JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Chris Schappe, chief counsel for the Senate Minority Caucus, joined the #moleg podcast crew on Friday morning as a part of their Autumn of the Attorney series to discuss how his legal ability helps Senate Democrats.
Schappe is a partner of Schappe and Schappe Law with his father Michael and has worked in the Senate for almost 14 years. One of the biggest questions asked host Rachael Herndon Dunn was to figure out how he became one of the legal minds for Missouri Senate Democrats.
“It just kind of really dropped in my lap. I’ve been working at a law firm in Jefferson City and I was ready to be out of that job. I’ve been involved in politics in Columbia for a while and out of nowhere – I knew Ken Jacob and I knew his chief of staff both very well – and they said ‘one of our attorneys in the office is leaving, do you want the job?’” Schappe said. “I submitted a writing sample and a résumé and I got the job.”
Since then, he has been able to use his political know-how to make sure that both Democrats and Republicans are within legal standing. He notes that it can sometimes be a busy job.
“There are several aspects of my job. I review legislation, particularly if it is going to have significant legal impacts. I give Senators advice and tell them, ‘this is what this bill is going to do: this is how this process works now, and so now it’s changing and so it’s going to be like this instead,’” Schappe said. “Every bill that comes to the floor, either I or another member of the staff write-up brief on the bill. We sometimes follow bills through committee.”
Especially for Senate Democrats, who account for only nine of 34 senate seats, he plays an integral role to help them keep a strong voice despite their few numbers. One of the best strategies for Democrats to stop what they see as bad legislation from the Republicans is to enforce parliamentary procedures so that bills cannot move quickly through the Senate.
“I am also one of the parliamentary gurus in our caucus. So if you wanted some parliamentary trick to stop something,” Schappe said. “If you want to get beyond some parliamentary trick to stop you, we are the people to tell you how to do that.”
However, he wanted to emphasize that while he can help obstruct legislation, his favorite thing to do for the Senate is to act as a bridge between the two ideological divides. Particularly, he wants to investigate some of the contentious parts of the bill and see if he can find the language for bipartisan support.
“I like working on bills where I can be a mechanic, I can work with the language. You have two competing sides and I can try and come up with some language that says, ‘does this address your concern, does this address your concern?’” he said. “When I can toy around with the language and come up with something that makes everybody happy, that’s what I enjoy doing the most.”
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Michael Layer is a reporter for the Missouri Times and the Missouri Times Magazine. He joined the Missouri Times in August 2017 after graduating from Goucher College the previous May. To contact Michael, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @_MichaelLayer