As is typically the case, the year before the election is about making policy and preparing for the election year ahead. However, the last session brought such a flood of major legislation it may be more preparing than normal.
Unless, of course, you’re an attorney – then it could be a long session. As is the case with such complex legislation as tort reform very few members of the General Assembly truly understand every aspect of, and will likely lead to a late night compromise in the Senate if a deal is struck at all.
One of the more amusing sights of 2019 has been the celebration of Clean Missouri’s lobbyist gift ban. Herein lies the problem with trying to tell people how to spend their money. The most clueless and liberal (takeaway whatever parallel you like) will tell you that the dragon is slain and harmony will now reign as everyone will brown bag it to Jeff City and magically expand Medicaid and become pro-choice and anti-gun.
However, in reality, lobbyists will simply make a bit larger contribution to a legislator’s campaign account and you will see more of those campaign funds spent on dinner. Or in a particularly cruel twist of irony, those legislators who are independently wealthy will just start picking up the dinner bill and inherit whatever goodwill the lobbyists were supposedly receiving.
But don’t let reality reign on the media’s parade. Remember, even after Josh Hawley’s election, many of them will tell you how devastatingly unpopular President Donald Trump is while holding seashells up to their ears listening for proof of that blue wave they just know is coming.
It really was the political genius of Clean Missouri, accomplishing their goal of redistricting reform while ginning up liberals in the media who don’t like the conservative General Assembly and combining that with the many conservatives who don’t like anyone at all to change the redistricting process. Genius.
However, while that genius may have worked well to win the campaign, the real loser of the Clean Missouri campaign is likely Nicole Galloway. Fair or unfair the State Auditor’s office will now get the credit or the blame for the redistricting. Normally there is far more blame than credit.
To this hillbilly, there are only a couple of different ways the House map can go, Galloway can draw a bunch of shoestring districts and decimate the majority of minority districts which would come at great peril to her career (ask Jay Nixon if anyone has forgotten desegregation) that might, if a Republican is in the White House in 2022, pick up 8-15 House seats. Or on the other hand, she could just tinker with the suburbs and stretch some districts beyond their traditional county line boundaries and pick up 4-8 seats.
Keep in mind, even if Galloway went with the most radical plan, as long as the national Democratic party is ardently pro-choice and pro-gun control, and especially if it’s a party is led by a socialist, then even in the best redistricting scenario, the House is 100-63, or on a great year, 95-68. Joe Biden at the top of their ticket in 2020 might do just as much.
Secretly most savvy house leaders have always said they prefer a house majority of around 95-100 because it gives most senior legislators something real to work on while still allowing them to ignore the kooks and let members in tough districts take walks on controversial bills.
In the Senate, it’s a different story. You wouldn’t have to radically change the lines that much to have a major impact. You could adjust the lines in the Republican-held 8th, 34th, 19th, 23rd, 15th, 22nd, and the 3rd and they could be very different districts. The 1st and the 17th could also be drawn to protect Democrats’ hold on the seats.
Currently, the Senate is 24-10. It’s likely that number is 23-10 at many points in a Republican administration due to appointments into the executive branch. If in the next redistricting, you were to help keep the 1st and the 17th as well as changing the partisan demographics of say 3 of those 7 districts held by Republicans mentioned above, you would see a 21-13 Senate. While still a sizable Republican majority, you have to keep in mind the PQ (which ends debate) requires 18 votes.
No floor leader that is used to his PQ threats being taken very seriously wants to see a group of 4 senators be able to take that threat out of his arsenal.
Look at the current Senate. You now need 7 senators to balk at a PQ in order for it not to move forward. Senator Gary Romine is a throwback to the old Senate where you didn’t even mention PQs. Last session, three freshmen (Senators Eigel, Hoskins, and Koenig) stood their ground on PQs. While Senator Libla has voted for PQs in the past, he has been a critique of the procedure. Lastly, new Senator Lincoln Hough may end up supporting PQs, but he is no one’s partisan hack. Also, it’s probably wrong to think Senator Bill White will be a lap dog.
You assume on something like tort reform those 7 would not all vote no on a PQ motion, but imagine the number needed is 4. You take one out for an appointment, add someone angry they were passed over for a chairmanship, mix in a couple senators who dig their heels in and all of a sudden everyone is a senator again. That may be the real difference of Clean Missouri.
Following in the footsteps of George Caleb Bingham, Mel Carnahan, Sarah Steelman, and Bob Holden, Scott Fitzpatrick steps into those large footprints as State Treasurer. He will do very well, and the first example of such is that he is waiting for his swearing-in until the date that he will be eligible to serve two terms. Something many feel Lauren Arthur should have done last year. Some may complain, but that is the guts to chart your own course that typically foreshadows success.
Now former State Treasurer Eric Schmitt isn’t the only tie that that office has to the Attorney General’s office. It was the same federal government abuse of Missourians that installed Mr. Bingham as State Treasurer that turned a young western Missouri man from a life of farming to a life of robbery and murder. That young man’s last train robbery was in the city of Glendale, Missouri, also known as the hometown of Eric Schmitt. That young Confederate bushwhacker turned train robber was Jesse James.
The same Jesse James that the Missouri Attorney General had a handsome reward out for the capture of. The same Attorney General who was installed by the same federal government that installed George Bingham as State Treasurer. So that is Eric Schmitt to Jesse James in 4 degrees of separation. Two less than Kevin Bacon to Victor Callahan (keep in mind Victor Callahan was an extra in the Gary Sinise film Truman).
Wednesday will be an exciting day in the Capitol. Watching many of the people that will go on to lead Missouri being sworn in for the first time. However, the most interesting moment will be the coming out event for Speaker Elijah Haahr. Many are looking to his speech, delivered by one of the youngest men to ever hold the gavel to be one of forward-looking optimism. Looking to move forward from a tumultuous period into one of taking Missouri into a new decade with a new outlook and new confidence.
Something overlooked by many was the move of former Nixon Chief of Staff John Watson to St. Charles County government. Tremendous pick up for Steve Ehlmann, and for St. Charles County.
Congrats to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the sale of their historic building they have called home for decades. That building has been a landmark through the years, even though the changing the address of it. Their announced plan to utilize historic tax credits to rehabilitate the building has been seen as a welcome improvement by many in downtown St. Louis.
Lastly, the state lost a giant with the passing of the former head of the Carpenters Union Terry Nelson. He was an innovator in Missouri labor and business. I still remember his endorsement of Matt Blunt’s 2004 campaign for Governor. They broke the mold when they made Terry Nelson, he will be missed.
Scott Faughn is the publisher of The Missouri Times, owner of the Clayton Times in Clayton, Mo; SEMO Times in Poplar Bluff, Mo.; and host of the only statewide political television show, This Week in Missouri Politics.