Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

The Mean Streets of Jefferson City

Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

The Mean Streets of Jefferson City

Article excerpt

In conversations with two lobbyists and eight legislators, SJR found unanimity on one issue--this legislative session is one of the meanest and more divisive is recent memory.

"The general atmosphere is partisan to an extreme that extends into procedural areas," a lobbyist said.

A metro area state senator quipped, "If you're in the minority party, you are lucky to get 10 minutes to speak." A colleague from the House interrupted, "You mean they let you speak? They don't allow that on the House side." The group then laughed--a cynical, dark laugh.

The debate in the House on HB 1566 ran late into the evening. The legislation, according to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, would limit Medicaid eligibility to 50 percent of the poverty level (a single parent with two children would be limited to an income of less than $8,000 a year with no more than $1,000 in savings).

Minority party members complain that leaders in the House pushed through "mean-spirited" legislation in a "disingenuous" manner that limited debate. One of the legislators offered, "I've been around for awhile, and I was shocked at the content of the debate ... and, I guess, the level of hypocrisy."

One lobbyist was willing to illustrate the level of procedural acrimony that took place in one Senate hearing: "The level of interest (or rather, the lack of interest) a GOP Senate Committee chair is willing to give minority members was symbolized by a procedural maneuver he took in the latter portion of a public hearing. …

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