JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – This week in the Missouri legislature, the House perfected a number of bills this week and signed off on a few resolutions, while the Senate signed off on two House Bills, 51 and 34. The Senate appropriations committee was the thing everyone was watching for, as they continued their efforts to bring the budget to the Senate floor.
But the real story this week lies in the drama between the two chambers, rather than any legislation that might have been passed. In fact, one can literally trace back each event of note this week, drawing a direct line to see cause and reaction in motion, with one polarizing figure taking center stage. That person was Sen. Rob Schaaf.
Legislators took Monday off this week for the Easter holiday and returned to Jefferson City on Tuesday.
Tension has been building between the two chambers, as the Senate has been mired in long debates while the House continues pushing out legislation. Tuesday night turned into a long one, as the Senate debated the circuit breaker tax credit for hours on end, finally letting out after 5 a.m. Wednesday morning.
But things began to take shape as the comments from members of the House and Senate on certain issues, particularly managed care, spurred on tempers. Schaaf and House Budget chairman Scott Fitzpatrick have not seen eye to eye on that particular issue, which led to more tension.
No one expected what came next, though. Schaaf surprised many when he came to the Senate floor Wednesday, and in one fell swoop, removed every House bill from the Senate consent calendar.
“Actions have consequences,” Schaaf told the Senate, noting that his version of the prescription drug monitoring program was sent to the House Insurance Committee by House Speaker Todd Richardson, as opposed to the committee Schaaf had requested.
His mission, he said, was to “slow things down” in the legislative process, and he made good on it, reading from a book on the Senate floor in his attempts to postpone debate on several bills.
But, as Schaaf said, actions have consequences, and the House signaled that same message back to the senator on Thursday afternoon, killing a bill similar to one he is sponsoring in the Senate.
“The senator from the St. Joe district, the Schaaf district, has the companion bill,” Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer said while speaking on the House floor Thursday afternoon. “Mr. Speaker, with everything going on in the senate today and this week, why are we helping forward anything on the senator from St. Joe’s agenda?”
It was not something that Schaaf took lightly, speaking on the Senate floor later that afternoon and addressing that very issue. But after a time, Schaaf resumed his tactics, turning once again to a book which he read on the floor in order to postpone further debate on the Blue Alert bill that had been brought up that afternoon.
He once again reiterated his point that actions have consequences, and the result of this would be that bills might not get the time needed on the last day of session.
“I don’t even know what bill I’m killing, but I’m killing it,” Schaaf said, making sure to clarify that he was not killing the Blue Alert bill, an item which has been a top priority for Gov. Eric Greitens. His comment was rather directed to the fact that time used now was a time that can’t be spent later.
When the Blue Alert was put on the calendar by its sponsor, Sen. Caleb Rowden rose from his seat, seeking to inquire of the senator from Buchanan. Schaaf acquiesced, which led to a heated discussion on the floor, as Rowden questioned Schaaf on the topics of corruption and ethics concerning Schaaf’s relationship with a lobbyist.
“Are you trying to imply that in some way because this info came to me by virtue of a guy who rents a room to me and is a friend and who represents my company from time to time that there’s an impropriety there?” Schaaf asked. “How would I personally benefit? You’re raising the issue and casting doubt upon my integrity.”
In the end, Schaaf terminated the inquiry, slamming his microphone down onto his desk, leading Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe to move for the adjournment until Monday.
The Senate appropriations committee returned to their work immediately after, in hopes of getting the budget ready for the Senate floor next week.