After the paper toss and the press conferences, we decided a very nuanced session was more complex than winners and losers and decided to break it down by way of the national pastime. World Series for the folks who had outstanding sessions, and missed the playoffs for folks who were on the defensive.
Those who had outstanding sessions where real changes were made that will be felt for years to come made makes up the type of year the St. Louis Cardinals had in 2011, 2006, 1982, 1967, 1964, 1946, 1944, 1942, 1934, 1931, and 1926, and the Kanas City Royals had in 2015.*
Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick – It’s possible that no one had a better session than the House budget chairman. He led a well-organized and effective chamber and even with getting the budget from the Governor late in the process, he ended up writing most of the budget. He was also one who developed the skill of telling people ‘no,’ even to some in his own party.
However, his best day was likely his last day, when he allowed the House to vote on a budget fix for some in-home services that was a Senate plan. In the end, the state’s budget has his signature on it more than anyone in the state, and if the Senate fix isn’t successful, then it’s not on him, but the next time he asks for a tough stance from someone, no one will forget his allowing a vote on a measure he was against. At one time, our state called that leadership, and we should again.
Sen. Jason Holsman – Being in the superminority, it is tough to make a real impact outside of delaying tactics. Well, the Senator from Jackson was one of the key senators of the entire body this session through building relationships and stressing the importance of maintaining the traditions of the Senate. If you listen to the old interview with former Sen. Dick Webster, you’ll realize how important it is to maintain those traditions because it was during my lifetime that Sen. Webster was one of nine senators in the minority.
Sen. Mike Kehoe – When people talk about protecting the traditions that have made Missouri such a wonderful state, perhaps the true guardian of those traditions is Sen. Mike Kehoe. With the House passing a record numbers of bills, and an unconventional governor willing to sign most of them, 99 percent of politicians serving as Senate floor leader would have trashed the rules and cranked out legislation turning the Senate into a miniature House. Kehoe is perhaps the only stone holding the dam of Missouri’s traditions from collapsing. For those who think this may be over the top, think back and remember the two days he was flooded out during this session.
House Speaker Todd Richardson – The Gentleman from Butler is cementing his place as the measuring stick that all post-term limit speakers will be judged. His record of accomplishments is lengthy, but perhaps the most telling compliment is that he has an almost unimaginable 116 member caucus to manage and has maintained their respect and clear loyalty. That was never more on display than the voucher bill that maybe had 45 votes supporting. The next three dozen were votes of respect for the Speaker.
Lt. Governor Mike Parson – The ol’ Polk County Sheriff logged more time at the dais than anyone has ever seen a lt. governor spend there. The benefit of that was never more important than on the final day of session, when Democratic senators made hours of complicated motions that he had to sort out. Even during the controversial decisions made in the chair, Democrats were unusually understanding and credited his honest attempts at fairness. His being in the dais inspires confidence in fairness on both sides.
Dan Mehan and Tracy King – If you want to see what winning looks like, look at the big smiles on their faces Friday. It was a decade worth of accomplishments in five months, and if there is a special session, we’ll bet you a beer that they are playing defense on none of them.
Sen. Ryan Silvey – Seemingly ostracized from his party’s leadership, Sen. Ryan Silvey was a constant force on the floor and passed a signature piece of legislation in REAL ID. Further, Silvey was instrumental in fully funding the foundation formula, and the end of session budget fix was carried by him. Not bad for a senator never confused with being a caucus darling.
People who had great sessions where they made a big impact and greatly impacted the state makes up the kind of year the St. Louis Cardinals had in 1928, 1930, 1943, 1968, 1985, 1987, 2004, and 2013 and the Royals had in 1980, 1985, and 2014.
House Floor Leader Mike Cierpiot – Not only did he lead the House in a fair manner, which barely included a PQ through much of session, but he was instrumental in several projects that were completed around the state.
Gov. Eric Greitens – You would be having a hard time refuting his case that he is off to the best start of a Republican administration. The question, however, would be this: of the bills that were passed, which of them was due to his help? He will have a lot of signing ceremonies, but statements like, “Republicans have worked for 40 years and we did it in six weeks” don’t sound like leadership.
State Treasurer Eric Schmitt – The Treasurer kept a high profile this session by speaking out on pension and financial issues while also testifying in favor of right-to-work in committee. However, his key achievement was the successful launch of the MO ABLE program.
Sen. John Rizzo – He established himself in the upper chamber and was the key senator in protecting the tax cut to circuit breaker seniors. He has parlayed good relationships with House leadership into a very effective start to his Senate career.
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft – He showed himself as willing to speak his mind on policy issues and won a big fight to fund the implementation of voter ID.
House Freshman Democrats – The Democrats have their largest group of talented freshmen since term limits came about, and they made a mark for themselves. They came early in session making friends, and later in session showed the first signs of the most aggressive and bold loyal opposition in several sessions.
Sen. Gary Romine – Fully funding the education formula was his motion and made history. Also moving SB 43 to the Governor’s desk was no small feat.
Rep. Joe Don McGaugh – He put more amendments on legislation than anyone in the House, and was a key member on several pieces of legislation.
Sen. Dave Schatz – He improved not only his standing within the Senate but also in the St. Louis area, stepping up and handling complex issues of regional importance.
Won the Central
People who had great sessions where they made a big impact and greatly impacted the state makes up the kind of year the St. Louis Cardinals had in 1987, 1996, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2009, 2015, and 2015 and the Royals had in 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1984.
Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard – He did his part to preserve the state’s traditions. As a conservative, he kept the number of new laws down and passed what will be his legislative legacy in right-to-work.
Rep. Elijah Haahr – He provided the Speaker with a dependable presence on the dais when the gentlemen from Butler was making deals or speaking on the floor. He also led such a well-oiled messaging team that their tactics (coordinated tweets, bio videos, etc) were copied by the Democratic caucus and their graphics were being poached and posted by Republican senators.
Sen. Rob Schaaf – Sen. Rob Schaaf was already a senator that everyone considered when trying to pass legislation, and this session seemed to go all in to stop the managed care expansion. However, his session was saved by him becoming the key spokesman for a new cause, separating politicians from having their own dark money nonprofits.
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger – He came in at the end and made his presence very known in the PDMP debate. He has shown that when he wants to be effective he can be.
Rep. Robert Cornejo – Brought language from six pieces of legislation to the governor, including two high-profile bills through to Senate floor in the alcohol bill and tort reform. He was also extremely effective in managing the general laws committee.
Sen. Paul Wieland – Sen. Paul Wieland had a transformational session where everyone now asks where he is on legislation during a strategy session. Also, his SB 302 was a solid bill that may be the foundation for a special session.
Rep. Rocky Miller – Besides being the chairman of the utilities committee during a year when they picked up more momentum than any time in the last decade, he spent a great deal of time with younger legislators and allowing them to carry bills he had previously worked on. He might be the best representative on economic development issues.
Rep. Shawn Rhoads – He proved himself to be the most effective rules chairman since John Diehl.
Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh – She was a true senator, putting the state before herself on several issues and not forcing a PQ. Also, she maintained that she was dedicated to saving the state’s prevailing wage law and, in the end, she did.
Rep. Justin Alferman – He really stood out as a key partner in what has been considered by all an outstanding budget process in tough circumstances. Also, remember he was carrying ethics bills before it was the talk of the town.
Rep. Holly Rehder – The talk over PDMP at the end of the session could distract from her carrying the right-to-work legislation that passed early on.
Sen. Scott Sifton – He was key in the slowdown of several pieces of legislation, but made this list by running the most effective and well-run filibuster in anyone’s memory. I heard said in the gallery Sen. Dick Webster would have been proud. Very classy compliment paid to former Sen. Jim Lembke on the floor as well.
Rep. Kevin Corlew – He continues to impress by carrying the Real ID bill in the House and being a key member on tort reform legislation.
Sen. Bob Onder – Sen. Bob Onder carried several major bills this session – nothing bigger than passing the ride-sharing bill. His legislation banning project labor agreements is also hailed in some circles.
Rep. Kirk Matthews – Speaking of ride-sharing legislation, he was the House handler and was a key House mover of several other bills.
Rep. Dean Plocher – He was a game changer on the UCC code legislation. Also served as Vice Chair on Utilities and was key in taking energy legislation from the House to Senate.
Missed the playoffs
Tough year, but could have been worse.
Labor – The Trump wave was always going to mean a tough year for organized labor, but they held their head high and through a progress of opposition senators refusing to compromise and allies in the business community, they limited the losses.
Attorneys – Every year brings predictions of doom and disaster for attorneys, and while this session wasn’t full of wins, the losses weren’t significant. It always amazes how effective they are in the most challenging of circumstances.
Cubs level of failure:
Just a bad session with little to show for it.
Ethics – If you thought last year was disappointing then you had to be devastated this year. Many thought you would have seen something on lobbyist gifts, but when the dark money got involved, any hope of an ethics bill was dead.
Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal – The Senator put all of her eggs into the basket of securing state funding to buy out homes in North St. Louis County, and ended up with none.
Local control – The next time Republicans talk about local control, out loud laughter is the only response. From cities and counties to courts and schools, Republicans have made it clear their definition of local control is Jefferson City local control.
There is also an illegitimate World Series in 1985 recorded in some record books as a win for the Royals. Editor Rachael Herndon Dunn did not approve of this.
*There is also an illegitimate World Series in 1985 recorded in some record books as a win for the Royals. Editor Rachael Herndon Dunn did not approve of this.
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.