By Ashley Jost
Jefferson City, Mo. — Preemptive planning and cooperation are two of the top tier reasons that Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-23, attributed the productive session the body has had during the last few months.
“Last year, shortly after session concluded, I figured there’d be a few weeks I’d be talking to groups and doing a recap of session,” Dempsey said. “Because of our failure to move on a comprehensive economic development bill and a few others, there was a lot of discussion on how [this] year could be better.”
Dempsey said after some development, he came up with the idea of needing answers for problems Missouri faces in order to remain a regional competitor. So, he came up with the idea of the “BIG” Solution Strategy: ‘Build’ infrastructure, ‘Invest’ in education and ‘Grow’ our economy.
“Many of the ideas incorporated in the BIG Solution Strategy are ones I’ve thought about and carried as legislation, or I’ve heard brought forward by other senators,” Dempsey said.
After the larger concept was in-place, Dempsey said he met with about a dozen senators to discuss what issues they thought Missouri needed to be moving forward with, and which ones there was no interest in pursuing.
Ultimately, he said this strategy acts as a benchmark for the State to track how Missouri is developing as a regional competitor in all areas.
Additionally, Dempsey said the cooperation and drive of the senators has been essential in this year’s productivity.
Sen. Ed Emery, R-31, said while he can’t compare this to any previous Senate term, he thinks ultimately everyone is working harder and putting in more hours than ever before.
“Certain things are expected of you to perform up to a level of expectations, whether it’s voters expecting it or our leaders,” Emery said. “I think our leadership setting a new structure that’s less about the politics and more about policy is something I’m happy with.”
Emery said he’s noticed a strong sense of cooperation on both sides of the aisle to push substantive policy issues the Senate hasn’t always wanted to pursue during the past. When working with the second amendment fund bill sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus, R-8, earlier during session, Emery said there were clear cooperative discussions being held across the aisle.
“I see no reason [for the momentum of productivity] not to continue,” Emery added. “It’s driven by a sense that our leadership has, and that we’re adopting as the Senate, or accomplishing things that are important to the State.”
Sen. John Lamping, R-24, said he thinks the move toward being a productive and efficient body came from that same cooperative idea and the fact that priority legislation was filed the first day of pre-filing, and on the second day of session, Dempsey named committees and referred 55 pieces of priority legislation.
Lamping said during recent discussions, the minority has done a good job negotiating and have “officially become part of the increased productivity.”
Dempsey said the plans in place were created between June and November of last year, and then during November the plan was vetted through the Caucus before priorities were decided on.
“We’ve had Senate priorities every year,” Dempsey said. “But the effort to make sure everything was locked-in, starting from November and working up until the first few days of session, allowed us to work on things a lot sooner.”
Ashley Jost is no longer with The Missouri Times. She worked as the executive editor for several months, and a reporter before that.