JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — Missouri lawmakers filed more than 2,000 bills throughout the 2022 legislative session but less than 50 of them made it across the finish line.
Inside the statehouse, throughout the session, there was a lot of talk about legislation regarding transgender athletes, critical race theory (CRT), and giving parents’ a bill of rights to have a say in what their child is taught in school. Some would even call these Republican priorities but not one made it to the governor’s desk.
“I think it’s easy to say that the dysfunction is solely in the Senate, but I think that this whole place is a mess, and we need to bring back some balance,” said House Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D-Springfield).
Dysfunction was a word used many times over the past five months in the Missouri Capitol.
“I think there has been a lot of mistrust, a lot of dirty tricks in the course of this session,” said Sen. Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis).
While the General Assembly was able to pass a historic $49 billion budget and a new congressional map, both constitutional duties there are other priorities the governor said he would have liked to see like preventing transgender women from playing on female sports teams.
“I think that should have been addressed in this state, so we make a clear understanding of which way we are headed so that people know,” Gov. Mike Parson said. “CRT, not having a discussion about that, not figuring out how to deal with that.”
Senate leadership said during a press conference after adjourning, that those topics could cause even more dysfunction in the upper chamber.
“Thoe two things are unresolved, and I think those are two issues that will rise to the front next year,” said Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia). “I want to find a consensus that doesn’t end up in Armageddon, nuclear options the Missouri Senate because that’s not what this place is for.”
This session, 24 House bills and 17 Senate bills made it to the governor’s desk, out of the 2,084 filed. That’s not including the 19 budget bills passed by both chambers. Last year, there were 21 House bills and 26 Senate bills approved by the General Assembly out of the 2,070 that were filed. In 2020, there were 16 House bills and 14 Senate bills passed out of the 2,054 filed.
“We’re going to have unfinished business,” Rowden said. “You don’t get to do 15 big things in a year, it’s just never going to be that way because then you are the House.”
Democrats from both chambers called this session successful.
“There really weren’t a lot of things that we weren’t happy with,” Quade said. The Democrats voted yes on a lot of things.”
Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo (D-Independence) said there are now three factions in the Senate, besides the Democrats, Republicans, and the Conservative Caucus. He said throughout the session they had to work with both.
“We were kind of a free-willing group that was willing to work with anybody,” Rizzo said. “We [the Democrats] stick together in a fractured Senate, we can do stuff, we can get stuff done. We had a lot of successes this year.”
Members in the House blamed the Senate for adjourning early and the lack of legislation approved.
“They [Senators] haven’t been working in cohesion with each other all session, so who wud have said they would have accomplished anything in the last 24 hours anyway with all the fighting they’ve had amongst each other,” said House Speaker Rob Vescovo (R-Arnold).
Next year’s House Speaker and current House Majority Leader Dean Plocher (R-Des Peres) said the lower chamber might have had its own problems this year, but not as bad as the Senate.
“We don’t seem to have fortunately some of the episodes that the Senate seem to experience,” Plocher said.
Another big disappointment for some lawmakers and Missourians, is sports betting. It’s now legal in Kansas and Missouri’s surrounding states but not within the Show-Me State. When asked his opinion on it not making it to his desk, Parson said he was indifferent.