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Springfield City Council considers wish list for next year’s Missouri lawmaking session

Springfield, Missouri's Busch Municipal Building, photographed Aug. 9, 2022.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
Springfield, Missouri's Busch Municipal Building, photographed Aug. 9, 2022.

In six weeks, Missouri legislators begin pre-filing bills for next year’s lawmaking session in Jefferson City. Springfield elected leaders are gearing up by working out their wish list for state senators and representatives.

In early August, one of Springfield’s registered lobbyists told City Council that this past year, lawmakers in Jefferson City had one of the “least successful” legislative sessions in recent memory.

That’s due to what the lobbyist, Will Marrs, called “infighting” between so-called Conservative Caucus Republicans and other Republican-majority members. Roughly 3,000 bills were introduced, but just 43 non-budget bills were ultimately sent to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk to be signed into law.

This week, Council’s Tuesday lunchtime workshop focused on lawmaking that Springfield’s elected leadership would like to see from the Missouri General Assembly next year. State lawmakers go back into session on January 4. But they can pre-file bills beginning December 1.

As council members and lobbyist Marrs talked over which parts of the current wish list they should keep or change, similar themes emerged from that summertime conversation.

During a discussion of city priorities involving public safety and attempts to address gun violence, Mayor Ken McClure and General Seat B Councilman Craig Hosmer talked about how they believe Missouri lawmakers’ ideas often sharply differ from the needs and desires of Show-Me State cities and towns.

Hosmer, who served in the Missouri House as a Democrat from 1990 to 2002, said, “We shouldn't tolerate — I mean, we've got a legislature that doesn't do anything we ask them to do — doesn't take any of our priorities. And that's just substantially different than what our past relationship has been with our legislative delegation. I think we need —"

“Cities are not a favorite of the General Assembly,” responded Mayor Ken McClure. Like Hosmer, McClure has served Missourians in the state capital. In the 2000s, he worked a few years as transition director and then chief of staff for former Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican.

Part of Tuesday’s discussion included trying to keep the priority policy language brief, so the text could completely fit on a one-sheeter for easy distribution to busy lawmakers.

And other aspects of Tuesday’s discussion — which took place among Council members, City Manager Jason Gage and Marrs, the city lobbyist — focused on ways to write the Springfield Council’s wish list as broadly as possible. The goal was to give Marrs the “flexibility” he needs to work with state lawmakers in the Republican-dominated General Assembly, generally considered much more ideologically focused than Springfield’s officially nonpartisan City Council.

In one instance, Zone 1 Councilwoman Monica Horton questioned Marrs about political realities surrounding the idea of introducing bills to promote quality housing in city neighborhoods, particularly laws that would address accessibility and anti-discrimination.

“I realize that our state legislature right now is not getting a whole lot done,” Horton said.

As part of his response, Marrs said, “I think you're right to point out the next year, where you've got an election year, I don't expect a lot of policy bills to pass. And we've seen a trend the past really five years or so, of seeing less and less productivity from the General Assembly.”

About Springfield's priority list

Springfield's current priority list covers last year’s lawmaking session, as well as local ordinance-making by City Council that focuses on quality of place, public safety, economic vitality and more. You can read it here.

Key new priorities could be added to Springfield Council’s wish list. Springfield could ask state lawmakers to:

  • Define video lottery terminals, or VLTs, as illegal gambling devices. 
  • Clarify rules on Transportation Development Districts and how their funding is spent. 
  • Change state law allowing cities to voluntarily annex planned development areas not directly connected to existing city limits. 
  • Fully fund I-44 from Kansas Expressway to U.S. 65 for improvements such as safe interchange access for MO-13, widening the interstate to six lanes, replacing bridges, along with bicycle and pedestrian connectivity. 
  • Allocate $3.4 million to fund improvements to LeCompte Road and Eastgate Avenue near Springfield Underground, the 3.2 million-square-foot underground business park and storage facility. 
  • Fund the newly adopted Family Connects program with $1 million in taxpayer money per year for three years. 

To learn more about all of Council’s priorities under consideration, check the attachment at the end of this story, which features a presentation by City Manager Jason Gage delivered to Council on October 17.

2024 Springfield City Council draft legislative priorities

Copyright 2023 KSMU. To see more, visit KSMU.

Gregory Holman