The 2016 Missouri legislative session starts Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know. | St. Louis Public Radio

The 2016 Missouri legislative session starts Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know.

Jan 4, 2016

The Missouri legislative session starts on January 6 and ends in mid-May. As politicians converge on Jefferson City prepared to debate bills in the state House of Representatives and Senate, “St. Louis on the Air” assembled a panel to discuss the upcoming session.

Jo Mannies and Terry Jones.
Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

On Monday’s show, we discussed what’s likely to happen, what’s unlikely to happen and what to keep an eye on. Joining the show:

  • Terry Jones, Ph.D. , Founders Professor of Political Science and Public Policy Administration, University of Missouri-St. Louis
  • Jo Mannies, Political Reporter, St. Louis Public Radio
  • Marshall Griffin, Statehouse Reporter, St. Louis Public Radio 

“It’s a big election year —there’s a presidential election, governor’s race, a U.S. Senate race, and of course all of the House seats and about half of the Senate seats,” said Griffin. “It will contribute to the usual slowdown of work that happens during election … I would not expect as much legislation to make it out simply for those reasons.”

What’s the big deal about “ethics” anyway?

“For our listeners, what we mean by ethics, some of the proposals that are out there are to get rid of the revolving door so that legislators would have a waiting period, like a year or two, before becoming a lobbyist. … There’s some who want to restrict, or get rid of, all lobbyist gifts. That’s not just little trinkets—that’s dinners, game tickets, things like that. This is where you’ll see more movement with the interns, more restrictions, on how the legislators should be behaving.”

Related: Dress codes, term limits and personal ethics—curbing unethical behavior in Jefferson City

The budget

Terry Jones
Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

“Even though the fact that it’s an election year puts many issues on hold, things like Medicaid expansion and Right-to-Work, they still have to pass a budget every year and they have discretion over, roughly, $8-9 billion,” Jones said. “Issues like how much of that will be spent on education, corrections and how many people we have in prison, social services budgets, will still be a major part of this legislative session.”

It’s Governor Jay Nixon’s last year as Missouri governor. What impact will that have?

“I don’t think you’re going to find a Republican legislature falling all over themselves to help his legacy. I see business as usual. I think the governor will have the same relationship with the legislature,” said Jones.

“I think Nixon’s role this legislative session which will be the same as the past couple sessions, which is to block things,” said Mannies.

Guns, guns and more guns

State Rep. Jered Taylor has pre-filed a proposal to offer a tax holiday on gun purchases in Missouri the Saturday after the Fourth of July.

“It’s still alive and well,” said Griffin. “I don’t know if it has a shot of passing. It could and that’s something that could get passed in an election year as a lot of Republicans who are running for reelection or higher office, that are currently in the House and Senate, that want something to show their current constituency to show ‘hey this is something I’m strong on, look what I’m doing.’”

“Just when you think the Missouri General Assembly could not think of another way to make guns more easy to access, you’re not disappointed when at least one or two legislators comes up with another idea,” said Jones.

What about the proposed stadium in St. Louis?

"You've got rural people who are strapped for various things, there's all these other pressures that are raising the level of discontent. When people see we may be offering incentives to billionaires that just doesn't fly."

  “This is not so much a Republican-Democrat dispute as much as it is a battle of power between the legislature and the governor,” said Jones. “Missouri’s governor has more powers than most other governors in the 49 states. Governor Nixon has pushed the envelope on this one in terms of committing the state to pay for bonds into the future in the couple of hundreds of millions-plus range—whether or not he can unilaterally do that as governor or whether the legislature has the right to weigh in is what is at stake here.”

Want more stadium discussion? Check this out. 

  “I think this whole dispute is one of the traditional fights between rural Missourians and urban Missourians. We had a similar fight over ballpark stadium— the difference was that the Cardinals were more popular in rural Missouri. They want a vote and they’re upset the governor may try to circumvent them ….You’ve got rural people who are strapped for various things, there’s all these other pressures that are raising the level of discontent. When people see we may be offering incentives to billionaires that just doesn’t fly. This is an interesting case where you’ve got liberals and many conservatives on the same page.”

What issue is most important to you in the 2016 Missouri legislative session?

Answer our Twitter poll here. So far, 39% of respondents say guns are number one on their mind.

"St. Louis on the Air" discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter and join the conversation at @STLonAir.