With only two weeks left before lawmakers adjourn for the year, Gov. Mike Parson is threatening to keep Missouri’s general assembly in Jefferson City if they don’t pass bills banning gender-affirming care for minors and placing restrictions on transgender athletes.
Parson told KCMO Talk Radio’s Pete Mundo on Tuesday, and reiterated to reporters and Thursday, that he will call a special session if the legislation doesn’t reach his desk before the May 12 adjournment.
“We’re going to address that issue before this year is out,” Parson told Mundo. “If they don’t get those two bills across the finish line by the end of the session, then we’re going to stay right there until we address those issues.”
Both the Senate and House have passed their versions of the legislation, but neither body has yet to debate the other’s bills on transgender athletes or gender-affirming care with two weeks left in the legislative session.
Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, told reporters Thursday that the Senate has completed its work on the issue.
“The House is going to pass our bill,” he said. “We’ve done our work, and everything else is hypothetical.”
House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, said previously that the Senate should take up the more stringent versions of the bills that his chamber approved. But on Thursday, he conceded the House will press ahead with the Senate’s proposals.
“We still have two weeks to go, and we do have the Senate bills,” he said. “I believe we’re going to move them.”
He believes the House version is “far more conservative.” The Senate’s proposed ban on gender-affirming care for minors includes compromise language that wasn’t included in the House version, like a sunset provision for the ban on puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, as well as a grandfather clause for those already receiving treatment.
“We’d be happy if the Senate could actually pick up and actually have a good discussion on what we sent,” Plocher said.
Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, said negotiations pushed Democrats to compromise as much as they could on the gender-affirming care bill.
“The Senate has done its due diligence, done its work,” he said. “I would argue that the Democrats in the Senate have gone as far as we will possibly go.”
If the House makes any changes to the Senate bills, they will go back to the Senate for approval.
Plocher said he was not ruling out amending the Senate bills.
“Whether we pass them up and just truly send them to the governor’s desk or whether we amend them is completely wide open,” he said Thursday.
As the House prepares to once again debate transgender health care, lawmakers got a visit from the former Washington University Transgender Center case manager whose accusations of wrongdoing helped jumpstart the debate earlier this year.
On Wednesday, Jamie Reed visited the Capitol to ask legislators to pass a ban on gender-affirming care for minors.
She has alleged that the center did not treat the mental health of its patients and admitted to tracking patients’ data in an affidavit to Missouri’s attorney general and in national media reports. Her accusations inspired an investigation by the attorney general and added momentum to the legislative push to limit gender-affirming care.
Sen. Mike Moon’s office said Reed visited legislators, primarily on the House side, who had not yet guaranteed their support of the transgender health care bill that he sponsored.
Reed did not immediately respond to a request for comment on her visit to the Capitol.