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Government, Politics & Issues

Politically Speaking: State Sen. Rowden On The GOP View Of The 2019 Legislation Session

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, right, talks with Sen. Wayne Wallingford on Nov. 8, 2018.
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, right, talks with Sen. Wayne Wallingford on Nov. 8, 2018.

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden is the latest guest on Politically Speaking. The Columbia Republican talked with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum about the lay of the land for the 2019 legislative session.

Rowden was first elected to the Senate in 2016, winning one of the most expensive legislative races in history against Democratic Rep. Stephen Webber. He represents Boone and Cooper counties in the Missouri Senate.

After the 2018 election cycle, Rowden was elected by his fellow Republicans as majority leader. He’s responsible for deciding which bills are brought up for debate — making him one of the more powerful lawmakers in the General Assembly.

This year, Republican lawmakers are being asked to follow through on much of Gov. Mike Parson’s agenda — including a bonding plan to repair the state’s bridges and a boost to the state’s workforce-development programs. Legislators are also mulling over how to deal with the state’s revenue situation, which has produced less money than the previous fiscal year.

Another subplot of this year’s session is whether Republicans will place a measure before voters altering or partially repealing Amendment 1, which substantially changed how state legislative districts are drawn. Rowden called the new redistricting system “terrible policy” at the beginning of the session — though any changes to it would require a statewide vote.

Here’s what Rowden had to say during the show:

  • Rowden is confident that lawmakers will make some changes this year to the state low-income housing tax-credit program, which has been frozen since late 2017. Sen. Dan Hegeman’s legislation that lowers the amount of tax credits that can be issued each year recently passed out of a Senate committee.
  • He believes Parson is correct in promising not to restart the low-income housing tax credit unless lawmakers act. “Folks who carry these projects out, they need a bill,” he said. “It has created a different conversation. And I think the conversation has gone very well up until this point.”
  • With lawmakers mulling over whether to restrict documents available under the state’s Sunshine Law, Rowden emphasized he is not in favor of shielding emails that lobbyists send to lawmakers about legislation. “My goal is to find the right balance,” he said. “I don’t think we have any business and should go trying to revert this thing all the way back to [legislative emails not being open records]. I think that would be a bit of a disservice and injustice for people that voted for Clean Missouri, even though I wasn’t supportive for different reasons.”
  • Rowden said it isn’t clear now whether lawmakers will vote this year or next year to place changes to the new state legislative-redistricting system up for a vote. Republicans have the votes to make that move, and may also receive some support from African-American Democrats who are concerned about the new plan’s impact on minority representation in the General Assembly.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Caleb Rowden on Twitter: @calebrowden

Music: “BlackLief” by Son of the Pale Youth

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