Mid-Missouri lawmakers look to 2015

Bills lost in shuffle, rush or politics not dead in their eyes

Speaker of the House Timothy Jones wipes his eyes while thanking his family for their support during his time in public service as Dwight Scharnhorst (R-High Ridge), left, and the rest of the Missouri House give Jones a standing ovation at the close of their 2014 session on Friday. Jones, who was first elected to the General Assembly in 2006, will reach the end of his term limit as a state representative before the convening of the 2015 General Assembly.

Speaker of the House Timothy Jones wipes his eyes while thanking his family for their support during his time in public service as Dwight Scharnhorst (R-High Ridge), left, and the rest of the Missouri House give Jones a standing ovation at the close of their 2014 session on Friday. Jones, who was first elected to the General Assembly in 2006, will reach the end of his term limit as a state representative before the convening of the 2015 General Assembly. Photo by Kris Wilson.

Mid-Missouri lawmakers expect to be back next year trying to get into state law some of their ideas that didn’t make it all the to the governor’s desk this year.

Lawmakers this year introduced a total of 1,760 bills and 85 proposed constitutional amendments.

But only 184 bills and six amendments cleared both houses.

The amendments go straight to the voters. The rest must be considered by the governor.

Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, hopes the Legislature moves forward with some sort of Medicaid reform during next year’s General Assembly.

He’s not sure Gov. Jay Nixon will call any type of special session for Medicaid, or any other legislation.

“He (Nixon) is pretty tight lipped about that,” Barnes said.

At his post-session news conference, the governor wasn’t predicting any special session call, after accusing the Legislature of “blowing up” the budget passed May 8 by approving “a cavalcade of special interest tax breaks” on Friday that “takes fiscal discipline and throws it out the window.”

Nixon and his budget staff say those tax breaks will cost the state about $483 million a year in revenue.

“Today is not a particularly good day to ask me whether I want to bring these folks back for additional action,” Nixon told reporters, in an unusually slow and measured response to a question.

Former teacher Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, believes there were missed opportunities in the House this year in terms of education legislation.

“Things did not go as well as I’d hoped,” she said. “People are very passionate and we did make some forward motion. I think we maybe turned a corner and, in working together, can do positive things in the future for every student in the state.

“It promises to be a difficult task to make sure our Missouri students are top-notch.”

She said lawmakers worked well together on many issues this legislative session.

“That’s very promising and I’d like to see that trend continue,” Riddle said.

Sens. Mike Kehoe and Dan Brown both mentioned tort reform as an issue that still needs to be addressed.

Lawmakers this year considered — but didn’t pass — bills that would return the potential non-economic damages in a medical malpractice case to a fixed number, after the Missouri Supreme Court last year ruled the limit set in a 2005 law violated Missourians’ constitutional right to a jury’s decision on those damages.

“Missourians need to understand that our tort laws need to be strengthened a little bit,” Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, explained, “to a little bit more common sense so that we don’t have everybody in the state paying for each others’ problems.”

Kehoe said improving the civil lawsuit climate for doctors is part of a larger need to “make Missouri’s business climate as favorable as we can — I think that’s always something you’ve got to watch for.”

Brown, R-Rolla, also mentioned “paycheck protection,” a bill that would have required public employees who are union members to approve, each year, having their union dues deducted from their paychecks, rather than allowing the union and employer to include an automatic deduction as part of a contract.

“Maybe we’ll try it again (or) we may rest it a bit,” Brown said, “but it wasn’t the will of the body this year.

“And I accept that — we’ll do what we can do.”

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, didn’t list any specific bills he was disappointed about not passing.

“You can’t walk away from this process at the end of the year, thinking of disappointments,” he said, “because there’s always another year — at least until you run up against that brick wall of term limits.

“And, a lot of times, when you have a priority it takes a couple of years” to get it passed.

Schaefer is in the middle of his final term in the Senate.

Kehoe is running for re-election this year for a second and final term. He faces Mollie Freebairn, D-Jefferson City, in the Nov. 4 general election.

Brown also is running for re-election, and faces an Aug. 5 primary challenge from Bernard (Bernie) Mowinski, R-Sunrise Beach. The winner of that election has no filed general election opponent from an established party.

And Riddle wants to become a senator.

She is running in November against Rep. Ed Schieffer, D-Troy, for the 10th district Senate seat, and said her time in the House has been a true honor.

Should she find herself in the Senate, she said she wants to set her priorities on infrastructure, such as roads, and energy.

“It’ll be about how to continue to supply clean energy to Missourians,” she said.

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