(via Rep. Judy Morgan)
Many of us left Jeff City pretty unsettled on Thursday, March 12 as the news about COVID-19 was getting worse and worse. We had planned on passing the budget after we returned from spring break on March 30. However, because of concerns over the virus, the Republican leadership moved up the process, hoping to pass the $30.9 billion state operating budget last week and send it to the Senate side. Then the Senate would take up the budget when they returned from spring break on March 30.
On Sunday, March 15 our House Budget Committee met for almost twelve hours, until after 1:00 a.m. in the morning. It sounded like a grueling and contentious process, but the committee finally approved the thirteen bills that make up the Fiscal Year (FY) 21 budget. Although I must add that Democrats weren't satisfied with the final outcome. The full House expected to take up the FY 2021 budget at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday and then start our spring break.
Republican Leadership Delays Consideration of FY 21 Budget
On St. Pat's Day I was working in my Jeff City office - finishing up my ranking member report for the Fiscal Review Committee hearing scheduled for the next morning and preparing remarks for floor debate on the budget. At about 5:00 p.m. a message popped up on my computer screen from the Majority Floor Leader, Rep. Rob Vescovo.
The Majority Floor Leader informed us that after discussion with the Budget Chair, the House would not take up the FY 21 budget as planned. Rep, Vescovo said, "Our primary goal is to maintain an amendable budget so that we can account for potential fluctuation in revenue and address any new needs facing Missouri."
As I read the Majority Floor Leader's message to us, I was quite taken aback as we had never delayed consideration of the budget in my previous eight years. And I felt bad for the members of the Budget Committee who had worked in a marathon session for almost twelve hours on a budget that may now be toast.
With much of the economy shutting down as businesses lay off workers and people isolate themselves to flatten the curve on COVID-19, revenue collections (income and sales taxes) may fall short of previous estimates. As a result, budget cuts may be needed and that's why Republicans decided to delay consideration of the FY 21 budget.
House Blocks Attempts to Bolster COVID-19 Funding in FY 20 Supplemental Budget
Last week the House had also planned to pass the FY 20 supplemental budget, contained in HB 2014. The supplemental budget provides for new spending authority for various items that weren't included in the original FY 20 state operating budget enacted by the legislature last spring. It's like a mid-year correction, routinely taken up by the General Assembly each year.
Although HB 2014 included a total of $40 million in spending authority targeted for the state's response to the pandemic outbreak of COVID-19, as Democrats, we believed that amount could prove woefully insufficient, based on what we've observed in other states. So several amendments were offered during the House floor debate as listed below:
Minority Leader Crystal Quade - $20 million to county health departments for coronavirus response, treatment, and mitigation efforts;
- Rep. Deb Lavender - $10 million to provide paid leave or other compensation to hourly employees who work for the state, general assembly, and judiciary; and
- Rep. Jon Carpenter - $86.8 million to hospitals to expand their intensive care unit capacities and locations, implement mobile testing units, and purchase the equipment needed to treat the virus--like masks and personal protection equipment (PPE).
Rep. Carpenter pleaded with our colleagues to consider his amendment. He said, "We're not pumping significant resources into preparing for what's coming. That is a massive abdication of our responsibility. Disappointed is not a strong enough word." (From the Kansas City Star, 3/19/20). I couldn't agree more with my esteemed colleague, Rep. Carpenter.
Our Minority Leader Crystal Quade lamented that Missouri was always the last and now's not the time to wait. Budget Chair Cody Smith countered with the argument that we could always come back into session to allocate more resources to respond to COVID-19.
Rep. Peter Merideth pointedly asked, "Do we want to have to come back to this building, in tight quarters with a group of 163 people, when we're telling everybody else they're supposed to stay home, in order to pass it again?" (From the Kansas City Star - 3/19/20).
And I might add that we were violating the CDC guidelines just by sitting in the Chamber - a gathering of more than ten people and no way to stay six feet apart from one another.
While a budget appropriation provides the necessary legal authority to spend funds, it doesn't require the actual spending of the money. Simply put, the amendments offered by Democrats would have given the governor the authority to spend the money, if needed to fight this horrible virus.
While we were debating HB 2014 on the House floor, we learned of the first death in our state due to COVID-19. You would think that might have convinced everyone of the need to provide more resources to fight the virus. Regrettably, it didn't.
Republican lawmakers defeated all of the Democrats' attempts to further boost emergency spending for mitigating COVID-19. On the amendments offered by Reps. Quade and Lavender, we lost on a voice vote.
A roll call vote was called for on Rep. Carpenter's amendment - unfortunately it failed on a 47-100 vote. One-hundred Republicans voted no and all Democrats voted yes, joined by two lone Republicans. They were Rep. Jack Bondon from Cass County and Rep. Roger Reedy from Benton County.
Giving the governor the spending authority per the amendments offered by my Democratic colleagues presented the most responsible and reasonable way to handle the COVID-19 pandemic in our state. But, even if $40 million in funding proves inadequate, we must do something to deal with this unprecedented health crisis.
That's why I voted yes on the FY 20 supplemental budget. HB 2014 passed by a vote of 147-3 with one person voting present.
Now the supplemental budget will head to the Senate side. Once passed by the Senate (as long as they don't make any changes to the House's version), the next step will be sending it to Governor Parson for his signature.
A Message from the Greater KC Women's Political Caucus
(from Rebecca Richardson, President)
We find ourselves in an extraordinary times, and need to take extraordinary action. In order to do our part to keep everyone healthy, and still work on our mission the best we are able, the GKCWPC has made plans to operate virtually until the threat of the Corona virus is behind us. All of our membership meetings, board meetings, fundraisers, etc. will be held online until we find ourselves in a healthier situation. But rest assured - we will be a champion for women in the upcoming election!
In order to participate in the endorsement process, you must be a member for at least thirty days. Please take a moment to join or renew your membership.
Our mission is to recruit, train, and elect progressive women to run for office. Current events tell us how important it is to elect women who share our values and will fight for us. We hope you will step up to participate as members and to support the dedicated women stepping up to run and represent us.
Our Missouri candidate endorsement process will also go to an online candidate screening process and voting. We plan to have all the information up on our website by May 1st, with online voting from May 1st to May 7th. But to participate you must join or renew by March 31st. The Kansas process will be later, but managed the same. If you have any doubts about your membership - you can Check your membership status on JoinIt.
As of Monday afternoon, filing for county offices including Sheriff, Prosecutor and Committee person is now only allowed by appointment directly with the Clerk of the Legislature's office. Despite requests to the Secretary of State's office, the deadline will remain Tuesday March 31.