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Missouri Senate changes PQ rules

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — For the first time in decades, the Missouri Senate approved changes to how the previous question (PQ) can be used. 

The rule change was originally pitched by Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo as a way to rebuild trust in the upper chamber. The version passed by the Senate included compromise language from Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz. 

Now, 10 senators are needed to move a PQ motion — up from just five. Rizzo’s original proposal would have also required a two-thirds vote for the motion to be sustained, but Schatz’s proposal kept it at just a majority. A PQ is used to end a filibuster. 

In a more unusual move, it was Rizzo who brought up his own resolution on the floor. But Schatz was ready with the substitute which angered conservative members, furthering the divide between Republican leadership and members of the Conservative Caucus. 

Conservatives were incensed that Schatz did not inform them during caucus earlier in the day that he would have that substitute ready. Instead, they said they were only informed GOP leadership would not bring up rule changes Monday. 

“I’ve known the senator from Franklin for a long time, and I’m just appalled he would do such a thing,” Sen. Rick Brattin said. 

Ultimately, conservatives’ attempts to change the rule further — Sen. Bob Onder’s amendment would have made the effective date 2022, and Sen. Hoskin’s proposal would have excluded gun rights-related bills from the change — failed. 

The rule change passed in a 22-11 vote. Sens. Jason Bean, Eric Burlison, Sandy Crawford, Bill Eigel, Andrew Koenig, Tony Luetkemeyer, Mike Moon, and Paul Wieland along with Brattin, Hoskins, and Onder were the Republicans who voted against the rule change. 

Since session began, Democrats and conservatives have decried what they see a fractured trust with the Republican majority — complaints that have carried over from last session. 

Last week, Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden said he believed the PQ should be used as little as possible and not weaponized. 

“I think that this place is special because things like the previous question matter, and we want it to continue to matter,” Rowden said. “I’m way more interested in protecting the Senate and what has made the Senate special. From my perspective, it’s not special right now. It’s not what it was 20 years ago, and we should strive to make it that way again.” 

While it’s often used in the House, the tactic is seen much less in the Senate, a body that ardently values tradition and decorum. 

It was 1970 when a PQ was used in the Senate after a more than 100-year hiatus. Since, it has been used several dozen times successfully. A PQ was last used during a special session in 2020.

Rizzo said his resolution was the “beginning” of what could be done to make his party “feel more comfortable” as session progresses.