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Opinion: Issues to watch in 2022

Get ready for a clown show, because the circus is coming back to town. On Jan. 5, one of the most interesting sessions in years began. Let’s peek under the big top at some of the issues that will create an unprecedented level of absurdity this year:

  1. U.S. Senate Race
Senate Minority Floor Leader John Rizzo

Fueling every fire in the building is a U.S. Senate race in which the attorney general is trailing in the polls behind a former governor who resigned in disgrace. To gain some ground, expect Eric Schmitt to inject himself into any part of the legislative process that will give him a quick headline. 

  1. Congressional Maps

With the retirement of Sen. Roy Blunt, various state senators and representatives are now looking to move up a rung on the political ladder (see above). Expect multiple disagreements over where the new congressional boundaries will be and plenty of “legislation hostage-taking” as these aspiring congresspeople try to draw the best district for themselves. And don’t forget — the legislature will need to pass an emergency clause to set the districts by the filing date. 

  1. Supplemental Budget

With a record budget surplus and the complete and total victory in the courts by those who fought to expand Medicaid to working people, the budget/appropriations committees will have to move quickly. For anyone who still has common sense, this should be an easy decision: Did Missourians vote for it? Yes. Did the Supreme Court unequivocally instruct the legislature to fund it? Yes. Will that matter to ideologues who for over a decade have pushed a culture war by opposing it? No. Bottom line — it’s good politics for Republicans in primary elections to fight against health care. Let’s hope national Democrats never find a cure for cancer because right-wing idealogues would never take it. (See next point.)

  1. COVID-19 

The omicron variant is here, and thankfully, we now know how to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Unfortunately, the attorney general has bullied local health boards into dropping their guard against this deadly virus. As a result, children will be left unprotected in our schools, and health departments will have their hands tied. Expect a lot of horse de-wormer to start getting passed around at Republican Caucus meetings. 

In conclusion, there are a lot of moving parts in this legislative session and any or all of them could ignite the powder keg that melts down the whole session. I bet even P.T. Barnum couldn’t produce a show this bizarre. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so serious. 

The good news is: There are people still working to move Missouri forward, and I’m proud to stand with them. The Senate Democratic Caucus is going to keep rolling up our sleeves and putting Missouri families first. We invite anyone — and everyone — to do the same. There is a lot of common ground on which we can achieve some common good if people will just cut the nonsense, ignore the clowns, and get to work. 

So step right up, watch the show, and please don’t feed the animals.

This piece originally appeared in the Jan. 9, 2022 edition of The Missouri Times newspaper.