Few things bring Missouri lawmakers together quite like sports.
So while there are plenty of debates sure to inflame partisan rancor, naming a bridge after a Kansas City baseball legend isn’t expected to run into much controversy.
But fear not: There’s plenty of rancor on tap for Missouri lawmakers this week. Lawmakers will debate campaign contribution limits, taxing and texting. And don’t forget, they still have a $27 billion budget to pass.
Here are five things we’re watching for in the week ahead.
Rep. Lauren Arthur, a North Kansas City Democrat, will be the latest lawmaker to take a swing at convincing skeptical Republican legislative leaders that Missouri should reinstate campaign contribution limits.
Lawmakers have made ethics reform a priority in 2016, and three bills are on the precipice of getting to Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk. But proponents of contributions limits, which includes both Democrats and Republicans, have argued real progress on ethics reform won’t be possible without contribution limits.
Voters imposed limits back in 1994. Republicans repealed them in 2008.
Arthur’s contribution limits bill will get a public hearing Monday at noon in the House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee.
In addition to contributions limits, Arthur will also get a hearing Monday on legislation mandating nonprofits engaged in campaign activity disclose their donors. The Senate almost approved similar language in a bill last week, but it was defeated on a 15-15 tie vote. One of the senators who wasn’t present said later she would have supported the measure.
The Missouri House is expected to debate and approve its version of the state’s $27 billion budget this week.
Among the items getting the most attention thus far include a nearly $8 million cut in funding for the administration of the University of Missouri System and a $70 million increase in K-12 public school funding.
The budget now heads to the full 163-member House for debate and approval. It will then head to the Senate. The goal, according to Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, is for lawmakers to approve the budget early enough to force Gov. Jay Nixon to either sign or veto provisions while the legislature is still in session. That allows Republicans to override the governor’s vetoes during session as opposed to waiting until the September veto session.
Forty-six states ban text messaging while driving.
Missouri is one of the few that don’t, banning only those under 21 from texting behind the wheel.
A pair of bills being heard Monday evening in the House Public Safety Committee would expand the ban to all drivers. The bills would prohibit anyone from sending, reading, or writing a text message while driving.
Rep. Rick Brattin, a Harrisonville Republican, wants to make it cheaper to buy a firearm.
Under legislation he’s proposing, state and local governments could exempt guns and ammunition from the sales tax. The House Ways and Means Committee will discuss the bill Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Brattin is sponsoring several gun-related bills this legislative session. He’s has one bill pertaining to the storage of firearms and ammunition, and another establishing the controversial “stand your ground” law in Missouri.
BUCK O’NEIL BRIDGE
Wednesday morning at 8:15, the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee will discuss whether the bridge on U.S. Highway 169 crossing over the Missouri River from Jackson County to Clay County should be named the “John Jordan ‘Buck’ O’Neil Memorial Bridge.”
O’Neil was a first baseman and manager in the Negro American League, mostly with the Kansas City Monarchs. He died in 2006 at age 94.
O’Neil won two batting titles during his 11 seasons with the Monarchs and was later hired as a scout by the Chicago Cubs in 1962, making him the first African American in a coaching position with Major League Baseball. He went on to serve more than three decades with the Cubs before returning to Kansas City to become a scout for the Kansas City Royals.
After his baseball career, O’Neil raised money to build the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.