JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — With the 100th General Assembly now underway, newly sworn in leaders are looking for bold solutions to move Missouri forward in the coming months.
Speaking from the dais for the first time as Speaker of the House, Elijah Haahr addressed his fellow representatives promising “bold solutions” for issues the Missourians face.
“We won’t always agree on the policies; we will always agree on the goals: safer neighborhoods for our families, better education for our children, and a stronger economy for Missouri,” said Haahr.
In the spirit of the speaker before him — term-limited Rep. Todd Richardson — Haahr focused, for the most part, on issues that both parties have a vested interest in and encouraged a robust debate on the subjects. He talked about such issues as the opioid epidemic, the “broken criminal justice system,” education, and balancing the budget.
“The issues before us are many, but the question of our time is narrow: did we advance Missouri forward? Did we seize the moment to be bold…or were we satisfied to play it safe?” said Haahr.
One focal point he stressed was the importance of a better education system. The education formula has been fully funded in the two preceding years and Haahr said they will continue that trend.
But just as important as how much is spent is how it is spent, according to Haahr. He noted that the state needs schools that simultaneously challenge and support students.
“Our goal should always be this: to ensure every child, and I mean every child, in this state gets a world-class education no matter their zip code,” said Haahr.
The message falls in line with creating “21st-century colleges” to help develop a “21st-century workforce.”
He also highlighted focusing on economic growth by passing policies that “focus on cultivating employers, not controlling businesses.” Missouri currently has its lowest unemployment rate since the data was collected.
Haahr also pledged that they will continue the 15-year-trend of balancing the budget without raising taxes and to continue eliminating wasteful spending. A part of the agenda is to continue to fight against the “opioid epidemic raging across our state.”
“And while we are at it, we must provide opportunities to those in a broken criminal justice system,” said Haahr. “Last year the House unanimously passed reforms to our sentencing laws and we will again lead on these reforms.”
Republicans hold the supermajority in the House with 115 members while Democrats have 47 representatives for the 2019 session. Haahr told the minority party that he will “always value the ideas that you bring to the table.”
Along those lines, he encouraged representatives to talk about the issues and bring forth their ideas.
“We will not fear spirited, intellectual debate; in fact, we will encourage it because a robust argument is a sign that our great Republic is working. But may we always be passionate about the issues and not personal attacks,” said Haahr. “We are a family with a common cause: to make Missouri a better place.”
The greatness of Missouri and the United States is that, no matter where a person starts, they can achieve something, said Haahr. Birthplace and income don’t dictate achievement or birthright. With hard work anything is possible.
“We are brimming with optimism and energy, ready to embrace innovative ideas for our state,” said Haahr.
Read Haahr’s full remarks below:
Alisha Shurr was a reporter for The Missouri Times and The Missouri Times Magazine. She joined The Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University.