(The Center Square) – Missouri lawmakers ended the month of April as they started it – waiting.
“Four weeks ago, at least, we forwarded a big package with multiple bills that passed through the House and are in the Senate’s hands,” House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, told reporters during an end-of week press conference at the capitol in Jefferson City. “We’re grateful that at least one was addressed.”
Plocher referred to House Joint Resolution 43, a bill to reform initiative petitions. In February, the House voted 108-50 to send to voters a change to the way constitutional measures are passed. Currently, a simple majority is required for passage. The proposed legislation in the House would require a 60% majority for passing initiatives. The Senate version passed this past week would require a majority of voters in a majority of the state’s congressional districts and a majority of votes cast statewide or by a 57% majority statewide.
If the legislation is passed and signed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson, House Democrats believe voters won’t pass the change.
“Even if it goes to a vote of the people, I am confident that we will win that vote because voters appreciate the ability to hold us accountable,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, told reporters. “It is used overwhelmingly in our state from Medicaid expansion to the minimum wage to recreational and medical marijuana and against ‘right to work.’ The list goes on and on and citizens continuously use that process.”
Republican majorities in both chambers have forwarded bills on preventing transgender women from participating in women’s sports and prohibiting medical transitioning of children. Parson told reporters this week he will keep the General Assembly in session past the May 12 end date to address those issues.
“We continue to look for action out of the Senate to represent the conservatives that Missourians have elected to hold offices,” Plocher said. “The House has lived up to our expectations. We believe we’ve delivered a good product. Missouri is in good hands with the House. We’re just waiting for further actions out of the Senate.”
Quade didn’t have any predictions as to how the last two weeks of the session will play out.
“I’ve had Republican leadership tell me, Hey, if we don’t pass anything, that’s fine by me,” Quade said. “So I really don’t know what the next move is going to be. As I’ve said before, promises are being broken left and right in this building right now. I do know on the Senate side, it has been promised that there won’t be any more hearings, meaning they would not take up a House version and we would have to take action over here. Does that promise hold?”
The Missouri Constitution requires the budget to be passed by May 5. There’s approximately a $4 billion difference between the House and Senate versions of the budget.
“I think it certainly is the largest difference we’ve ever seen,” House Budget Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage said. “I’m going to approach this with an open mind … I feel confident that we’ll be able to negotiate the differences.”