Capitol Report - Week Four 2021
February 8, 2021
By: Paula S. Dierenfeld
Not Much to Write Home About. Subcommittees and committees met in both houses this week but little action took place on the floor in either chamber. On Tuesday, the House debated and passed a bill, HF 228, that removes the ability of school districts to use their voluntary diversity plans as a reason to deny requests for open enrollment. HF 228 passed by a vote of 56 -32, along party lines. The provisions of HF 228 are included in a larger “school choice” bill, SF 159, that passed the Senate last week.
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Agree to Disagree, About Something. On Wednesday, the Senate passed SF 185, a bill to repeal the Missouri River Preservation and Land Use Authority. The authority was created in 1991 to “engage in comprehensive planning for and the development and implementation of strategies designed to preserve and restore the natural beauty of the land adjacent to and the water of the Missouri river.” Opponents argued the authority was created for a good purpose and should not be eliminated. Proponents countered that no history or information can be found about the authority, it has never been funded and other agencies perform the activities it was created to do. SF 185 passed by a vote of 35-11.
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Kumbaya. Several other bills were debated and passed in the House and the Senate. All were non-con and passed unanimously.
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Calm Before the Storm? The lack of activity in the legislature may be a consequence of the COVID-19 cloud that looms over the State Capitol. COVID-19 protocols are in place and while there is no mask mandate, most legislators and lobbyists are wearing masks and respecting each others’ space.
As of last Thursday, there have been five confirmed COVID cases in the House. Seven Democratic members have been absent because they are in quarantine, have tested positive or are considered at “high risk.” So far, the Senate has not reported any COVID-19 cases.
The Senate continues to hold all of its meetings virtually. House Minority Leader Todd Prichard has called on the House to do the same. On Tuesday, Speaker Pat Grassley refused to recognize Representative Beth Wessell-Kroeschell during debate, who was wearing jeans in violation of the House’s dress code to protest there being no mask mandate.
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Just Over the Horizon. Several bills containing Governor Reynolds priorities were introduced this past week. Expect to hear more about them in the days ahead.
- SSB 1142/HSB 178 Governor’s Housing Initiatives - Creates a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program, doubles the amount of funding available for the grayfield/brownfield tax credit to $20 million a year, increases the amount of Workforce Housing Tax Credits from $25 million to $50 million per year, and creates a Downtown Loan Guarantee Program and an Eviction Prevention Program.
- SSB 1145/HS174 Governor’s Tax Initiatives – Eliminates the conditional revenue and growth triggers that have delayed implementation of the income tax changes enacted in 2018, excludes from individual and corporate income taxation all qualifying grant monies received to cope with COVID-19, and clarifies changes made in the 2018 legislation to the capital gains tax.
- SSB 1140 Governor’s Criminal Justice Reforms – Bans racial profiling by police, denies state funding to local governments that reduce their law enforcement budgets, unless the reduction is part of a budget-wide cut, increases penalties for rioting, unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, and harassment, and allows police officers to sue for injuries suffered while performing their duties.
The Nyemaster Goode Government Affairs team tracks and analyzes legislation as part of its full range of legislative services. At the statehouse, our public policy attorneys use experience, knowledge, and technical skills to achieve our clients’ goals.