The final day of the 2017 session quickly devolved into chaos following one particular senator’s priority legislation dying in the House. This spurred a series of short filibusters in the final hours, and ended with the Senate becoming a complete pandemonium. Previous question motions were made by leadership to end debate on minimum wage legislation and force a vote. At this point, senators were not recognized for motions or comments, and a representative stormed the chamber accusing a senator of literally sentencing him to death for not passing a much-needed organ donor bill, all while Democrats attempted to shut down the Senate by moving for adjournment multiple times. After nearly 30 procedural moves, that were concurrently addressed by more PQ motions, the Senate passed the minimum wage “fix” and adjourned early.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Capitol, the House moved through legislation sent over by the Senate. Some bills received considerable debate, while others were breezed through. However, proceedings in the House were not always smooth sailing. As the Speaker of the House offered an amendment on the circuit breaker legislation in an attempt to move Medicaid recipients to a 21-point system, a representative lashed out screaming across the chamber at the Speaker, “How dare you! The Senate is dysfunctional and you are harming the neediest and most vulnerable Missourians.”
There has been a lot of conjecture about the dysfunctionality of the Senate, and at times the House, this session. Yet I believe hindsight will show it was not only a historic year in regards to the vitriol among legislators, but also in regard to the weight of the issues that actually passed. Issues that have been bottled up by filibusters and a democratic governor were passed early on in the legislative session. Labor issues such as right-to-work, paycheck protection and tort reform bills; which included time limited demands, collateral source rule and others; all made it across the finish line. Many have argued that the combination of the labor bills passed will make Missouri a panacea for large corporations, leading to increased jobs and a more prosperous economy. Additionally, the tort bills and the adoption of the Daubert standard are purported to alleviate Missouri from being labeled, as the governor has said, “a judicial hell-hole.” Unions and trial attorneys took a beating this year, and will likely spend years attempting to undo or chisel away at the issues passed. Only time will tell whether the job creating, economy boosting, judicial reforming acts passed this session will indeed have the desired effects.
In the budget, Medicaid reimbursement rates were decreased, but not as much as expected. The renters portion of the senior citizen property tax credit was nixed. In its place there will be a sweeping of funds from various portions of the budget that had existing balances. The elementary and secondary education foundation formula was fully funded for the first time since its inception. Higher education did not end up taking the 30% cut initially proposed by the governor, but rather ended up with an approximately 6.5 percent decrease to their core.