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Our Opinion: Dynamics of session include wild cards

Each legislative session has its own dynamic.

And, although the opening days of the session feature familiar ceremonies — Taste of Jefferson City reception, Governor’s Prayer Breakfast, etc. — legislators will be gauging prospective opportunities and obstructions.

The players largely will be the same. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon will submit his budget and priorities to Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. Although the Senate GOP retains a veto-proof supermajority as the session begins, the House does not.

A number of the issues also will be familiar.

A mandatory, annual exercise is creating and approving a balanced budget for the state.

That process, however, suffered an early stumble when the executive and legislative branches failed to agree on a consensus revenue estimate. Does the dispute, a departure from a recent history of agreement, portend further divisiveness?

Republicans this year promise to reintroduce a tax cut proposal, probably with alterations. A tax cut approved last year was vetoed by the governor. Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, anticipates the revised tax cut will be “incremental” and “smaller.”

Medicaid expansion remains a gubernatorial priority, but does not appear on Republicans’ radar.

A partisan clash is expected on “right to work” legislation favored by Republicans, but opposed by Democrats. And members of both parties will try to fix a glitch in a school transfer law, which now requires unaccredited school districts to pay the costs for students who transfer to better schools in neighboring districts.

As always, the possibility exists that an unexpected issue will emerge and dominate much attention. An example is legislative debate prompted by the disclosure last year that a state agency was sharing concealed carry information with the federal government.

The federal-state disconnect likely will reappear this session as Missouri, like other states, continues to defy or exempt itself from federal laws, despite the U.S. Constitution’s “supremacy clause.”

A wild card this session will be the potential impact of upcoming November elections. Intentions to seek re-election or higher office can embolden some lawmakers who hope to heighten name recognition and cower others who seek to avoid controversy.

Another wild card will be the influence of initiative petitions planned or being circulated for the statewide vote. How will lawmakers react to the threat of being bypassed by initiative proponents who may opt for voter approval if dissatisfied with legislative response?

The dynamic this year includes many variables, but they present both obstacles to and incentives for action.

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