Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is calling lawmakers back to Jefferson City for a second special legislative session to deal with a supplemental budget.
“It’s more of a technical session,” Parson said at his press briefing on Wednesday. “It should be very short. They should be in and out quickly.”
The session will begin on Thursday, Nov. 5, just two days after the election. The main priority is ensuring the state has access to additional federal funding for coronavirus response and recovery.
Parson said the budget bill will include funding for the School Nutrition Services Program, the Emergency Solutions Grant Program for homelessness prevention, job training grants and child support payments. The governor said he would be on board with also discussing COVID-19 liability issues.
“If the Legislature was willing, I think the legal liability issue should be front and center in this state,” Parson said. “If it’s not done in special session, it definitely should be a priority in the session. Hopefully that’s something that can be done in the first 30 or 60 days.”
Parson said that he has spoken to both chambers regarding the special session and that he thinks “they’re fully on board.”
He’s leaving it up to leadership in the House and Senate to create the schedule and did not say how long the session would last.
Coronavirus vaccine details
After rolling out the plan for the coronavirus vaccine last week, Dr. Randall Williams, the state’s public health director, provided a little more insight into the plan on Wednesday.
The state’s plan emphasizes allowing every Missourian to get a vaccine for free, but further into the document it says that providers can charge an administration fee. The document suggests keeping that fee small but does not specify a maximum amount. Williams said it will be in the ballpark of $20.
“I don’t anticipate cost being a barrier to getting vaccinated,” Williams said.
There are more than 3 million Missourians categorized as “high-priority” in the document. Williams reiterated that nursing home patients, staffs and other health care workers are at the top of that list. It’s still undetermined when the state will move into the phase to begin vaccinating the next group, which includes first responders, teachers and others.
“In the plan, it sequentially starts with our people who are at highest risk, our elderly with comorbid conditions. They start first,” Williams said. “Then after that, we’re just going to have to reassess. At this point, we have not ranked those other groups until we see how much vaccine we get.”
Williams said there are ongoing conversations about additional federal funding for providers administering and storing the vaccine. He called it a “contentious” issue that’s not yet decided.
Williams said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects the first doses of the vaccine to be available at the end of the year. He also said Missouri’s plan was sent to other states by the White House as “a model” for the country.