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This Week in Missouri Politics Column: The final day

The morning of the final day of session Senators Eigel and Hoskins were our guests on the TWMP midweek update, and they pretty well laid out what was going to happen the rest of the day.

It was made clear that both of their priority bills: rural jobs and a property tax cut, had to pass before anything of substance was going to move.

You all know me I’m not one to brag or call attention to myself, but if you wanted to know what was going to happen for the rest of the day in the #moleg each day of the last week, all you had to do was watch our TWMP mid-week update that morning.

Later that morning the senate started late, then when it did start Senator Rowden tried to recognize Senator Trent to pass his utilities bill that they were on when session ended Thursday. However, Senator Eigel attempted to grab the floor. However, Senator Rowden didn’t recognize him and a point of order drama ensued.

It was kinda funny how the senate devolved into who sits at who’s lunch table at a Junior High School as Senators Brattin, and Carter were on their team and cast their support behind recognizing Eigel, and Senator Hough said he wasn’t there but he trusted the ruling of the chair.

Now in reality, which isn’t exactly the guiding principle here, Senator Eigel pretty clearly spoke up first. It would be un Caleb-like to not recognize someone. Even someone who has dedicated the last half decade of his life to causing him problems.

At that point Senator Eigel gave another one of his speeches about him being excluded from legislating. Ultimately Senator Rowden kept his cool and reversed his decision and then apologized for it on twitter later, and after Senator Eigel gave a firebrand speech about the rules, and attacked Senator Trent’s bill as serving special interests over the genearl welfare of the public.

Now Senator Trent is a freshman, but he ain’t your typical freshman. He is one of the smartest people in state government, but more importantly here he has balls. So after Senator Eigel’s speech then Senator Trent stepped up and defended himself and his legislation as a tax cut for everyone as it would ultimately lower electric rates.

Looking back it’s a little remarkable how Senators Trent and Coleman entered the senate as senators who many thought would join or at least be aligned with the conservative caucus. Well, it ain’t panned out that way.

Then Senator O’Laughlin made a few remarks about the “political theater’ unfolding on the floor and commented that “not everyone in here is running for Governor” she then gave an amended motion and it meant that Senator Trent’s bill would be voted on and ultimately passed, which would be the last bill of session in the senate.

Then Senator O’Laughlin made the motion to recognize Senator Hoskins to pass his SB 92 which included Rural Jobs and sports betting, but he declined and laid the bill over.

After that Senator Trent was recognized for another bill but again Senator Eigel took the floor and gave an absolutely tremendously delivered speech. It’s evident that he has been on the stump, and getting better. Between his radio appearance on KWOS earlier in the morning with Branden Rathert, to our morning update, to his floor speech he has become excellent in the media and on the stump giving a speech.

From the arm gestures, to the volume of his voice, to the dramatic pauses, to the emphasizing the last word of each sentence, he might be the best orator in the party outside of Dean Plocher. 

However, as well as it was delivered, the analogy he was trying to make didn’t land. It was something about Darth Vader or being Darth Vader in a particular moment in a movie. He commanded the room very well, and knocked it out of the park on everything, but the content.

Also you could tell that several of his colleagues believed it was all for show as they gathered behind him while he spoke so he cannot use the footage for political purposes without their consent. It’s kind of a nod from a senator’s colleagues that they aren’t buying an individual senators sincerity.

Now, I’m not Ryan Silvey or a virgin so I do not have a working knowledge of the plot of Star Wars movies, so maybe it was inspiring to someone, but I have my doubts.

After that Senator O’Laughlin in something kind of odd, had three senators standing to make her own point of personal privilege that “None of us want to be Darth Vader”. It was funny, and kinda sums up her no drama approach. She really has done a great job this session.

Then Senator Eigel spoke for a few moments before picking up his book to read. Which now that I’ve listened to a few chapters of the audio book ain’t bad. It’s not as a good as the Rick James autobiogrphy I purchased him last year hoping he would read, but it’s not bad.

With that Senator O’Laughlin adjourned the Senate until 3:00. Meaning at 3:00 it would now be the next legislative day, and a couple of her colleagues who were complaining could nab that per diem.

While this was going on the house took to putting sports book onto every bill possible including Senator Moon’s SB133 that originated with dealing with abortion tax credits. On the floor Senator Moon said that he, “wasn’t biting” and refused to bring the bill up.

Look, you can’t blame the house here. The sports betting bill is something almost every person in both chambers favors, and it would be maddening if you were the house watching the senate just stop and their legislation just stop. Many bills just one motion from passage. Plocher & Patterson played it as well as anyone could have, I think the senate’s five months of normalcy created an expectation of results that in the end were ultimately unattainable.

When the senate reconvened Senators Moon and Brattin began debating Senator Moon’s amendment to the journal until it was time for the closing goodbyes.

Among those was Senator Williams thanking his assistant Christine Brauner who is retiring after this session and recieved a standing ovation.

That was followed by an impassioned speech from Senator Fitzwater where with a full chamber that sat silent for his remarks about the damaging precedents that were being set in the closing days of session, and how the actions of a few are putting the concept of free and fair debate at risk.

Then Senator Rowden inquired of Senator O’Laughlin and said that while he did not vote for her in the Floor Leader race, after seeing her work this session he was completely behind her.

Then he remarked that there were several big ticket items that were left on the table because, “a small group wanted slot machines in gas stations”.

Session ended after Senator May offered a resolution in honor or Senator O’Laughlin being the first woman senate floor leader.

You can view the end of session press conference, here.

Going forward

My best guess would be that you will see a more intelligent version of the conservative caucus. I always felt a group of a few loosely aligned senators would be more legislatively successful than an official grouping, but possibly less politically successful.

You have the four senators who hijacked the end of session demanding the legislature pass what they wanted or nothing would happen in Senators Eigel, Brattin, Hoskins, and Moon aligned. If they get a new name I’d suggest the four hoursemen. Great hand signs & some Ric Flair drip.

Any intelligent person would ask themselves that since the tactic of holding things hostage worked, why not do it again? What could be more problematic is what if other senators see how successful it was and do the same?

You assume that Senator Carter will be in that group as well or quite closely aligned with that group, and after a successful first session of her career, in the second session folks had better be prepared to hear a lot about her thoughts on education.

Senator Koenig likely continues to play the role he has for five years, being aligned with the four when the chips are down, but at the same time making sure everyone else knows he feels really bad about how they treat them. All the while he will continue to be one of the few that can concoct sensitive and complex legislation. However, Caldrew will always have hating quarterbacks and cheerleders to bond over.

Senator Hough continues to run the appropriating with more power than anyone in recent memory. You know your good on the floor when you put together a budget and the only ones complaining about it being too large are the ones who threatened to hold it up unless they got millions of additional dollars put into it to make it…larger. To be fair, after seeing his work on the floor Wednesday, would you wanna screw with him?

Senator Bernskoetter doesn’t get enough credit for the class he showed all session. In all honestly this bad blood came out of a leadership race five years ago. Instead of taking that path Senator Bernskoetter took the path then Senator Parson did after losing a leadership race, of putting his head down and going about the work of being a good senator. Class act.

The democrats likely buy a popcorn maker and stand back while the republicans fight. However, they have enormous Shaq-like shoes to fill when Senator Rizzo leaves.

As for the rest of the freshman class you assume they enjoyed the first five months of session, and have to be wondering if doing this is worth it the last couple weeks.

Senator Schroer had a good first year and is probably looking forward to what will hopefully be less dramatic days a couple years from now. He was with the conservative caucus most of the time on the bigger dramatic votes. Although the landfill fallout will be interesting.

Senator Trent is gonna be a hell of a legislator, and a leadership contender. Standing up for himself in the most tenuous time of the session was a very good look.

Senator Black is gonna likely be the appropriator going forward, and handle some of the big legislation. Almost like his predecessor Senator Hageman was.

Senator Fitzwater is one of the most well rounded senators on every issue. His speech on the last day could be the start of him redefining the discussion to lead the senate out of this. If that conversation takes hold he could be the man to lead it out of this.

Senator Ben Brown has won everyone over. There might not be a more liked person in the chamber, and that will pay off in the long run. Something tells me he isn’t a fan of the hijack the senate to get what you want stuff. However, he is gonna feel conflicted about how to move forward for another year. Until then there will be a long line of groups coming to Satchmo’s asking him to carry thier legislation.

Senator Coleman is the most interesting freshman in the chamber. You would have thought that she would have been aligned with the conservative caucus coming into the chamber, but that didn’t last long. She has burnished a legitimate reputation of independence. In five months she went from expectations of her being a supporting figure for others narratives to the protagonist of her own novel. 

As for the returning senators, it looks like there is a lot of talk about Senator Luetkemeyer could have an opportunity to be on the Supreme Court. Senator Rehder will likely soon be running for Lt. Governor and no one will want to mess with her next year. Senator Eslinger will become the leader of the state’s education community. Senator Hough and Senator Carter have changed the tone of the debate, and she will be the likely beneficiary.

Senator Bean will have an interesting summer deciding if he will run for floor leader.

It seems likely that Senator Rowden will soon be running for Secretary of State, I don’t think that is gonna really matter next session, as his main antagonists will be running for statewide office as well. It will be the ’19 leadership election all over again, but this time for statewide office.

Senator O’Laughlin has had an unquestionably stellar year as floor leader. She helped guide a relatively normal 5 months of session. Her strategic changes from moving session starting back to 2:00 to adjourning instead of having intra party squabbles on the floor have worked. She has done a great job, the lack of smearing the senate with a PQ is proof.

I have no idea what she could have done at the end of session to prevent the breakdowns. In the end Brattin, and Eigel had bills that simply didn’t have the support of the senate to pass. Lots of other senators did as well. Senator Hoskins’s bill did have the support of the senate, but the house was pissed about sports betting so it’s unclear how to see how that could have been sorted.

She will be the Pro Tem and no one will seriously challenge her, and she will be the one in charge when all the players from the ’19 leadership race have termed out to pick up the pieces and chart the new course of the most important institution in our state: the Missouri State Senate.