2021 Missouri Legislative Session Begins

IMPORTANT DATES THIS SESSION
The 2021 legislative session of the 101st General Assembly opened  January 6 in Jefferson City. Governor Mike Parson (R) along with other statewide officeholders was inaugurated for their new terms of office during ceremonies on January 11, on the steps outside the state capitol. The Governor will announce his budget proposals and deliver his 2021 State of the State Address at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 27. Legislative Spring Break is set for March 12 through 21. And the General Assembly's annual session is scheduled to end at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 14.
HOUSE AND SENATE ELECT LEADERS
On Jan. 6, the Missouri House officially elected Rep. Rob Vescovo (R-Arnold) as Speaker of the House. Rep. John Wiemann (R-O'Fallon) was re-elected as Speaker Pro Tem. In the Senate, Sen. Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan) was unanimously re-elected to serve in that post.
Speaker Vescovo in his election address listed his legislative priorities including education reform issues, COVID liability, and foster care. During his address to the Senate, Sen. Schatz said, "Missourians are counting on us to honestly and seriously confront the issues facing our schools, public safety, infrastructure, and economy. It's time for us to lead and deliver."
The House introduced several rules changes, including allowing remote public testimony during House committee hearings via telephone or video conferencing with the approval of the committee at least one committee hearing in advance. Written testimony could be submitted online through the House website. Another proposed change allows a House committee to meet with less than a quorum of members present to hear testimony. Rules changes were introduced in both chambers, proposing adjustments to committees, and the rules changes will be debated in coming days. Senators and Representatives will be assigned to various committees by Sen. Schatz and Speaker Vescovo soon.
To date, 787 bills have been filed in the House, and 373 bills have been filed in the Senate.
BUDGET UPDATE
Last week, Governor Parson released an additional $126,921,606 of previously restricted FY 21 funds. This includes approximately $117.5 million in general revenue. The Governor pointed to current unemployment of 4.4 percent and 67 percent job recovery as of November 2020 for the reasons to release the funding. The funds released include nearly $26 million for Higher Education and Workforce Development and $1.5 million for DESE. The funds released also include $8.5 million for Tourism, $1 million for Highway Patrol needs, $9,4 million for temporary assistance for needy families, $3.9 million for the developmental disability community. Here is a complete list of the released funds:
 APPROPRIATIONS RELEASED FOR UNIVERSITY REPAIR PROJECTS
Governor Parson also announced Jan. 6, more than $68 million in Federal Budget Stabilization Fund appropriations for infrastructure and capital improvement projects at Missouri's 13 public universities and State Technical College of Missouri. Releasing these funds will help address major repairs and restore campus buildings to maintain a safe environment. Among the appropriations, the University of Missouri, Columbia, received $20.14 million, and Missouri State University, $8.4 million. State Technical College of Missouri received $549,415. A complete list of the appropriations is here: FBSF Appropriations.pdf (govdelivery.com)
GOVERNOR EXTENDS TIME LIMIT FOR COUNTIES' CARES ACT DISTRIBUTIONS
On Dec. 27, Governor Parson extended the deadline to sub-recipients (counties) to June 30, 2021, from Dec. 31, 2020, for distributing CARES Act funds. Counties are required to provide the state with their individual spending data by Jan. 31, 2021, to receive the extension, according to the Governor's order. When President Trump signed the latest COVID-19 Emergency Relief Package into law in December, one of the bill's provisions was extending the date that CARES Act funds could be used on eligible costs by one year.
MISSOURI'S MINIMUM WAGE RATE INCREASES
Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, Missouri's minimum wage rate increased 85 cents per hour to $10.30 from $9.45 in 2020. Missouri voters in 2018 approved a statewide ballot issue to increase the minimum wage over five years to $12 per hour in 2023. Retail or service businesses whose annual gross income is less than $500,000 are not required to pay the state minimum wage rate and may pay employees wages of their choosing.

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