JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In an effort to better serve local government and municipalities, Missouri state lawmakers announced the formation of a new bipartisan caucus Monday.
The Missouri General Assembly Local Government Caucus will be made up of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who have experience in a variety of capacities at the local level, from city councils to school boards, and more. The idea for the caucus was born earlier this year, members told The Missouri Times at a launch event.
“There’s some legislation that’s gone through [the General Assembly] with consequences on the municipalities that aren’t weighed heavy enough,” state Rep. Bill Falkner III, a former mayor of St. Joseph, told The Missouri Times. “There are a lot of compromises to be had on bills that would achieve the bill handlers’ goals but also protect the municipalities and citizens of those municipalities.”
State Rep. Rodger Reedy said the caucus would meet throughout the year as needed and would provide help to colleagues who might not have experience with public service on a more local level.
“Sometimes things that sound good on the surface, when you actually look at it on the application side, how that city or county will actually have to apply that law, there’s a big difference,” he said. “We bring the experience of having been there and done that to the legislature, and we can say, ‘Maybe this wouldn’t work so well in [this community].’”
Representatives from the Missouri School Boards’ Association (MSBA) and the Missouri Municipal League (MML) praised the formation of the new caucus.
“With this caucus, we’ll have the opportunity to communicate together and reflect on — when they’re debating a bill or about to debate a bill — how will this impact local officials,” Melissa Randol, the MSBA executive director, told The Missouri Times. “Particularly, what we’re concerned about is how does it impact our citizens back in our communities. We’re excited they’ll have a chance to have more communication about that.”
“We’re excited to have this resource and have this group of representatives who have been in our shoes, have shared experiences, and know what it’s like when we come to them with a local government issue,” said Chris Lievsay, MML president.
“We know it’s a thankless job up here, just like it is at the local level,” Lievsay continued in an interview with The Missouri Times. “We hope they share that as well, and let them know we’re here to help and give us a point of contact as well.”
Leadership for the caucus hasn’t yet been established but should be in the “near future,” Falkner said.
The announcement of the caucus comes as the MML, MSBA, and other local government organizations celebrate Local Government Week this week.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in March 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City. Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S. and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa. She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Contact Kaitlyn at email@example.com.