I asked our readers, reporters, subscribers, and some former legislators to give us their perspectives on who came out of this historically bizarre session a winner. Here is a collection of their responses, along with some of my own.
Community Colleges – They quietly were the biggest winners in the budget getting all of their funding restored. St. Louis Community College led the effort that left some scratching their heads as to how they came out so well without huge fighting or fanfare.
Missouri Auto Dealers – There were several provisions the auto dealers were wanting in SB 782, and after that bill died its unique death, they were able to move their language into HB 1963 which was one of the last bills to pass. Groups from all over the spectrum gave lots of credit to Phil Schneiders and the Auto Dealers for being a crucial part of making that happen.
Spire – The court got involved and found a way to mess up a gas ISRS that had been working successfully for decades. In an abbreviated session, Larry Pleus led a team to pass a legislative fix that many people in the Capitol were confident was going to be pushed to next year. Never count out anything Andy Arnold is working on.
Missouri Hospital Association – MHA not only survived a legislative bloodletting in response to Medicaid expansion, but they have everyone from the Governor to the Directors of Health and Eco Devo all on the same page discussing how they can be helped and bolstered coming out of the COVID-19 crisis. They got credentialing passed and have skillfully put themselves in the legislative good graces of many of their former opponents.
Tort Reform Coalition – The coalition led by Rich Aubuchon had a banner year where they passed portions of nearly all of their priorities and maybe the biggest tort reform bill in Missouri history.
The team lobbying for Grain Belt Express – Led by Nexus Nexus with Rodney Boyd, Kate Casas, and Brian Grace, along with Aaron Baker and Hannah Beers with Clout, the group put together a team early on in session that looked like there was little chance to succeed. It was rocky at the end, but they fought off what is almost certain to be the largest challenge to the project.
Educators – Traditional Missouri schools had a good year. They kept the foundation formula fully funded heading into a recession, and there wasn’t really a serious effort to pass a charter expansion this session.
Senator Caleb Rowden – Senator Rowden’s responses were too lengthy to list, but everyone from every corner of Missouri politics praised him for his excellent management of factions, personalities, and the pandemic. He managed to pass more major bills than anyone expected. He continues to amaze in how he works through the labyrinth of all the deal-making. He has that certain something that reminds observers of the old pre-term limit Missouri Senate: patience, nuance, mastery of the Senate rules. Whatever it is, Rowden has in spades unlike many of his contemporaries. Also the biggest compliment of all: no PQs.
Senator John Rizzo – Lets start where we left off in the previous paragraph: Having a session without a PQ is just as big of a compliment to the statesmanship of Senator Rizzo as it is Senators Schatz and Rowden. While maintaining the Senate, he won large praise for passing increased testing for COVID-19 for the Missouri workforce. The free tests for anyone recommended to take a test by a health care professional will be political gold this fall.
Farm Bureau – They got about everything they wanted in a complex session save for their eminent domain legislation.
Rep. Dean Plocher – Representative Plocher had a much better 2nd year running General Laws and was key in moving Cleaner Missouri as well as the biodiesel bill.
Michael Grote – He got a couple of priorities done for Boone County and was also the ring leader in getting the Senate to reconsider the vote on Grain Belt. That was pretty much all him.
Senator Tony Luetkemeyer – The senator passed a huge criminal reform bill and was able to move PDMP out of the Senate in a bill that everyone could live with. Also, his work engineering the Cleaner Missouri bill will be appreciated by the activists. He will have a lot of pressure on him with Senator Sifton leaving the senate and what will be a chamber with a historically low number of barristers next year.
Rep. Crystal Quade – Representative Quade and her caucus broke through at the end of session to hold their votes and do a deal that both sides kept. It’s a move that may sound small, but is incredibly difficult and will make her a player next year when she could be the beneficiary of paranoia-palooza.
Senator Denny Hoskins – Politics doesn’t get much better than finding a seemingly hidden provision slipped in by the other chamber on the last night of session to the congratulations of all of your colleagues.
Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe – Lt. Governor Kehoe’s regular presence on the Senate dais was important. His respect for the process and professionalism really sets the tone and maintains a good working environment day after day … and sometimes even more importantly, night after night.
Rep. Curtis Trent – Representative Trent scored a major victory for rural hospitals and played a role in the Cleaner Missouri legislation. Perhaps more importantly, he was able to pick up some public endorsements from some high-profile caucus members placing him as the front runner heading into the summer.
Rep. Jack Bondon – It was another banner year on the floor for the Republican rising star. He was crucial in the HCS for all the financial institutions that culminated in SB 599 including Treasurer Fitzpatrick’s Linked Deposit Program. One observer noted, “Bondon did too good of a job! Now that he got everything we worked on passed in 599, we’re going to have to come up with some new topics to work on for next year.”
Missouri Soybean Association – Credit to the association and its team led by Casey Wasser and Scott Swain for getting biodiesel out of House on a very tough vote.
Rep. Bruce DeGroot – It was a great bounceback session for Representative DeGroot. He is a part of the tort reform group that saw success and part of the teamwork for Rep. Trent. Those and other factors led to a very good year for the sophomore.
Senator Gina Walsh – She spent eight years fighting off asbestos bills, and was 8-0. However, enough credit isn’t always given to Irl Scissors and Sarah Martin for some very impressive lobbying work.
Rep. Cody Smith and Senator Dan Hageman – In almost impossible circumstances, they came together and passed a budget that received pretty good reviews, and for the situation outstanding reviews. That combined with Senator Hageman carrying the Cleaner Missouri bill and the broadband bill in the Senate makes for an outstanding session.
The Conservative Caucus – They killed several bills which they were against, and several of their members moved legislation: specifically Senators Koenig and O’Laughlin. In the final week of session, they were seeing the majority of not just their caucus but the entire Senate supporting their work in slowing down some of the omnibus house bills on the calendar. Now all eyes turn to the primaries to see if their numbers grow
Rep. Holly Rehder – She showed grace under pressure and continues to see PDMP as a pivotal issue session after session.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt – He got his crime bill, and everyone learned that just because you’re a Republican statewide doesn’t mean you pass a bill by default.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson – She had a Republican legislature to push her top priority, though it fell short and seemed to avoid the scrutiny St. Louis County Executive Sam Page was subjected to.
Missouri Realtors Association – All they do is win, and they did again this session.
UFCW President Dave Cook – He rose the visibility and clout of UFCW with his work demanding his members be temporarily classified as temporary workers.
Rep. Dan Houx – Many observers noted that the Fiscal chair worked tirelessly in the last hours to get the Hyperloop bill across the line even with a poison pill. Most felt the bill came over from the Senate DOA to the house, but he was able to revive it. Outstanding legislating.
Rep. Brenda Shields – She has quietly become a leader and voice of reason in the House. She chooses to do her work behind the scenes, not caring who gets the credit. She isn’t afraid to stand up to leadership but is the first to praise and defend them when they use their power to push House priorities. She particularly stood out during the House caucus where the fallout from SB 782 was discussed. Depending on what she decides to pursue in the future, she is someone to keep an eye on in the freshman class.
Missouri Bankers Association – Craig Overfelt and David Kent worked overtime in passing SB 599 and HB 1655.
Missouri Health Care Association – Nikki Strong did a banner job on securing funding for COVID response in FY21 budget and the supplemental.
Rep. Rob Vescovo – The most positive review sent in was that he did no real damage to himself, and even though he couldn’t pass his legislative priority, his caucus is pleased with him. I suppose if you keep the bar low enough you can reach it.
Randy Scherr and Shanon Hawk – City and municipal lobbyists for stopping cable franchise fees repeal on the Wayfair bill.
Senator Bill White – Passing MMPA was huge, but he really seemed to find his voice on the Senate floor. He ended the session as one of the more adept debaters in the chamber, as long as he keeps his shoulder even with the president.
Rep. Jim Murphy – The freshman representative passed his nursing home cameras legislation that is now more important than ever.
David Willis and Rob Monsees – Together they found common ground for prompt pay and credentialing reforms for health providers in HB 1682.
Rep. Peggy McGaugh – She became the leading expert in the legislature on election issues.
Senator Lincoln Hough – He put the polish on one of the most impressive freshman terms of any senator in the term limits era. He dominated the budget process, but people are coming to expect that. Perhaps the most interesting piece of his session was his work with Senators Eigel and Koenig on Wayfair. That is a dynamic combo to watch next session.
Speaker Elijah Haahr – Some would say a rocky landing, but completing eight of the most tumultuous years in Missouri political history, he ends with a tax cut, a major piece of pro-life legislation, and kept the House together in a job that probably won’t be fully appreciated until next year.
Governor Parson – He saw a session that was dominated by COVID-19, but as of now it doesn’t seem likely he will have anything too awful on his desk this summer. Perhaps more importantly, he has shown that he can work with anyone in the legislature who wants to work with him.
Senator Dave Schatz – Making that motion to reconsider was a weighty moment that took a leader. Senator Schatz showed he is the bull in the woods and that night he was the leader of everyone in the Senate.
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.