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Same building, new job: Jill Schupp on 2015 and beyond


Saint Louis, Mo. — When she first ran for office, the state of Missouri had limits on individual campaign contributions. As she approaches her first term as Missouri Senator from the 24th district, Jill Schupp is hoping to resurrect those same limits.

“We saw the race between myself and Jay Ashcroft get so expensive,” Schupp said. “Big players with a lot of money to spend got involved, and I don’t think the people of Missouri want individuals or groups to be able to buy the legislature.”

Schupp is hoping campaign finance reform may have some legs heading into 2015, if for no other reason then that there is at least some bipartisan support on the issue. Candidates from both parties have felt the sting of a well-funded opponent in the past, and the issue polls very well among the average voter.

Schupp is poised to move into the Senate after 6 years in the House as a shrewd and vocal proponent of Democratic flagship issues. Violet Marcel, a former staffer with House Minority Leader Jacob Hummel, will be moving across the hall with Schupp into her new office.

Sen. Jill Schupp

“I think she’s just tremendously skilled,” Schupp said of Marcel. “She understands the process and she’s very good at reading and reviewing legislation. She’s really focused on policy and I wanted someone with that level of skill and those interests.”

Marcel, who could be frequently found on Hummel’s hip in the hallways or during long debates in the House, will make for an energetic and sharp ally for Schupp, who is moving into a senate chamber with an historic imbalance of power. While Schupp joins her fellow Democrats in the chamber in supporting the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the Republican supermajority that runs the chamber is likely to hear little of it. Senate Appropriations Chairman, Kurt Schaefer, told The Missouri Times last week that Medicaid expansion was a “non-starter.”

But Schupp believes that keeping the issue out front is the way to make headway, and refuses to concede that the issue is D.O.A in the Missouri legislature.

“If we don’t talk, then issues won’t move forward at all,” Schupp said. “The more people learn about what expansion will do, not just for low income individuals who need healthcare, but for the economy of the state as a whole, they become supportive of this. Even if it’s not a moral issue for you, it should certainly be an economic one.”

2015 is the final year for Missouri to expand Medicaid under the ACA and have the expansion fully paid for by the federal government. Starting next year, states with expanded Medicaid will assume a portion of the financial burden. Schupp says she hopes this creates some urgency with her fellow lawmakers.

And while Medicaid will once again shape up to be a debate flashpoint for Missouri politicians this year, Schupp says there are already some areas where she sees potential for bipartisan work. Municipal court reform, which Sen. Eric Schmitt plans on championing, has a growing list of supporters. Other niche issues, like raising awareness and focusing on prevention of suicide in teens, has the broad support of many of her colleagues.

Like her fellow senators, Schupp anticipates another lengthy debate on education reform as state lawmakers once again weigh legislative fixes to Missouri’s growing trouble with unaccredited public schools. With Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of last year’s bill still hanging in the air, the form and function a 2015 legislative fix may take remains unknown.

For a freshmen Democratic senator in the Missouri senate, the coming legislative session may be less about putting bills on Nixon’s desk and more about finding common ground in an increasingly partisan atmosphere.

“You talk about issues you don’t agree on, you find out what you do agree on, and you do the best work possible,” Schupp said.