St. Louis Public Radio News
Wed January 8, 2003
Missouri, Illinois lawmakers Get Down to Business
Jefferson City, Mo. & Springfield, Ill. – State lawmakers in both Illinois and Missouri were sworn in today for a new legislative session.
Yesterday, Missouri's budget director set the stage for possible a tax increase. Linda Luebbering says the worst budget crunch in state history could mean releasing prisoners, laying off more than five thousand state workers, and dismissing thousands of public school teachers.
Governor Holden isn't proposing such dramatic cuts, though the prediction could help lay groundwork for asking voters to raise taxes.
Missouri lawmakers face a one billion-dollar budget shortfall as they open the session in Jefferson City.
The Legislature also has the most first-time members in recent memory, and the first Republican majority in more than 50 years. Republicans gained a 90-to-73 majority in the House and extended their edge in the Senate to 20-to-14.
Term limits created most of the openings that translate into 90 new House members and three new senators. Nine other freshman senators served previously in the House.
Republican Catherine Hanaway of Warson Woods was elected the first woman House Speaker. Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, of Cape Girardeau, is all but assured of another term in his leadership job.
Meanwhile, in Illinois, the new General Assembly will be led by Democrats for the first time in more than a decade.
The takeover happened because of redistricting, the once-a-decade ritual in which lawmakers redraw district boundaries to match population shifts. Democrats took control of that process, and the November Fifth election gave them a 12-seat edge in the House and a six-seat advantage in the Senate.
On the Republican side, House leader Lee Daniels and Senate leader Pate Philip have stepped aside. Their replacements are Representative Tom Cross of Oswego and Senator Frank Watson of Greenville.
In his last day in the Senate yesterday, Philip left the chamber for the last time under a Marine escort. He also received a call from President Bush while on the floor; the President reportedly urged Philip to stay on as party chair in DuPage County.