The Capitol ReportProvided By: State Representative Brad Hudson
Lawmakers Receive Governor’s State of the State Address
The House and Senate convened for a special joint session on Wednesday, Jan. 15 to receive the governor’s annual State of the State Address. Lawmakers gathered in the House Chamber to listen to Governor Parson share his priorities for the 2020 session.
Before outlining his goals for the year ahead, Parson highlighted some of the accomplishments that he and the legislature were able to achieve in 2019. He also pointed to the millions of dollars being invested to repair and rebuild many of Missouri’s aging bridges.
Turning to his priorities for the year ahead, Parson focused on strengthening Missouri’s communities, supporting education and preparing the state’s workforce for the jobs of the future, updating the state’s aging infrastructure, and making government more efficient.
Parson said, “We have made record progress over the past year, but there is still more to do and much more we can achieve with hard work. That is why my call this legislative session is to propose initiatives aimed at building stronger communities, improving workforce development and education, revitalizing our aging infrastructure, and making government more accountable.”
Some of Gov. Parson’s proposals include:
- Combating violent crime by providing greater protection for victims and witnesses, providing more mental health resources and services, and strengthening laws to target violent criminals.
- Providing full funding once again for the School Foundation Formula and increasing school transportation funding.
- Strengthening the state’s early childhood offerings to better prepare Missouri children for success. Parson noted that Missouri recently received a $33.5 million preschool development grant aimed at creating a more effective, high-quality early learning system.
- Increasing opportunities for high-demand job training at the high school level. Parson announced his administration is seeking a $750,000 investment to certify approximately 12,000 new high school students as work-ready through the WorkKeys program.
- Increasing Bright Flight and A+ Scholarship funding by $5.3 million.
- Allocating an additional $19 million for the MoExcels Workforce Training Initiative.
- Making key investments in Missouri’s infrastructure, including $4 million in disaster recovery funds and another $50 million for the transportation cost-share program.
- Setting aside $100 million to use in case of financial emergencies. The fund would be supplemented by Wayfair collections if lawmakers approve legislation to require online retailers to collect sales tax on purchases made in Missouri.
Voter ID Law Struck Down
The Voter ID law approved by the General Assembly and then by 63 percent of Missourians in 2016 has been struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court. Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said the law was “eviscerated” by the court’s decision despite the fact opponents have failed to bring forth a single voter who was unable to vote as a result of the voter ID requirements.
Ashcroft said, “The people of Missouri made it clear in November of 2016 that it is reasonable to require a photo ID to vote. That voter ID law strengthened protections at the ballot box and, just as importantly, expanded access to the ballot ensuring registered voters would no longer be turned away on Election Day.”
The Supreme Court agreed with a Circuit Court ruling that the provision requiring voters to sign a statement that they don’t have a photo ID was unconstitutional because it was misleading and contradictory. The Supreme Court also agreed with the Circuit Court that the advertising materials distributed by the Secretary of State were misleading because individuals may believe that having a photo identification is the only way to vote, which inaccurately reflects the statute.
Judge Brent Powell wrote a dissenting opinion that noted the court could have struck only the contradictory wording rather than the entire affidavit requirement. That would have left in place a requirement that voters without a valid photo ID swear to their identity and acknowledge their eligibility for a free photo ID. Powell was joined in the dissent by Judge Zel Fischer as they noted that the majority opinion, “eliminates the intended distinction between voter identification options and prevents the legislation from having any effect on voting identification procedures.”