by Mike Ferguson
(St. Charles, MO) – Missouri’s lawmakers took this past week off in their annual Spring Break.
While there has certainly been some politicking happening, the break gives them, other elected officials and the media that covers the Capitol a breather. It also serves as the unofficial halftime of the Legislative Session.
As with halftime in sports, that means assessing what’s already happened and updating the playbook in preparation for the second half.
On this week’s “Missouri Viewpoints”, three of the state’s best known members of the media weigh in on what’s happened so far in 2014.
Jo Mannies from St. Louis Public Radio, Eli Yokley from PoliticMO.com and Duane Lester of The Missouri Torch bring three different perspectives from three different approaches to covering state government.
While Republicans have overwhelming numbers in both chambers, Yokley senses a lack of unity on at least one of the key issues GOP leadership hopes to pass this year.
“They’re having a hard time. The week before Spring Break, they caucused on ‘Right To Work’ and on some of these labor issues privately and they came out of that not really making any ground. They can’t really move on this.
“A lot of these priorities are being pushed by the Speaker (Rep. Tim Jones) who is looking at some of these statewide races or maybe a Senate campaign, and he’s really looking at the political options, trying to get some labor bills passed and the problem is his party is not with him yet. There’s a lot of Republicans in districts where they need support from labor groups and business groups alike in suburban St. Louis and Kansas City, in some of these moderate parts of the state where Republicans need support from the labor guys and they’re not ready to move on this ‘Right to Work’ yet.”
“Generally, the Republicans have done a better job, as they usually do, coming up with a message. They’re all looking toward the November elections and that message is that there’s all this overreach, particularly at the federal level, because I think they see that as the best way to galvanize the public.
“The Democrats, as usual, haven’t really come up with a cohesive message yet to counter that. I think too often Democrats tend to look like deer in the headlights when some of this stuff is going on. They do need to come up with some sort of a more coordinated message going into the fall unless they’re prepared to get hammered again like they did in 2010.”
Lester reports that, regardless of the unified message the media and public may be hearing, Republican leaders still have a challenge on their hands when it comes to maintaining party unity through the rest of the session.
“I speak to a lot of Republicans when I’m down at the state house and I can tell you there is a lot of friction. There are some very powerful words that are being used to describe fellow Republicans.”
The impact that friction will have on issues including the proposal to expand Medicaid coverage in the state, the so-called “Right To Work” and “Paycheck Protection” labor policy reforms and other high profile bills remains to be seen.
In 2013, state Republicans were unable to hold their ranks together during the veto session and failed to override Governor Nixon’s rejection of some key GOP priorities, including a sweeping tax cut plan.
In political terms, the Republicans have veto-proof majorities in both chambers. In reality, the party has not been able to count on keeping those majorities’ votes on the same page at crucial moments. With an election year at hand, the impact of those crucial legislative moments can have ripple effects on their efforts to hold their seats – and the balance of power in the Legislature.
On the web:
St. Louis Public Radio (news page): http://news.stlpublicradio.org/
The Missouri Torch: http://themissouritorch.com/