JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After both chambers of the General Assembly ended their introductory measures, the minority caucus leaders of the House and Senate, Rep. Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis, and Sen. Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, respectively, held a joint press conference with their Democratic colleagues standing behind them to state their intentions for the 2016 session.
They noted that the first focus of the year should be on flood recovery for areas across the state that found themselves below water over the New Year holiday week.
“Missouri communities must have the resources they need to rebuild as quickly as possible,” Hummel stated. “In the short term, nothing is more important.”
However, the Democrats also offered multiple points of their platform, including an increase in funding for the Missouri Department of Transportation, the expansion of Medicaid, funding the foundation formula, and passing the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA).
Keaveny and Hummel each voiced their frustrations on past failures by the legislature to increase funding for what they and their party see as necessary components of state governance. Keaveny recalled how last session he sat during a filibuster for two days opposed to raising the gas tax by two cents.
“Quite frankly, I don’t see a whole lot of relief… of increasing any taxes in regards to our infrastructure,” he said. “I don’t think the residents of the state of Missouri care whether they pay $1.65 a gallon or $1.67 a gallon, but they don’t want to be running into potholes all the time.”
Hummel focused on fully funding the foundation formula for the state.
“Education funding should be one of the top priorities in the state,” he noted. “We are still $400 million short of funding the foundation formula. I don’t know how we can expect our teachers and our school districts to educate our children properly if we don’t give them the basic funding levels that we have promised them.”
Hummel and Keaveny also briefly spoke on the latest turmoil surrounding the University of Missouri. The Republican Caucus Monday asked the university to fire Professor Melissa Click, who first came under fire during the Concerned Student 1950 protests for various violations against the press. Although instigated by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, and Rep. Caleb Jones, R-Columbia, all Republicans in the General Assembly signed letters supporting Click’s termination.
Hummel took the opportunity to take a shot at Schaefer.
“If you want help to beat up on a Senate colleague, I’d be happy too,” Hummel said. “I think that one man’s political quest for attorney general should not dictate how the University of Missouri operates in any way, shape or form. It is our job to fund that university and not to meddle in their affairs. Period.”