Democratic lawmakers will push for Medicaid expansion, LGBT protection, in 2016

Jan 25, 2016

Democrats in the Missouri House and Senate have unveiled their agenda for this year's legislative session, and it includes several items Republican leaders have no intention of moving forward.

Those items include expanding Medicaid coverage to more low-income Missourians (HB 2201 and SB 961) and expanding the state's definition of discrimination to include LGBT people (HB 2279 and SB 653).

"Our party's goal is to leave a better Missouri for future generations," said House Minority Floor Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis. "We stand ready and willing to work with Republicans to pass these common-sense bills that are widely supported by the majority of Missourians."

House and Senate Republicans, though, remain staunchly opposed to Medicaid expansion and have no plans to allow any bills or amendments that would do so to move forward

Senate Minority Floor Leader Joe Keaveny, left, D-St. Louis, and House Minority Floor Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, on opening day of the 2016 Missouri legislative session.
Credit Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Currently, a person in Missouri can be fired or denied housing based on sexual identity or orientation. While some Republican lawmakers support expanding Missouri's discrimination definition, those in leadership positions do not.  

"Businesses can make all those decisions on their own, is what I believe. If people don't like the decisions that business makes, then they will choose to do, or not do, business with them," said Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City. "I think Missourians have spoken on this issue, and I think the way the law is right now is fine."

Kehoe's comments came during a discussion with reporters on the opening day of this year's regular session. When asked by a Columbia Daily Tribune reporter if he wanted to give legal protections to businesses who "will turn away people," Kehoe answered, "absolutely."

The only part of the Democrats' agenda that appears to have a chance of passing is an ethics proposal to ban all gifts from lobbyists, as the GOP majority is pushing its own lobbyist gift ban. Democratic-sponsored bills include HB2073 and SB955. Republican-sponsored gift ban bills include HB2166, which has been passed by a House committee, and HB1669, which, in addition to banning lobbyist gifts, would also ban tobacco and alcohol use inside the State Capitol.

The rest of the Democratic legislative agenda:

Require the use of body cameras by local police departments -- House Bill 2354 and Senate Bill 962

Raise Missouri's minimum wage from $7.65 an hour to $10.10 an hour -- Senate Bill 953 (House version not yet filed)

A proposed constitutional amendment requiring lawmakers to fully funding Missouri's K-12 public school funding formula every year -- House Joint Resolution 85 and Senate Joint Resolution 37

Requires employers to provide equal pay to both male and female employees for the same work performed -- House Bill 2356 and Senate Bill 952

Changes the Farm-to-School program to the Farm-to-Table program to "promote Missouri agriculture and encourage greater use of locally grown food" -- House Bill 2121 and Senate Bill 958

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport