Missouri lawmakers pass high-profile gun bill on last day
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature passed a high-profile measure to ban local enforcement of federal gun laws with just an hour to spare before lawmakers’ 6 p.m. Friday deadline.
The GOP-led House voted 111-42 along party lines to send the firearms bill to Republican Gov. Mike Parson before adjourning the 2021 regular session.
The measure would block enforcement of federal gun laws by local police, an effort growing in popularity in Republican-led states under Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration.
“The Second Amendment is under attack,” bill sponsor Republican Rep. Jered Taylor said. “It’s under attack by the Democrats, particularly the Biden administration.”
Most state and federal gun laws are the same, and federal law enforcement could still enforce gun rules that are in federal law only. The push for the bill is driven by fear that Biden will enact sweeping limits on firearms.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Tuesday signed similar legislation aimed at thwarting executive actions by Biden to combat gun violence.
Missouri Democrats argued the bill is unconstitutional and predicted it would quickly be struck down by the courts.
“It’s embarrassing for our state for us to pass this bill claiming that federal law is null and void and unconstitutional,” Democratic St. Louis Rep. Peter Merideth said.
The House also passed legislation that would make Missouri the last state to require out-of-state online stores to collect sales taxes on residents’ purchases, penalize efforts to defund police agencies, and repeal a cap on the amount of annual college tuition increases that has been in place for more than a decade.
The final bill that passed would limit lawsuits that can be filed against businesses for misconduct during the pandemic. Parson has been calling on GOP lawmakers to send him a bill blocking many coronavirus-related lawsuits since last year.
Many bills failed to make it across the finish line after minority Senate Democrats stalled work over frustration with the way Republican leaders handled negotiations on other legislation.
Senators accomplished almost nothing Friday after quitting early.
“It was a perfect ending to a dysfunctional year,” Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo said.
At issue was a tax on health care providers used to draw down additional federal Medicaid funding, which then is redistributed back to those hospitals, pharmacies and other health service providers. Some Republicans wanted to add a ban on Medicaid funding being used for devices or medications that can cause abortions, which Democrats opposed.
Senate leaders said they expect to return to work later this year to reauthorize the tax so that Missouri doesn’t miss out on roughly a third of the money that funds its multibillion-dollar Medicaid program.
The inaction comes after the Republican Legislature refused to pay for a voter-approved expansion of the state’s Medicaid program to thousands more low-income adults.
The Legislature had already passed a number of other longtime priorities, including the gas tax measure.
The bill would hike gas taxes in the state for the first time in more than two decades, a phased-in 12.5 cent-per-gallon increase, in order to raise money for road and bridge repairs. Parson has indicated he will sign it.
Lawmakers also sent Parson legislation that will create a statewide prescription drug monitoring program. The policy is aimed at helping doctors see if their patients are getting painkillers and other medications from other physicians, a signal that they might be struggling with addiction.
A prescription drug database was another Parson request.