(The Center Square) – As the Missouri General Assembly heads into the final weeks of its session, Republicans in both chambers will be influencing priorities.
“It’s very obvious that what’s going on right now is the (Republican) Senate leadership and the Republican House leadership are trying to play the constant game of chicken,” Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said. “That happens every year: ‘Our bills are more important than your bills. And we’re just going to hold it until you make a move.’ ”
Speaker Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, also believes the Senate is holding up House bills on initiative petition reform, crime, sports wagering and preventing transgender women from participating in women’s sports.
“The House passed its top priorities weeks ago and the Senate is sitting on them again,” Plocher said.
The final day of the session is May 12 and the Missouri Constitution requires the budget be completed by May 5. The Senate Appropriations Committee completed work on the budget last week and the $50 billion spending plan will probably be debated in the chamber this week.
The Appropriations Committee did remove from each budget bill an amendment prohibiting the state from expending funds with entities with diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
“The rumor was going through the body that was going to happen the moment it was passed,” Plocher said. “And we stand by the fact that the DEI language is good for the fact that we don’t believe that people should be promoted without cause for qualifications, just upon race or along those lines.”
The Senate also restored state funding for public libraries, which was stopped by the House, and increased funding for Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s plan for expanding Interstate 70 from St. Louis to Kansas City.
“I would say what we’re seeing happen this year feels a lot like last year,” said Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, ranking minority member on the House Budget Committee. “The House made a lot of cuts to the governor’s proposals, added some really radical language and underfunded some things we strongly believe in. Over on the Senate side, a lot of the governor’s recommendations have been restored and some other good things put in.”
Many legislators, including Plocher, believe the sports wagering bill will not be completed before the end of the session.
“I think that we overwhelmingly support sports betting to a degree that it needs to be regulated,” Plocher said. “The bill that we passed out of the House is a good bill. Representative [Dan] Houx is tirelessly working to see if the Senate can come to terms with what we think is good for Missouri.”
Plocher acknowledged representatives of Missouri’s professional sports teams were in Jefferson City last week to lobby legislators on sports wagering.
“I bumped into them,” Plocher said. “They weren’t here to see me. I think they were going to see those who were holding the bill back, perhaps. But again, I support what they’re trying to do. I think they have a product that needs protecting. Missourians need accountability.”