Ron Richard | St. Louis Public Radio

Ron Richard

House Republicans talk during the last day of the legislative session. May 17, 2017
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Mike Meinkoth vividly remembers how term limits were sold to Missourians in 1992: By limiting lawmakers to eight years in the House and eight years in the Senate, proponents contended the General Assembly would become more responsive — and consistently get new members with fresh ideas.

More than 25 years after voters approved the constitutional amendment, Meinkoth wanted to know if those promises were kept. He asked Curious Louis: “It's been 25 years since term limits went into effect for state legislators. Has there been a study to determine the effect of these limits?”

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard told St. Louis Public Radio that St. Louis' governmental structure is woefully inefficient.
Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard hinted that next year’s legislative session could “shake up” the St. Louis region, especially if lawmakers back plans to combine St. Louis and St. Louis County or merge county municipalities.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Joplin Republican’s proclamation to St. Louis Public Radio elicited a mixed response. Some are willing to have the legislature help pare down the region’s cities, police departments and fire districts. Others, like Vinita Park Mayor James McGee, are not happy at the prospect of the state making wholesale changes to St. Louis’ governance, as opposed to St. Louis area residents.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens speaks to reporters after the 2017 adjourned. Greitens didn't have the smoothest relationship with legislators — including Republicans that control both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Eric Greitens’ successful campaign to become Missouri’s governor was based on the premise that politicians were ruining the state and that an outsider’s help was needed.

But with the 2017 legislative session in the books, some of the elected officials Greitens decried believe he got in their way and took an unwarranted, heavy-handed approach — despite the fact that the Republican stands to implement policies his party waited generations to complete.

State Senator Rob Schaaf addresses Lt. Gov. Mike Parson on the last day day of the General Assembly's legislative session.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Republicans had a lot to be optimistic about when the General Assembly convened in January. For the first time nearly a decade, the GOP held the reins of power in the executive and legislative branches — giving the party a prime chance to pass longstanding policy initiatives.

That optimism turned out to be warranted, especially when it came to overhauling the state’s labor and legal climate. But the process was anything but smooth. 

Gov. Eric Greitens and his wife, Sheena, brought their two children to a polling place before the November general election. Greitens signed an executive order extending paid parental leave for some state employees.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

With Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens issuing an executive order extending parental leave to some state employees, the question naturally arises: What’s next?

While important to the thousands of state employees it affects, the Republican governor’s executive order is not comprehensive. It provides paid time off for people who give birth or adopt a child, but only applies to “executive” state agencies run by gubernatorial appointees. It doesn’t affect or every state employee — or private sector workers .

Missouri lawmakers listen to Gov. Eric Greitens speak earlier this month during his State of the State address.
Tim Bommel I House Communications

If Missourians were near a television screen over the past year, they probably caught wind of how Eric Greitens wanted to overhaul the ethical culture in Jefferson City. His advertisements weren’t exactly a study in subtlety, especially when they showcased his desire to blow up politics as usual by sparking an explosion with a gun.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

It wasn't that long ago that Republican leaders in the Missouri House and Senate were deeply divided and nearly at each other's throats over tax credits.

In 2011, an entire special legislative session was devoted to approving a wide-ranging tax credit bill that centered around incentives designed to transform Lambert-St. Louis International Airport into an international cargo hub. But differing opinions over the role of tax breaks and concerns that they were getting out of hand sabotaged the special session, and there have been no major attempts since then to give the system a makeover.

Enter Gov. Eric Greitens in 2017.

Senator Pro Tem Ron Richard answers questions from reporters.
File photo by Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum welcomes Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard to the show for the first time.

Rosenbaum interviewed the Joplin Republican in Richard's Jefferson City office. Richard is the only legislator in Missouri history to serve as both the speaker of the Missouri House and the president pro tem of the Missouri Senate.

File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

A cold arctic blast greeted lawmakers, lobbyists and reporters who filtered into the state Capitol Wednesday for the start of Missouri's 2017 legislative session.

But it didn't take long for things to heat up, at least on the House side of the building.

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, was one of the biggest proponents of using the previous question to pass "right to work."
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri will become a right-to-work state. The chief question is how soon the General Assembly will put a version of the anti-union measure on the desk of soon-to-be Gov. Eric Greitens.

The other unknown is what particular form of “right to work’’ Missouri’s new law will take.

Under "right to work," unions and employers cannot require all workers in a bargaining unit to pay dues or fees. Although some versions of right to work say a worker cannot be required to join a union, federal law has barred such a requirement for a long time.

Gov.-elect Eric Greitens shakes hands with Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, last week.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On the Thursday after his resounding victory in the Missouri governor’s race, Eric Greitens spent the morning at the Missouri Capitol meeting with Gov. Jay Nixon and huddling up with the Senate Republican supermajority. Greitens ended up shaking lots of hands of fellow Republicans who could help make his campaign agenda into the laws of the land. 

When he stepped into the Capitol hallways, Greitens could hardly contain his enthusiasm about the months ahead.

Sen. David Pearce answers questions from reporters on the last day of the legislative session.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

If there’s one constant about the last week of the Missouri General Assembly’s session, it’s that nobody in the Capitol has to search very hard to find delicious pie.

For several decades, senators have served up rhubarb pies, French silk pies, and even gooseberry pies to hungry legislators and staff. The uncontroversial and widely celebrated “Pie Day” event provides a big boost to proprietors like the Rolling Pin in Glasgow, and a bit of levity within the General Assembly's intense final days.

Margaux Harris, 7, granddaughter of Rep. Mike Lair, throws papers in the air shortly after members of the House did the same to mark the end of the legislative session.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For the most part, the dwindling moments of the 2016 session of the Missouri General Assembly were familiar: Paper got tossed. Press conferences transpired. And lawmakers get to spend the next few months far away from Jefferson City (with the exception, of course, of the legislators that represent that town).

But the last week of session did provide some notable insights and surprises: From the passage of a wide-ranging gun bill to the somewhat surprising resignation of a state senator, there was plenty of news to keep bespectacled reporters busy.

Wikimedia Commons

Republicans in the Missouri Senate have given first-round approval to legislation that would shield clergy and business owners from state penalties for refusing to work on same-sex weddings.

Democrats had filibustered Senate Joint Resolution 39 nonstop since Monday afternoon, but early Wednesday morning GOP leaders used a procedural move, known as "moving the previous question," to cut off debate and force a vote.

Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, strongly questioned whether the legislature was taking the right focus with its ethics overhaul.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Since a high-profile sex scandal was partly responsible for torpedoing the end of the 2015 session, some lawmakers have made improving the ethical climate of Jefferson City a priority.

But even though the Missouri House passed a flurry of bills early this session, some Missouri senators think the ethics push so far is missing the mark.

Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Senate leaders are getting behind a push to persuade the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to stay in St. Louis.

The federal spy agency is planning to move to a new site from its current home south of downtown. Mayor Francis Slay wants the NGA to move to the north side of St. Louis, on a site just north of where the Pruitt-Igoe housing complex once stood.

St. Louis Public Radio file art

Missouri lawmakers are back in Jefferson City as they prepare to kick off the 2016 legislative session at noon today.

In addition to passing the state budget, they're expected to tackle several other issues, including ethics reform and Gov. Jay Nixon's push to build a new NFL stadium for the Rams.

Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Ron Richard is about to spend his first full session as president pro-tem of the Missouri Senate.

He was elected to the post by his colleagues in September after Tom Dempsey resigned a year ahead of time, and shepherded the upper chamber through veto session. The Republican from Joplin also served as House Speaker from 2009 to 2010, and is the only elected official in Missouri history to lead both chambers.

Richard sat down recently with St. Louis Public Radio’s Marshall Griffin and talked about what he hopes to accomplish, and about getting started as president pro-tem:

stock photo
Kurhan | sxc.hu

Legislative leaders and anti-abortion activists are making it clear that abortion regulations – and Planned Parenthood -- are likely to be among the top issues for many Missouri lawmakers when they return to the state Capitol in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, area allies of Planned Parenthood say they’re fighting back – beginning with a rally planned for Saturday outside its midtown St. Louis clinic.

Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

As its first order of business the Missouri Senate unanimously elected Ron Richard, R-Joplin, to be its president pro-tem.

His fellow Republicans chose him for the post during a private caucus meeting Tuesday; his formal election  at the start of the 2015 veto session was a foregone conclusion. Richard says he's honored, but added that he'll actually have less power than he had as floor Leader.

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, is set to resign on Friday. Some feel his departure could serve as a departure to a Senate ruled by compromise.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The imminent departure of Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey amounts to an end of an era for the Missouri General Assembly, at least for Missouri Public Service Commissioner Scott Rupp.

Rupp – a former Republican senator from Wentzville – served in the Missouri House and Missouri Senate with Dempsey for years. He said the soon-to-be former St. Charles Republican senator was part of a very exclusive club within the Missouri General Assembly. 

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, presides over the Missouri Senate on Wednesday. Dempsey missed the final two days of session to attend his daughter's college graduation.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The top Republican in the Missouri Senate is stepping down.

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey announced on Friday he will resign from his St. Charles County-based Senate seat next Friday. In a lengthy statement, the Republican legislator cited a return to the private sector and a desire to be closer to his wife and three children.

Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, wait out the final hours of the Missouri Senate's session. Both men were strong proponents of "right to work" legislation, which is opposed strongly by labor unions.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

It wasn't particularly surprising that state Sen. Bob Onder was pushing hard to get so-called "right to work" legislation through a seemingly intractable Missouri Senate.

The Lake Saint Louis Republican campaigned last year in support of right to work, which bars arrangements that force workers to pay union dues if a majority voted to organize. He supported that measure even though the population of union members has steadily increased in St. Charles County, which may be why his two unsuccessful GOP rivals opposed right to work during the campaign.

State Sen. Scott Sifton angrily speaks on Wednesday. The Affton Democrat was a key figure in grinding business of the Senate to a halt after Republicans stopped a filibuster of right to work.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The final week of the Missouri General Assembly's session is usually pretty hectic — but not for the reasons that occurred last week.

Even the traditional paper toss was unusual this year as several representatives did not participate. 5.15.15
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

Only one major piece of legislation passed the Missouri General Assembly during its final day of the 2015 session, capping a surreal and strange week that saw the House speaker resign and the Senate paralyzed.

After days of delay, both chambers found time Friday to swiftly approve a must-pass bill necessary for the state to accept its annual $3.5 billion in federal money to pay for the existing Medicaid program and related health care expenses.

courtesy National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Efforts to keep the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in St. Louis are in full gear.

The Missouri Senate passed a measure on Thursday that would capture up to $12 million a year in withholdings taxes from NGA employees for up to 30 years. That money would go to the city for costs associated with luring the agency to a north St. Louis site.

UPI/Bill Greenblatt

With roughly a month left to go before adjournment, many of the Missouri General Assembly’s big issues remain unresolved.  

That’s not too surprising. Big-ticket legislation often passes — or dies — in the last weeks of the session. With about a month to go before the final gavel falls, legislation dealing with tax cuts, the state’s criminal code and the student transfer situation are all still up in the air.

The resolution of some conflicts could hinge on unity from Republicans, who control the legislature, while others may fall along less predictable fault lines. 

Chris McDaniel, St. Louis Public Radio.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is continuing to voice his support for Boeing to choose St. Louis as its location to produce its new commercial aircraft, the 777X.

Boeing is shopping for a new location after a disagreement with the Machinists union in Washington. The company and has since met with governors in numerous states. Nixon met with Boeing last week, and said he will work quickly with the state’s legislative leaders to craft a proposal to lure the aerospace company.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The House sponsor of a pro-gun bill that came within one vote of becoming Missouri law during this week's veto session is pledging to work with the two fellow Republicans in the state Senate who killed the bill – Senate leaders Tom Dempsey and Ron Richard – to come up with a compromise version to be considered next year.

The Missouri Senate Chamber
Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

The Missouri Senate will be led by new people when it convenes for the 2013 session.

Majority party Republicans on Thursday nominated Sen. Tom Dempsey, of St. Charles, to serve as president pro tem - the top position in the chamber. Dempsey still must be elected by the full Senate when it convenes in January, but that is expected to be a mere formality.

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