On this edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome back House Speaker Todd Richardson to the program.
When he was on the show earlier this year, the Poplar Bluff Republican was serving as the House majority leader. But things changed drastically during the last week of the Missouri General Assembly’s session: House Speaker John Diehl, R-Town and Country, resigned after the Kansas City Star revealed that he had been exchanging sexually suggestive texts with a 19-year-old intern. Richardson was then elected to become speaker of the Missouri House on the last day of session.
Since Diehl’s resignation, Richardson established a task force to review the House’s policies surrounding interns. He’s also promising to make “ethics reform” a major priority next year, including curbing lobbyist gifts and establishing a timeline when legislators can become lobbyists. He’s also expected to deal with some major issues during the September veto session — including whether to override “right to work” legislation.
Here’s what Richardson had to say during the show:
- He’s committed to trying to make the environment in the Missouri General Assembly better, especially after the Kansas City Star reported about sexual harassment in and around the Capitol. He’s hoping a task force looking into the internship program provides recommendations in a deliberate fashion. “We have a responsibility as stewards of the institution right now to try to make it better,” he said.
- Richardson doesn’t know right now if there are 17 more votes necessary to override “right to work legislation.” Regardless of the outcome, he said the General Assembly's passage of the bill earlier this year amounts to “an important policy discussion for the state to have. “This is a conversation Missouri needs to have about what puts us in the best position to succeed economically,” he said.
- He doesn’t expect that the recent Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act will prompt Missouri legislators to create a state exchange — or prompt lawmakers to expand Medicaid. Gov. Jay Nixon said in a statement last week he hoped the Burwell decision would move the needle on Medicaid expansion.
- Richardson said some lawmakers are concerned about adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s anti-discrimination laws because of its “litigious nature” and the “potential for businesses to be exposed to liability.” But he didn’t believe, as state Rep. Stephen Webber suggested, that some lawmakers are opposed to that legislation because they want to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
- He expects that lawmakers may return to some “Ferguson-related” issues next year, including crafting body camera regulations and changing the state’s use of force law. But he said the legislature needs to be careful to not make the public policy discussion exclusively about law enforcement. “The reality is, there are things we can do in the law enforcement space that make sense to do – no question about it,” he said. “But if we allow that to dominate the conversation, we’re missing the broader economic and educational issues that exist – not just in Ferguson but in places across the state.”
Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum
Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies
Follow Todd Richardson on Twitter: @rep_trichardson
Music: “Two-Headed Boy Part 2” by Neutral Milk Hotel