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3 local legislators look ahead to session

by Bob Watson | January 2, 2017 at 7:40 a.m. | Updated January 11, 2017 at 6:41 p.m.
Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, speaks on the floor of the Missouri Senate during the veto session Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. Kehoe serves as majority floor leader in that chamber.

Three Mid-Missouri lawmakers told the News Tribune this weekend that Missourians shouldn't expect "slam-dunk" passage of proposed laws - even though Republicans control both houses of the Legislature and are working with a Republican governor.

"I don't believe anything is a slam dunk in the Missouri General Assembly," state Rep. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, said Saturday. "There are too many legislators to convince on any particular issue.

"There's always robust debate on issues such as tax credit reform and tort reform."

Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, agreed.

"I've learned in this (Capitol) building nothing is ever a 'slam-dunk'" but I do think we will make progress on important issues," he said, noting lawmakers already have passed some of those issues "three or four times since I've been here, but they did not make it into law because of a very aggressive veto pen" by outgoing Gov. Jay Nixon.

Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, said jobs and economic development "will be priorities for the entire legislative body and the governor," while Bernskoetter expects those priorities to be "finding the things the House, Senate, and Gov.-elect Greitens agree on - and then passing them."

As the session begins this week, Bernskoetter said, "Those issues are labor reform, ethics reform, job creation and keeping the budget balanced."

Kehoe said the Senate will begin with a big focus on "economic development, and creating an environment that allows our state to grow, and Missourians to compete for jobs and employment that is world class. There is no 'silver bullet' that one thing on its own will accomplish this goal."

Even with agreement "something" needs to be done, the three Mid-Missouri lawmakers said some issues still may not be resolved.

"I think transportation infrastructure and funding will be something that many members of the Legislature want to work on," Riddle said Friday, "but the problem remains that we cannot get everyone to agree to a funding method.

"Until we reach that agreement, the problem will get pushed on to another year."

Bernskoetter said tort reform - changing some of the rules that guide civil lawsuits - is another issue with no guarantee of success, even though it's a priority for incoming Gov. Eric Greitens.

"Lobbyist gift bans and the revolving door issue should pass the General Assembly with ease," Bernskoetter said, "but we have seen senators stand up and filibuster that (lawsuit reform) legislation before."

Kehoe noted the legislative process itself makes passing any bill a challenge.

"There are 197 members of the Legislature, each with their own opinions and constituents to represent," he explained, "so writing legislation that will gather enough support to become law isn't always easy."

If Missourians remember only one thing about the legislative session beginning Wednesday, Bernskoetter said it should be "that conservative principles can improve our state and our state government without infringing on our personal freedoms."

Riddle said Missourians "need to know that we are here to listen to their concerns, help in any way we can, and be their voice in the legislative process."

And, Kehoe said, people should know when the session is over "the legislature and the governor took the proper actions to make us one of the most competitive states in the nation for economic development and job growth."


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