Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Legislative Session Ends in Chaos, Accomplishment

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Legislative Session Ends in Chaos, Accomplishment

Article excerpt

JEFFERSON CITY * A triumphant legislative session for Missouri businesses and the Republicans who'd made them a priority culminated Friday in near chaos, as Democrats fought to protect a minimum wage in St. Louis and Republicans raced to pass 11th-hour aid for seniors and disabled Missourians.

It was far from the first time Senate dysfunction threatened the passage of the majority party's priorities. Party infighting and clashes between Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican, and the GOP-led Senate at times slowed the progress of their pro-business agenda this year.

But Republican leaders were far from disappointed when they left Jefferson City on Friday.

"On my radar, it's the greatest success of any majority in the history of the Senate," said Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin. "And I'm very pleased to be part of it."

Among the majority's successes, House lawmakers were able to send the wage measure to Greitens with only minutes to spare. Earlier, Senate Democrats used every procedural move available to keep the bill to ban local minimum wage ordinances from advancing to the House, but they were ultimately unsuccessful.

Still left on the table as the session ended was legislation that would repeal the prevailing wage, place further restrictions on abortion clinics, limit gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers and create a statewide prescription drug monitoring database to tackle Missouri's opioid epidemic due in part to a time crunch caused by Senate tension.

And more filibusters may be in the future for legislation backed by lawmakers who killed a taxpayer-funded buyout of homes near a landfill in north St. Louis County, a priority for Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, who fears her consistuents' exposure to radioactive waste in St. Louis landfills.

Under the program she proposed, any homeowner who owns a home within the Spanish Village subdivision near the Bridgeton Landfill would have been able to apply to sell the home for a fair market rate to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. But House legislators rejected her plan Friday after squabbles emerged over how to pay for the program.

Chappelle-Nadal immediately began filibustering the Senate, stalling any more action on Senate bills until leaders overrode her to take up the minimum wage bill.

Senate leaders have long argued that their chamber isn't a factory for passing legislation. The Legislature altogether passed 59 policy bills and 16 budget bills, which Democrats claim was a record low.

"We'd been anticipating the Senate was going to implode. I am pleased that it did. That always stops some of the bad bills," said House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City.

But senators presented a united front Thursday night when they called a last-minute press conference to address dueling House and Senate plans to spare cuts to low-income elderly and disabled Missourians who would lose services because of a tightening of Medicaid eligibility rules. …

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