JEFFERSON CITY, Mo — Senate Bill 125, backed by House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, and touted as a way to improve public schools, failed today by a vote of 76-82 after a long night in the chamber and an extremely contentious vote-whipping process.
Tensions came to a head on the bill when Senate sponsor Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, confronted Democrats on the floor. Rep. Keith English, D-Florissant, yelled at Nasheed on the floor to “stop threatening people,” before Nasheed was removed from the chamber as the two came close to a physical confrontation.
“She was telling [Representative Michael] Butler that if he didn’t’ vote her way, he wouldn’t be coming back,” English told The Missouri Times. “Whether you support this bill or oppose it, it’s not right for someone to lobby on the floor and threaten a fellow member of the general assembly. That’s not how you do business.”
Nasheed spent much of the week lobbying black caucus members in the House to support the bill, telling The Missouri Times that the bill — which included evaluations for principles and changes to the state intervention of failing districts — would benefit black communities the most, and said political pressure shouldn’t stop her members from “doing the right thing.” She spent much of the night in the chamber, whipping Republican and Democratic votes.
The incident between Nasheed and English highlight the intense nature of the arm-twisting and the closeness of the vote. During an earlier vote on an amendment stripping teacher evaluations from the bill but kept them in place for school principles, the handler of the bill, Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, was seen speaking to Rep. Nick Marshall, R-Platte County, for several minutes, clearly attempting to convince Marshall to change his no vote. At one point during Barnes wrangling, Marshall, who never changed his vote, simply rose and left his desk.
Jones, who has shown himself to be deeply personally committed to the legislation, became frustrated after the loss. Jones recognized Majority leader John Diehl, R-St. Louis, to move for adjournment. However, the motion to adjourn lost by a voice vote, the first time an adjournment motion has failed during the session. Jones, then recognized Diehl who after two attempts to reach the Speaker on the direct line phone quickly recognized floor savvy Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, to motion on a bill before moving for adjournment, which finally was successful.
The vote represents the most contentious and one of the closest votes all session, and the struggle of Jones to pass even a motion to adjourn was significant, as Burlison said he had “no idea,” they would recognize him for a motion.
Ultimately, the loss represents a major blow to Jones’ education agenda, which has been defeated twice on the House floor. A house bill with similar provisions, HB631, lost a vote by a wide margin of 55-102 earlier this year.
In the last moments of the vote, loyal Jones ally Rep. MArk Parkinson, R-St. Peters, switched his vote to no, potentially to preserve his ability to make a motion to reconsider, which could bring the bill back to the floor.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.