Missouri Republicans have the power to enact positive legislation this session of the General Assembly, but it will take a unified stand on issues and enlightened leadership to steer a forward path. Republicans control the Senate with 24 of the 34 members of their party. The GOP controls the House with 109 of the 163 seats. Those numbers reflect veto-proof power if the GOP is united on legislation.
Republicans have had a problem in recent years in coming together in strength, and it may not be possible this session. For the fifth year in a row, Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon hasn’t had the party numbers for him to advance some of his legislation. He plays it cautious with the Legislature, and has kept relations reasonably respectful between the executive and legislative branches.
The GOP leaders in the Legislature, Tim Jones, House, and Tom Dempsey, Senate, each have their own programs. Jones calls his the Triple E Agenda, focusing on Economic Development, Energy Policy and Education. Dempsey calls his plan BIG Solutions, for Build Our Infrastructure, Invest in Education and Grow Our Economy. Nixon and the Democrats want to expand Medicaid, stressing the potential economic impact of billions of federal dollars coming into the state health care system.
Republicans want to cut some taxes and revamp business incentives to boost the economy, and they are concerned about the long-term costs of expanding Medicaid. Both parties talk about economic development needs and job creation programs.
There are other issues high on the agenda, such as additional funding for transportation, education and collection of sales taxes from online sales. It will be interesting to see the progress of priority legislation. It would be nice if more motion would be seen early in the session. We’ve had too much of the last-minute rush to move bills in the past.
We would like to be optimistic about a session that produces needed and sound legislation. Problem is, we’ve been around for too many of them. We find it hard to be optimistic. The Republicans have the strength to be a major force in legislation. The governor should work with the GOP and politically both could claim credit for moving the state forward. However, being a political realist, the best that can be hoped for is progress on a few fronts.
Also, with the Republicans having the majorities in both chambers, we await their dealings with the governor and the minority party, to see what can be produced. Both parties should include compromise in their legislative language.