Representative Jeff Coleman, District 32
Numerous Bills Approved by the General Assembly Set to Become Law on August 28
The Missouri General Assembly had a highly productive legislative session and now the bulk of the bills passed by lawmakers and signed by the governor are set to become law on August 28. The bills that are now set to become law address some of the state’s most pressing issues such as the protection of children and vulnerable Missourians, as well as support for veterans and law enforcement.
In total, the Missouri House and Senate approved 69 pieces of legislation during the 2021 legislative session. That number is up from the 2020 legislative session when the General Assembly gave final approval to 51 bills, but down from 2019 when 92 bills made it across the legislative finish line. Forty pieces of legislation originating in the House received final legislative approval. Eighteen of the bills are appropriations bills that make up the state operating budget. The Senate saw 29 of its bills cross the finish line before session ended on May 14.
Of the bills he received, Gov. Parson vetoed three House Bills, and one Senate Bill. He also made line-item vetoes in 12 of the 18 appropriations bills. The legislature will return on September 15 for its annual Veto Session. During Veto Session, legislators have a final opportunity to enact their ideas into law despite the governor’s objections. In both chambers, a two-thirds vote is required to override a veto. In the House that amounts to 109 votes. Twenty-three votes are needed in the Senate to successfully complete an override motion.
To view a complete list of bills going into law by effective date, please visit: https://house.mo.gov/newbillreport.aspx?year=2021&code=R&select=evergroupcode:1&sortoptions=effectivedate
Missouri Continues to Make Broadband Expansion a Top Priority
This summer the Missouri House Special Interim Committee on Broadband Development has held public hearings to discuss ways to improve broadband internet access across the state. Efforts to increase access received a boost recently as Gov. Mike Parson announced plans to utilize more than $400 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to increase broadband internet access statewide.
The plan was developed through a multi-agency effort designed to address a diverse range of broadband connectivity challenges and is expected to impact hundreds of thousands of Missouri families. The plan requires the approval of the General Assembly, which will have to appropriate the funds when it returns for the 2022 regular session in January.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, more than 147,000 households or almost 400,000 Missourians don’t have access to high-speed Internet (25mpbs/3mbps). The majority of those citizens reside in rural communities.
Gov. Parson said, “Investing in our broadband infrastructure is critical to unlocking our full economic potential in this state and will serve Missourians for generations to come. We expect this investment to increase broadband internet connectivity and access in every corner of the state for hundreds of thousands of Missourians. Quality internet supports learning, health care, business, and agriculture in today’s economy, and we are excited to capitalize on this opportunity to truly make a difference and improve lives.”
In addition to the $400 million plan, the Department of Economic Development also submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Infrastructure Program requesting an additional $56 million for broadband deployment. If approved by NTIA, this funding could support up to 19 projects, connecting more than 17,000 households, businesses, and other institutions.
Missouri Attorney General Files Lawsuit to Stop School Mask Mandates
The Missouri Attorney General has filed a class action lawsuit against school districts that are forcing a mask mandate on schoolchildren and teachers. The reverse class action lawsuit names Columbia Public Schools, the Board of Education for the School District of Columbia and their board members, and the Superintendent for Columbia Public Schools as defendants. However, the lawsuit is in effect filed against all school districts in the state that have a mask mandate. If the class is certified, the ruling will bind other districts that have mandates.
The lawsuit claims the mask mandate is arbitrary and capricious, and argues that children are at an extremely low risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, that children are at a low risk for spreading COVID-19, that masks fail to provide adequate protection against COVID-19 in children, and that masks are detrimental to the development of young children.
Citing Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services data, the lawsuit notes that zero children under the age of 10 have died from COVID-19. Further, the lawsuit notes that children make up less than 1 out of every 100,000 people who are hospitalized in Missouri. The lawsuit also cites numerous medical studies stating that children have a low risk of transmitting the virus to other children. Additionally, the lawsuit cites a study that surveyed 25,930 schoolchildren and noted that 68% “complained about impairments caused by wearing the masks.”
The Missouri Attorney General said, “Forcing schoolchildren to mask all day in school flies in the face of science, especially given children’s low risk of severe illness and death and their low risk of transmission. Additionally, forcing schoolchildren to mask all day could hinder critical development by eliminating facial cues and expressions. We filed this suit today because we fundamentally don’t believe in forced masking; rather that parents and families should have the power to make decisions on masks, based on science and facts.”
Please let me know If you have other concerns and suggestions. If you would like to schedule a specific time to meet locally, please call my office at 573-751-1487, or email my office at firstname.lastname@example.org.