(The Center Square) – Republican leaders in both chambers of the Missouri legislature are looking ahead to floor debate on several legislative priorities next week.
In the Senate, filibustering and conflict dominated attention but floor debate was promised next week. Senate Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, displayed charts at an end-of-week press conference on Thursday showing the delay of progress on initiative petition reform due to filibusters and other delays.
“The charts… show what would have happened with IP reform had we not lost two weeks of time with no tangible result other than losing two weeks of time and getting to the exact same place,” said Rowden, a candidate for his party’s nomination for secretary of state. “… So we’re a little behind on some of this stuff, but that doesn’t mean that we still can’t get it done.”
Republican members of the Senate’s Freedom Caucus stated their actions forced Rowden to make IP reform a priority. Five Senate joint resolutions pertain to the issue. Senate Joint Resolution 74 would require all proposed constitutional amendments to receive a majority of the votes cast statewide as well as a majority of the votes cast in at least a majority of the state House districts. Currently, amendments can be approved with a simple majority of votes.
“The only reason that we’re debating that next week is because we held leadership’s feet to the fire and made sure that this was one of the fastest moving bills,” said Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, who’s one of Rowden’s opponents for the Republican nomination for secretary of state.
In addition to IP reform, Rowden said the Senate would take up a funding bill to keep federal Medicaid dollars flowing into the state and education reform.
“The Republican civil war has delayed some things,” said Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence. “But at the same time, I think you could get caught up pretty quick when you’re in the super majority. They have the ability to put the gas pedal down whenever they want.”
The first bill the House approved and sent to the Senate this week would allow public school open enrollment. It would let any student beginning in kindergarten or already enrolled in public school to attend another school outside of their district that’s participating in the opt-in program.
Even though House Republicans hold 111 seats to Democrats’ 51, the bill passed 86-73. Bills similar to House Bill 1989 passed out of the chamber the last two years but didn’t advance through the Senate.
Speaker Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, said the education legislation was a top priority.
“We passed that yet again and it’s going to provide great opportunities for kids to get the best education they can get,” Plocher, a candidate for his party’s nomination for lieutenant governor, told reporters and an end-of-week press conference.
Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, expressed gratitude the House was beginning to move legislation but wasn’t happy with the first bill being passed.
“This is really the first step in the Republican majorities operation to dismantle public education,” said Quade, who is a candidate for her party’s nomination for governor. “We’ve been hearing for years about folks wanting to move in this direction from the majority party, but there’s also attacks on what can be taught in the classroom and teacher pay is still not a priority.”
Democrats attempted to amend the bill with an increase in teacher pay, but it was defeated along party lines.
“Yes, people should have choices,” Quade said. “But let’s talk about fixing the problem. The problem is fixing our school systems, getting them materials and fixing the (funding) formula they need to survive. But we don’t talk about that.”