Missouri Legislature | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Legislature

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Some Missouri lawmakers may want to quote the line from Top Gun: "I feel the need ... the need for speed."

It's a mere 2 1/2 weeks into the 2016 legislative session, and already the Missouri House has sent bills on ethics and voter photo ID over to the Senate. The Senate, in turn, has sent a bill to the House that would put new rules in place for expert witness testimony.

Flickr | jimbowen0306)

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.

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:

s_falkow | Flickr

The past year was a landmark one for many legal issues—both nationally and locally. On Thursday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” our monthly Legal Roundtable convened to discuss the legal decisions (or lack thereof) which had the most impact on 2015. They also looked ahead to 2016.

Joining the show:

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

The past year was full of watershed political moments in St. Louis and the state of Missouri, but what will have the greatest implications for 2016? On Wednesday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” host Don Marsh picked the brains of two people who know best: St. Louis Public Radio’s Jo Mannies and Jason Rosenbaum, political reporters and hosts of the podcast Politically Speaking

Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications

Missouri House members will have to undergo training to prevent sexual harassment every year and are barred from engaging in romantic fraternization with staff and interns.

The House committee on administration and accounts voted 6-1 to adopt the policies, which take effect immediately.

File photo by Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

No fraternization, investigations conducted by "outside counsel," and sexual harassment training every year: These are just a few of the recommendations being made to improve the culture and work environment of the Missouri Capitol. 

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, announced the proposed changes Friday in a lengthy press release, but also spoke to St. Louis Public Radio by phone.

File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 4:32 p.m., Sept. 16 with vote – The Republican push to bring "right to work" to Missouri failed in a 96-63 vote in the Missouri House. Up until the veto session started it was unknown whether Republicans legislative leaders would attempt the override. As it was, the GOP picked up four votes and fell short of the 109 needed to counter Gov. Jay Nixon's clear stand against the measure.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, says that a final decision on whether to bring up House Bill 116 could be decided right before the noon start.

Union members clap in appreciation at a rally against overriding 'right-to-work' on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015 in Arnold, Mo.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Union members are making sure Missouri Republican lawmakers who voted against ‘right-to-work’ earlier this year know that they will have union support during the next election.

Missouri's chapter of the AFL-CIO held a rally and knocked on doors Saturday in Jefferson County ahead of the General Assembly’s veto session next Wednesday. That's when a vote to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a  "right-to-work" bill could be brought to the floor. The measure would bar making union dues a condition of employment.  Currently a business or union can require dues when a majority of workers have voted to organize.

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

At least at J. Pfenny’s sports bar, it’ll be business as usual next week when legislators return to the Missouri capital for their annual veto session. They’ll also be gathering for the first time since the furor over sexual misconduct allegations involving interns sent two top state legislators packing.

The alcohol will be flowing as several lawmakers, or hopefuls, hold simultaneous fundraisers at the popular watering hole, situated just a couple blocks from the Capitol building.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

As of today, there are 92 new laws on the books in Missouri.

All of them were passed by the Missouri House and Senate during the 2015 regular session, and all but two were signed by Gov. Jay Nixon. Lawmakers passed Senate Bill 24 by overriding Nixon's veto. That law shortens the lifetime eligibility for welfare recipients in Missouri to three years and nine months from five years. Although most of the provisions in SB24 officially take effect today, the shorter eligibility period won't kick in until Jan. 1, 2016.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Dozens of bills passed by Missouri lawmakers this year remain unsigned as the deadline for taking action approaches.

They include the sole Ferguson-related bill passed during the 2015 legislative session.

Members of the Republican caucus converge in the House Lounge after Diehl announced his resignation.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

As reality shows go, the Missouri General Assembly’s last week is generally worth watching. This week, the legislature outdid itself. Typically, the session closes with a flurry of surprise votes. This year, the surprise was that nothing — nothing — happened on the floor for days as both chambers imploded.

Senate Communications

Missouri Senate leaders are hoping to find a way to pass a critical medical funding bill, despite the chamber being all but shut down.

Todd Richardson after the Republican caucus selected the Poplar Bluff native as the next speaker of the Missouri House.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

(Updated 11 a.m. Friday, May 15) Missouri Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, was elected and sworn in as new House speaker Friday, and swiftly got the House back to the business at hand — passing bills in the final hours of a surreal last week of session.

"This is not the time for speeches,'' Richardson said, ending tumultuous applause from the packed chamber. "This is a time to get back to work."

Diehl briefly speaks with reporters after issuing a statement in which he apologized for "poor judgment" regarding texts he had with a female intern.
Eli Rosenberg | KMBC-TV, Kansas City

Updated 1:40 p.m. Thurs, May 14: Missouri House Speaker John Diehl, R-Town and Country, has announced he's resigning as speaker and as a member of the Missouri House.

His statement was issued less than 28 hours after news broke that he had been exchanging sexually salacious texts with a college-age female intern earlier this spring.

Diehl's statement does not say, however, when he will step down. The General Assembly's legislative session officially ends at 6 p.m. Friday. State Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, told reporters the House's GOP caucus will select a new speaker tonight.

Reps. Sue Entlicher and Eric Burlison during the right-to-work debate. 5.13.2015
Tim Bommel | Missouri House of Representatives

Amid a sex-text scandal engulfing the House speaker, the Missouri House voted Wednesday to approve an anti-union bill that would make Missouri the nation's 26th "right-to-work" state.

But the 92-66 vote was well shy the 109 needed to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s promised veto, prompting even some Republican lawmakers to blast their leadership for pressing for the controversial matter during the session’s final week.

Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick watches as House Speaker John Diehl signs the veto override of HB 150. unemployment
Tim Bommel | Missouri House of Representatives

With no votes to spare, the Missouri House acted Tuesday to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that would reduce the state’s unemployment benefits to 13 weeks, one of the lowest in the country.

The lower benefits would go into effect when the state’s unemployment rate is below 6 percent, as it is now.

Jo Mannies|St. Louis Public Radio

(Updated, 1 p.m. Tues., May 12) Just days before the General Assembly must adjourn, all other legislative issues are being held hostage while the Missouri Senate debates the hottest issue of the session: an anti-union bill known as “right to work.”

The Senate took up the bill Tuesday morning, after a committee voted 5-3 late Monday to send the measure to the floor.  Opponents quickly launched into a filibuster.

Ray Howze / St. Louis Public Radio

Limits on monetary damages in medical malpractice lawsuits have been reinstated in Missouri.

Gov. Jay Nixon signed Senate Bill 239 into law Thursday at SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital in Jefferson City. The state's Supreme Court overturned the previous limits three years ago. Since 2005 they had been at $350,000.

plastic bags
Donna Korando | St. Louis Public Radio

Cities would be unable to ban the use of plastic bags under a bill passed by the Missouri Legislature on Wednesday. The bill, House Bill 722, also bans local municipalities from enacting ordinances that would require businesses to provide employee benefits that "exceed the requirements of federal or state laws, rules or regulaions."

help wanted job listing jobs unemployment
neetalparekh | Flickr

Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed his second bill of the session on Tuesday. 

This bill, House Bill 150, ties unemployment benefits to the state's jobless rate and would have cut the number of weeks someone could receive benefits to 13 weeks when the jobless rate dips below 6 percent.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Legislative session will end in two weeks and many issues remain unsolved. “St. Louis Public Radio” statehouse reporter Marshall Griffin is following the progress. He joined “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh Tuesday with updates.

Much of the session revolved around improving community policing.

Here is a list of legislative topics discussed during the interview:

A police officer is silhouetted against Ferguson's police department and municipal court building, during nighttime protests on November 26, 2014.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

A new bill in the Missouri House would restrict public access to police body camera footage.

In a vote Wednesday, the House gave initial approval to House Bill 762, sponsored by Rep. Galen Higdon, R-St. Joseph. The bill would exempt camera footage from the state’s open records law, also known as the Sunshine Law. That means people would have to get a court order to access the footage.

KellyB. | Flickr

The Missouri House sent a bill to Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk Tuesday that ties unemployment benefits to the state’s unemployment rate.

Missouri Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Beacon.

Mike Colona is getting his wish. Two months ago, the Democratic representative from St. Louis attended a Senate committee hearing on Senate Bill 237. The bill bars discrimination in Missouri based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

But after the hearing, Colona was upset because he hadn’t seen similar action from the House.

Ray Howze | St. Louis Public Radio / St. Louis Public Radio

Salaries for Missouri state employees rank near the bottom of the nation. To change that, some state legislators on Thursday called for making a raise a priority in coming years.

Joined by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, and state Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said they want a five-year plan to raise those salaries. They did not outline a specific plan Thursday, but said they hoped to get the discussion started.

Since Missouri's state lawmakers are on spring break this week, "St. Louis on the Air" is checking in to see what they've accomplished so far, and what remains on the to-do list.

Four bills have been passed by both chambers and sent to the governor:

Ray Howze / St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Legislative Black Caucus is growing impatient with the House’s inaction on Ferguson-related bills.

In a news conference Wednesday, state Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City, and about 12 others accused Republican leaders, including Speaker of the House John Diehl, R-Town and Country, of stalling progress on bills addressing law enforcement practices. Many of these bills were introduced in reaction to the shooting death of Michael Brown by then-Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

The 2015 Missouri legislative session is underway, and here are some of the highlights of the day.

Nixon gets first say on start of session

The day began with the annual Governor's Prayer Breakfast, after which he answered questions from reporters on a few topics, including whether Medicaid expansion was already a lost cause for 2015.  Nixon, of course, said it wasn't at all.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Legislature kicks off today, with an even stronger Republican majority, thanks to the results of the November election. The 34-member state Senate now has 25 Republicans and nine Democrats while the House of Representatives has 117 Republicans, 45 Democrats and one vacancy.

Leading the House is incoming Speaker John Diehl, R-Town and Country. The Senate's leader is Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles.

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