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Missouri Senate adjourns early on last day of session; 46 bills passed this year


After a turbulent legislative session, the Missouri Senate decided to end its last day as soon as possible.

Senators met for only a minute Friday morning and gaveled out sine die -- meaning indefinitely -- without discussing anything. The Missouri House of Representatives adjourned sine die around 2:45 p.m. after sending a final 11 bills to the governor's desk.

Majority Leader Sen. Cindy O'Laughlin (R-Arnold) said the early dismissal was to prematurely squash any chances of dysfunction on the final day after two filibusters over a ballot question to change how voters amend the state constitution. Democrats and most Republicans were fine with leaving things as is, but members of the Freedom Caucus were upset.

"This being the last day, I thought it would be good ended in a cordial way," O'Laughlin said. "And yesterday was not that day. And I felt that the risk of leaving it open was less than the reward of ending early."

Thursday saw the Missouri House send back the bill, which would reform the initiative petition process, without changes after senators requested a conference to hammer out the chambers' differences. That came after a 50-hour Democratic filibuster over some language in the ballot measure.

Many predicted this year would be unproductive because it's an election year and many key players in the General Assembly are running for higher office.

However, the final bill total is close to the recent average.

In recent history, around 50 to 60 bills are passed each year, this year coming in at 46 bills. That final total includes 18 budget bills. While it's still lower than most years, this year's total still beats the 42 bills passed in 2020.

Blair's law

One of the bills passed Friday was a crime prevention package that includes Blair's Law, named for Blair Shanahan Lane, a young girl who lost her life over a decade ago to celebratory gunfire.

If signed by the governor, the bill would criminalize celebratory gunfire. Under this bill, the first and second offenses would be misdemeanors and the third offense would be a felony.

Michele Shanahan DeMoss, Blair's mother, has been advocating for the law for over a decade.

"I sometimes feel like I should have protected her more, but I didn't see the bullet coming through the trees," Shanahan DeMoss said.

Shanahan DeMoss and the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City), were heartbroken when the bill was vetoed last year. But Sharp is confident the governor will sign the bill this year.

"This is the only public safety bill that the Missouri House, that the Missouri General Assembly could pump out this year," Sharp said.

Sharp and other members of the Black Caucus in the Missouri House don't back a measure in the bill package called Max's Law. It would increase the punishment for harming a police dog.

"We really hope that we weren't creating extra penalties for trying to get away from a canine, because there are a lot of worry about a canine probably getting involved or attacking the victim potentially and them trying to protect themselves," Sharp said.

Boone County charter schools and Rowden's legacy

With the end of the session, many lawmakers are saying goodbye to their time at the Missouri Capitol. One of them is Boone County's Republican Sen. Caleb Rowden, who isn't seeking any office in 2024.

Rowden told ABC 17 News at the beginning of the year that one of the things he hopes to do before he leaves office is clear a path for charter schools to come to Boone County. After the governor signed a bill to allow just that, Rowden can say he accomplished that goal.

"My assumption is you might see an elementary charter in the next four years, three or four years, but it takes a little while to get one," Rowden said.

Rowden said that Columbia is the most likely place for a charter school to open in Boone County. However, Columbia Public Schools educators have spoken out adamantly against the new law, saying it will drag away resources from public education. Superintendents throughout the county asked Gov. Mike Parson to veto the bill.

"I just disagree that it's going to actually have any sort of significant impact on their deal," Rowden said. "I think it might actually enhance what they're doing."

Columbia Democrats, including Rep. David Tyson Smith, tried to fight against the law.

"We fought tooth and nail against that," Tyson Smith said. "Disappointed about that."

However, Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch (R-Hallsville) is happy about the new law and said she even sponsored it in the House with the hopes of sending a message to Columbia Public Schools.

"It is targeted at the Columbia Public Schools," Toalson Reisch said. "This is needed. Parents are already asking me, 'When can a charter school open?'"

Toalson Reisch is also retiring from her position in the House this year because of term limits. She's running for the Boone County Commission.

Rowden mentioned the University of Missouri as a possible sponsor for a charter school in Boone County.

When asked about the possibility, a spokesperson for MU said, "It’s still quite early as the legislation has just been signed. However, Mizzou continues to focus on its education mission by not only educating our student body and preparing them for their chosen career field, but also supporting elementary and secondary education throughout the state with research and discoveries that improve curriculum development and delivery."

After leaving the Missouri Senate, Rowden said he wants to focus on his family and his marketing business.

Article Topic Follows: Missouri Politics

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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