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Covering state lawmakers, bills, and policy emerging from Jefferson City.

Missouri Senate Approves $1.3 Billion Budget Bill, Governor Expected To Sign

Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3:35 p.m. Dec. 2, with additional comments from legislators

The Missouri Senate passed a nearly $1.3 billion supplemental spending bill Wednesday that gives the state access to federal coronavirus relief funds.

The legislation, which passed the House last month, now heads to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk. He’s expected to sign it before the deadline to use the funds at the end of the year.

In a statement, Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, said this money has been “bottled up and delayed too long.”

“Hopefully, now that the Senate has sent this spending bill to the governor, the money will finally get out the door and be put to work in the communities that need it most,” Rizzo said. “Getting Missouri through this crisis will be a marathon, not a sprint.”

The measure includes $75 million in supplemental food services for K-12 schools and $23 million to the Department of Economic Development to assist in local community projects. It provides $1 million of federal money to fund the recently passed witness protection program.

It includes funding for several other state departments, including social services, health and senior services and the Office of Administration.

House Budget Chair Cody Smith, R-Carthage, said the proposal includes general revenue funds, but he said that money is only to be utilized in worst-case scenario situations. COVID-19 relief funds can be tracked on Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick’s website.

The Legislature was also expected to discuss COVID-19 liability protections for businesses, health care providers and schools after Parson expanded the special session agenda last month.

On Tuesday night, Parson told leadership to halt those discussions and push them to the 2021 legislative session that begins next month.

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, issued a statement saying: “It remains a top priority to protect Missouri small businesses and deliver certainty in these uncertain times. We’ll continue working to find an effective solution as quickly as possible.”

But, House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, was quick to criticize Parson. In a statement, she said his “inability to build legislative support before pursuing controversial legislation will continue to doom his legislative agenda.”

With the supplemental budget headed to Parson’s desk, lawmakers have concluded work for the second special session this year. They’ll return to the Capitol on Jan. 6 for the start of the regular 2021 legislative session.

Copyright 2020 St. Louis Public Radio

Jaclyn Driscoll is the Jefferson City statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio. She joined the politics team in 2019 after spending two years at the Springfield, Illinois NPR affiliate. Jaclyn covered a variety of issues at the statehouse for all of Illinois' public radio stations, but focused primarily on public health and agriculture related policy. Before joining public radio, Jaclyn reported for a couple television stations in Illinois and Iowa as a general assignment reporter.