JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The final hours of the legislative session could be described as a chaotic and dysfunctional end to an abnormal session, as both parties utilized the extremes of the rules in a legislative session that saw extreme victories for Republicans on huge pieces of legislation and infighting that killed several smaller bills.
With just five hours left before the 6 p.m. deadline, the Senate sat stalled as Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal filibustered a bill in response to the House declining to pass her legislation concerning a buyout for homes near the West Lake Landfill. She had made her intentions known earlier in the day that if the House would not pass her bill that she would attempt to end session with her speaking on the landfill.
But that came to an abrupt halt after about a half hour when Sen. Bob Dixon rose to lay over his bill. Senate leadership chose to move the previous question – in order to end debate and pass HB 1194 & 1193, which sought to ban local minimum wages in the Show-Me State.
Democrats responded by attempting every single maneuver they could to stall a vote on the bill which would put a quick end to St. Louis’ new $10 minimum wage. It was always clear that while Lt. Governor Mike Parson entertained hours of parliamentary motions led by Sen. Scott Sifton in an attempt to delay the vote past the deadline, they were always fighting an uphill battle.
Despite a well organized and compelling fight, the end result was never really in doubt. Ultimately, the chamber’s Republican majority voted in unison to establish one statewide minimum wage.
“This is shameful,” Sen. Kiki Curls said, clearly emotional while speaking on the Senate floor. “I’m ashamed to be a member of this body right now, and it’s disgusting. It’s awful, it’s shameful, and it’s hypocritical. We should be ashamed of ourselves.”
Emotions grew wild and unchecked, and required several gavels by the President to reign in the Senate. It became very clear that leadership had lost control of the floor, despite their efforts to maintain order.
“We’re not going to follow the rules if you don’t follow the rules,” Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, told Republicans on the floor after one such gavel.
Tension continued to mount on the floor as the senators continued filing amendments, making points of order, or rising to speak. At one moment, Sen. Rob Schaaf called out Parson, saying he should not allow President Pro Tem Ron Richard to interrupt any senator, which he said had already happened several times.
“If you allow him to do it, Mr. President, you should be ashamed of yourself,” Schaaf said.
When Parson recognized Richard once again as Schaaf spoke, the senator from Buchanan slammed his fist down upon his desk, crying out “How could you?” in Parson’s direction.
Sen. Ryan Silvey tweeted that the Senate was becoming the House.
And despite their counterparts’ attempts, Republicans continued to push forward the legislation, arguing that the measure was needed for consistency across the state.
In the end, the legislation passed with a vote of 23-10, along with an emergency clause.
The chaos in the Senate on Friday is one that few can recall any days that compare, and the senators on the losing side were quite vocal about their opposition to how things played out.
“That really saddens me,” Sen. Gina Walsh said. “It was complete chaos. That’s not how the Missouri Senate works.”
Republicans in favor of the bill still contended that a patchwork of different minimum wages throughout the state made things difficult and was a necessary piece of legislation.
“I believe that in our heart of hearts, that we did the right thing,” President Pro Tem Richard said.
Just before 6:00 p.m. the House passed the bill by a vote of 109-43. The emergency clause, however, failed by one single vote.
After that tumultuous end, it now seems that whatever unity the Senate found is gone, and the question now becomes at what cost did Republicans get the minimum wage ban? After forcing the legislation will there be issues left over from the PQ that continue into next session or a potential special session?
But perhaps one bright spot for the Senate yesterday came after they had already adjourned. Just minutes before the 6 p.m. deadline, the House took up HCB 3, a bill they had refused to pass. As the seconds ticked down, the House finally blinked, voting to pass the Senate’s plan to provide funding for senior service care by a vote of 83-67.
Both bills now heads to the desk of Gov. Eric Greitens, who has until mid-July to sign off on them.
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.