Springfield News-Leader: Legislative roundup: What’s next on REAL ID, drug monitoring and ‘abortion museum’

JEFFERSON CITY — Legislative leaders regularly speak with members of the Capitol press corps after adjournment on Thursdays. The press conferences allow lawmakers from both major parties to deliver their takes on the events of the past few days and outline their hopes for the week ahead. Here’s a sampling of what went down this week in Jefferson City:

 
 
 
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Readers have asked the News-Leader for more information about the fate of legislation to bring Missouri into compliance with the federal REAL ID of 2005. This law requires the state-issued forms of identification to comply with certain rules and processes. Wochit

REAL ID

Two top Republican senators indicated that they would prefer Missouri become the 46th state to adopt some level of compliance with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005.

The House awaits a final vote to bring Missouri into compliance with REAL ID, long awaited by Missourians who would like to be able to fly or visit military bases without relying on a passport. Some Republicans with concerns about personal privacy continue to oppose the federal requirement, even petitioning Attorney General Josh Hawley to get involved.

Initial discussion in the Senate featured a debate about “liberty” by Sens. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, and Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, as the two Kansas City-area Republicans argued whether Missourians preferred complying with the law and what exactly “compliance” means.

Silvey is of the mind that Missourians should be able to decide whether they obtain a REAL ID. Kraus characterizes this as a “false choice” and says complying with REAL ID would open the doors to federal intrusion.

If and when the bill comes up again, Kraus may filibuster — an unusual move for a Republican at a time when the GOP dominates Missouri’s governance structure.

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, expressed support for Silvey’s position on Thursday. Asked whether REAL ID had a chance, Richard said, “If it’s up to me, it does.”

“I think Sen. Silvey made some good comments about the volunteerism part,” Richard said. “If you want to submit your information, you should be allowed to. … I think (Silvey) did a great job.”

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, was diplomatic in his approach to REAL ID and said he “wouldn’t read too much into” the lack of final passage of a House REAL ID issue this week.

“It’s a real issue. There’s concerns on both sides, and I think both sides have valid concerns,” said Richardson, who was among the lawmakers who asked Hawley to find a way to block REAL ID.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said a resolution filed by Kraus urging Congress to repeal REAL ID could reach the Senate floor next week.

“There’s multiple avenues moving on REAL ID right now. I think that’s the best way to put it,” Kehoe said, adding that he was certain Silvey’s bill would be revived for more discussion. “I think Sen. Silvey has a good idea.”

Prescription drug monitoring

It’s an oft-cited fact: Missouri is the only state in the U.S. without a prescription drug monitoring program.

The House and Senate are set to pass two versions of legislation authorizing a monitoring program in Missouri, setting up a now-familiar showdown between ideas favored by Sen. Rob Schaaf and Rep. Holly Rehder.

Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, has proposed a program with strict controls on who can access data. Schaaf has long opposed prescription monitoring and claims his version will do more to protect “liberty,” which he says means “privacy” in this context. His bill limits how long the state can retain information and makes it more difficult to access information in the database.

Richardson acknowledged that the Senate bill and the bill being pushed by Rehder, R-Sikeston, were substantially different, and he said he would defer to Rehder’s ideas going forward.

Schaaf on Thursday said he had not spoken to Rehder personally about the proposals. The two butted heads at a Senate hearing last month.

According to fiscal analysis by legislative staffers, Schaaf’s proposal could cost several million dollars per year. The cost of Rehder’s proposal is closer to $1 million annually.

Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis County, said she opposed Schaaf’s version because it would pre-empt existing prescription drug monitoring programs in several Missouri cities and counties.

She also expressed her frustration at the lack of stronger controls against opioid and heroin abuse, saying their absence has made Missouri a “laughingstock.”

“We need to do something about this,” Walsh said. “It’s killing our youth.”

‘Bathroom bill’

Republican leaders of both chambers indicated that the issue of letting transgender students use the restroom of their choice should be left up to the school districts.

Richard brushed away the notion that a lack of urgency to debate a proposal from Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, was due to pushback following the 39-hour filibuster of a “religious freedom” resolution in 2016.

“I’m of a mind to let (school districts) handle their own business,” Richard said. “If they can’t, then we’ll see what we do. Right now, I think they’re willing to do that.”

Richardson echoed Richard’s sentiment and referenced the recent move by President Donald Trump’s administration to revoke guidelines set by former President Barack Obama to allow students to use their bathroom of choice.

“I’ve always maintained that these decisions were best left to local school boards who are in a better position to try to figure out how to deal with them,” Richardson said.

Southwest Missouri schools have said they intend to work with transgender students to meet their needs, though it’s unclear whether any local school district ever fully adopted the Obama-era guidelines.

During a Senate hearing on the bill, Emery said he wants to protect student safety and privacy; others testified about the needs and desires of transgender students.

Abortion museum

Noted anti-abortion activist Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, has offended a Jewish colleague with his proposal to create a “history of abortion” exhibit in the Capitol, to be placed near a display about the history of slavery. Moon titled his bill the “Never Again Act.”

“The number of lives lost by abortion is more than we lost during slavery and during the Holocaust,” Moon said Wednesday in a news release. “We need to start looking at abortion in the same light as we do both of those tragic events.”

Sen. Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis County, called Moon’s proposal “unconscionable” when speaking to reporters Thursday, noting that the phrase “never again” was a common reference to the Holocaust.

“What (Moon) wants to do that has to do with a woman’s access to reproductive rights has nothing to do with the tragedy and the travesty of the Holocaust,” said Schupp, who is Jewish, “and I resent him using that terminology as a way to express his displeasure with the idea of a woman’s access” to an abortion.

Schupp also urged courage in the face of the vandalism of a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis. Cleanup efforts last week attracted hundreds of volunteers, including Vice President Mike Pence and Gov. Eric Greitens.

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