This week on the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome back Sen. Joe Keaveny to the program.
The St. Louis Democrat serves as the leader of the Senate Democratic caucus, a group that has consistently shrunk in numbers over the past few election cycles. But even though there's only eight members of his caucus in the 34-member Senate chamber, Keaveny and other Senate Democrats still have the power to block legislation as they see fit.
Both the House and Senate have entered periods of transition. House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, took on his powerful post on the last day of the 2015 legislative session. And after Tom Dempsey resigned last year, Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, took over the role as the Senate's president pro tem.
Some of the potentially big issues this year include overhauling the state's ethics laws, altering higher education policies, taking on policy proposals inspired by the Ferguson unrest and possibly changing requirements for driver's licenses.
Here's what Keaveny had to say during the show:
- He's optimistic that the Senate Democrats can increase their numbers after the 2016 election cycle. Many Democrats are bullish on state Rep. Stephen Webber's chances at outflanking Rep. Caleb Rowden in the battle for a Columbia-based Senate seat.
- Keaveny isn't sure that lawmakers will institute a cooling-off period for legislators before they can become lobbyists. "You get a young man in there that can serve 16 years and this is all he's ever done," he said. "When he gets to be 40 years old, you're going to put him out on the street with nothing to do? That's a conversation we need to have."
- He expects GOP lawmakers to attempt to get something on the ballot asking voters to approve a photo-identification requirement to vote. Republican legislators have been attempting to institute this policy change for years, but often been stymied by the courts or within the legislature.
- Keaveny strongly doubts that the General Assembly would approve bonds to help build a new football stadium in St. Louis, which could be why Gov. Jay Nixon may try to issue that debt without a statewide or legislative vote.
Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum
Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies
Follow Joe Keaveny on Twitter: @joekeaveny
Music: "How Soon is Now?" by The Smiths