Missouri Gov. Parson announces second special session

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson speaks during a briefing July 27, 2020.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson speaks during a briefing July 27, 2020.

Lawmakers will return to the Missouri State Capitol next month for a special legislative session on a supplemental budget Gov. Mike Parson called for Wednesday.

The special session will begin at noon Nov. 5 and, similar to budget work in the spring, will have legislators budget for additional state and federal resources needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parson said the state still has Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding from the federal government that needs to be distributed to Missourians, which is why he called the special session.

The supplemental budget will contain funding for items including school nutrition service programs and grants to support job training and prevention of homelessness and domestic violence, as well as child support payments, he said.

"We look forward to working with the General Assembly to make sure these funds are distributed across Missouri as soon as possible," Parson said.

Parson's proclamation calling for the session also will allow for the state Senate to consider appointments to state bodies and leaves open the possibility of the governor adding other subjects.

Parson in July called a special session on a package of anti-violent crime bills, though by the time lawmakers concluded that session in September, most of the governor's agenda had not been passed or even put to a final vote.

What did pass was a bill to establish a pre-trial witness protection fund - not yet funded, which could conceivably be changed in November - and a bill loosening residency requirements for first responders in St. Louis.

Lawmakers and others had called for Parson to include work to address police reform and accountability issues and resources for schools amid the pandemic.

Parson said Wednesday he would be open to including other topics beyond the budget in the upcoming special session, if the Legislature is willing.

"I think the legal liability issue should be front and center in this state, and if not's done in special session, it definitely should be a priority in (regular) session," hopefully in the first 30 or 60 days, he said.

He told reporters Wednesday he has met with leaders of both legislative chambers and expects a quick special session.

Parson, a Republican, is running for election to a full term as governor Nov. 3, and his Democratic rival, State Auditor Nicole Galloway, released a statement Wednesday following his announcement on special session.

According to Galloway's campaign, the special session is "way too little, way too late from a governor who has failed at every step to contain the virus and put Missouri's economy back on track. The Governor should have taken action on day one to get these funds to the Missourians who need them most. But he didn't - and instead too many lost their lives, businesses closed, jobs were lost, and the virus went unchecked."

Missouri House and Senate leadership from either party had not yet made statements about the special session announcement Wednesday, as of approximately 5:30 p.m.

Parson spent much of his Wednesday briefing before the special session announcement explaining how the state reports COVID-19 data and how he said Missourians should evaluate that information compared to data from other sources.

Parson and a news release from his office explained, for example, that the way the state calculates the test positivity rate accounts for people being tested multiple times - a conservative method that can make the rate appear higher.

Both ways of calculating the positivity rate were to be displayed on the state's public health data dashboard, starting Wednesday.

Parson also advised people to rely on seven-day averages in data on positive cases and deaths, as there can be fluctuations in day-to-day numbers that depend on when cases and deaths are reported, not necessarily whether they occurred in the previous 24 hours.