor vetoed 201 line-item vetoes to the FY 2024 operating budget, adding up to $555.3 million. A few of the items vetoed include:

•$28 million for some Interstate 44 improvements

•$25 million of $50 million assigned for Close the Gap grants to help families with tutoring, summer learning and other educational opportunities

•$15 million of $30 million designated to help victims of crime

•$15 million for a University of Missouri program that trains K-12 public schools about prosocial education

•$6.8 million in rural health behavioral crisis center expansions

•$5 million of $10 million proposed for autism research

•$3.7 million of $13.1 million in prevention and intervention to help at-risk youth

•$2.5 million to study turning Highway 36 into Interstate 72

•$2 million to help with National Guard recruitment

•$1.8 million of $3.3 million designated for an electromagnetic brain treatment to help veterans and first responders with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance use disorder

This year, the legislature’s annual veto session is scheduled for September 13, and Missouri lawmakers will have the decision to make as to whether to override those vetoes.

Maples Repertory Theatre Awarded Grant

The Missouri Arts Council recently awarded $23,040 to the Maples Repertory Theatre to support professional theatre performances at the historic Royal Theatre in Macon. The Theatre plays a key role in drawing people from all over northern Missouri to downtown Macon.

Grants from Missouri Arts Council make it possible for many arts organizations to continue their missions, serve their communities, and contribute to the overall economic growth of Missouri.

I recently visited the newest Department of Conservation property at Kirksville this week. A 200-acre property which will be called Rock Lake and will be developed for recreational use for fishing and walking trails.