Missouri lawmakers will arrive at the Capitol on Wednesday to start the 2016 legislative session, during which they are expected to discuss how to come up with the money to fix aging roads and bridges, changes to laws on abortion and whether to require photo identification for voting.
Here are some of the top issues to watch:
Proposals so far in the GOP-led Legislature include a ban on fetal tissue donation from abortions, which comes amid a backlash over undercover videos released last summer showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the transfer of aborted fetal body parts.
At least seven lawmakers are running for either U.S. Congress or a statewide elected office in 2016, which some legislative leaders have said could mean longer debates and more speeches.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who will leave office after this session, and the Republican legislative leaders all say tightening state ethics laws is a priority. The push follows the resignations in 2015 of two former lawmakers accused of inappropriate behavior toward interns.
“I think there has been a lot of public pressure and public notice of it (ethics),” said Rep. Judy Morgan (D). “I think if something gets done, that's the reason it will get done.”
Missouri's 2015 legislative session ended with little action on bills proposed in response to black 18-year-old Michael Brown's shooting by a white officer, although Republicans and some Democrats touted the passage of a measure limiting the powers and revenues of municipal courts. Bills to require police to wear body cameras and measures to revamp the state's laws on police use of deadly force were proposed again this year.
Bills on firearms include measures that would allow guns on college campuses. One would allow for schools to apply for waivers if they have security guards and weapons-screening devices at every entrance to every building on campus.
Though they passed limits last year on how much victims could win in medical malpractice cases, Republican leaders are still pushing for additional restrictions on liability lawsuits. That's after the state Supreme Court overturned previous limits.
Lawmakers upset by efforts to lure the Rams to stay in St. Louis by building a new football stadium without a public or legislative vote likely will continue to vent frustrations if such plans move forward. One proposed bill would require approval from the Legislature for the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority to extend or issue new bonds that would financially obligate the state.
Lawmakers will again try to find additional funding to help repair the state's aging roads and bridges. One potential fix that's been proposed is a measure to raise the gasoline tax by 1.5 cents per gallon and the diesel tax by 3.5 cents.
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI
Primarily Republican lawmakers already have criticized how leaders handled student protests at the Columbia campus over the former administration's perceived indifference to issues of racial discrimination. Protests that drew national attention to Mizzou, along with administrators' response, likely will come up again in the Legislature.
VOTER PHOTO IDENTIFICATION
A battle over whether or not to require a photo voting ID is also expected. Republicans say they would like to add the measure to cut down on voter identification fraud, but Democrats say the move will disenfranchise likely Democratic voters.
“Everything else in today's world I have to have an ID to access,” explained Rep. T.J. Berry (R). “I'm sort of in that camp.”
The voter ID debate is also tied to talks revolving around a federal program known as Real ID. Driver’s licenses from Missouri and ID cards will no longer be acceptable forms of identification to get access to federal buildings.