Senate embarks on several high profile bills

April 15, 2024


missouri news network

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate inaction for much of Tuesday over a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood marked the beginning of what will be a critical period in the legislative session and a reminder of how fraught the last few months in the Senate have been.

The body has 24 days to pass two major bills: the state budget and the Federal Reimbursement Allowance for Medicaid. Passing the budget is a constitutional requirement and funds all state government functions, including things like the University of Missouri system, public K-12 education and state law enforcement.

The FRA is a federal subsidy that reimburses Missouri healthcare providers for the state taxes they pay. This helps healthcare facilities keep costs down while treating state and federal healthcare system patients.

FRA represents a major funding source for the state. If the extension doesn’t pass there would be a $4 billion gap in the state budget.

Standing in the way of the budget and FRA extension is the desire of the far-right Freedom Caucus Republicans to pass a law that would ban Missouri Planned Parenthood from receiving both state and federal funds.

To reach that end, Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, brought forward a House-passed bill Tuesday that bans money going to organizations affiliated with an abortion facility. Even though Planned Parenthood facilities in Missouri are not allowed to provide abortions, they are affiliated with the national organization, which does provide abortions in some states.

“There have been many efforts over the years to defund Planned Parenthood. That effort has been made in budget bills,” Coleman said on the Senate floor.

Noting those efforts were overturned by the state Supreme Court, she added: “This bill is an effort to put that conversation to rest by putting it in our state statutes, (so) that it is abundantly clear to the state of Missouri that people who are engaged in providing abortions shall be ineligible to be part of the Medicaid program.”

Democrats, who note that Planned Parenthood provides a range of women’s health services beyond abortion, rose to challenge the bill.

Sen. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette, offered an amendment to protect in vitro fertilization, which has been a priority for Democrats. The effort to defund Planned Parenthood relates to reproductive health, providing them the avenue to offer the amendment on in vitro fertilization.

“I don’t think it’s a politician’s place to get involved in a woman’s private health care decisions, including those who want to grow their families through IVF,” McCreery said while introducing the amendment. “The underlying bill that we’re talking about (to ban funding for abortion affiliates), is going in the wrong direction.”

With that move, Democrats began a filibuster that they said they were prepared to continue overnight. However, shortly after midnight the amendment was withdrawn and the bill passed on a party-line vote.

Senate leaders have expressed interest in extending the federal FRA without any restrictions, such as the Planned Parent defunding favored by the Freedom Caucus. Their concern is that federal officials will end the reimbursements if any state restrictions are put in place.