New leadership at the Missouri statehouse could provide a platform for a more productive session, said a local lawmaker.
Rep. Delus Johnson, R-St. Joseph, joins 163 House members and 34 state senators in today’s opening session of the 97th General Assembly.
“We’re working together again,” he said. “All the issues with past leadership is put in the past.”
Former House Speaker Steve Tilley and Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Mayer, both Republicans, served their final terms last year. The two disagreed on several issues, including “right to work” legislation and tax credit reform.
“We have very large majorities in both houses,” Mr. Johnson said, “which allows us to push economic development legislation through.”
The Republican leadership announced plans earlier that it will focus on what they call the “three E’s,” education funding and reform, energy independence and economic development.
It appears education also appears on Gov. Jay Nixon’s agenda this year as well. Rep. Mike Lair, R-Chillicothe, who serves as the chairman on the committee for education appropriations, said in his weekly newsletter that he met with Mr. Nixon for over an hour last week to discuss educational priorities. He said they discussed the budget for higher education and K-12. They also talked about early childhood education and education reforms “built around a solid basis in evaluation.”
“We agreed on most items in principle, at least,” he said.
Mr. Lair also said he was encouraged that the governor chose to have a conversation before decisions had been made.
“I was extremely pleased with the discussion we had,” he said.
Sen. Brad Lager said in his weekly newsletter that a majority of the Senate’s work this session will be focused on rebuilding the economic foundation of the state. He said a major factor in the prosperity of the state hinges on a strong public infrastructure and educational attainment.
“For the 2013 legislative session to be a success,” he said, “we must make the difficult decision necessary to restructure our state government and grow our economy. Good public policy must prevail over partisan politics and short-sighted decisions that may be politically popular but bad for our long-term financial health.”
The health care exchange issue is bound to get some floor time this session, but Rep. Mike Thomson, R-Maryville, isn’t certain that anything will be done about the expansion of Medicaid.
“That’s going to be a major issue and we’ve got to do something,” he said. “We cannot afford the possibilities of that Medicaid expansion.”
Mr. Thomson said the tax credit issue, which costs the state around $600 million in revenue per year, likely will be on the agenda at some point during the session.
The session officially begins at noon in both the House and Senate. The 97th General Assembly ends at 6 p.m., May 10. Mr. Nixon makes his “state of the state” address at 7 p.m., Jan. 28.