JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The 2017 legislative session began Wednesday, and the supermajorities of Republicans in both chambers hinted at some of the first legislation that could make its way to the governor’s desk.
In the 2016 general election, Republicans retained their more than two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate. The GOP begins 2017 with a friend in the governor’s mansion and four of the other five statewide offices.
Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, was sworn in Wednesday as the Speaker Pro Tem, the second in command in the Republican caucus of the Missouri House. Haahr said is more excited than ever to get to work this year.
“All the things that we campaigned on in 2016, we’ve actually got the opportunity to do now,” Haahr said. “And we made a lot of promises during the campaign about what kind of state we envisioned with that.”
The legislature and outgoing Gov. Jay Nixon fought over passing a right-to-work law the last few years, a law which eliminates any requirement for workers to join a union and pay dues in a union shop.
Haahr said that fight will end this year.
“In the governor’s race that really became a crucial distinction between Governor-Elect Greitens and Attorney General Koster, is their positions on right-to-work,” Haahr said. “And I think elections have consequences and the primary consequence of the gubernatorial race will be us passing right-to-work.”
Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, promised a ban on lobbyist gifts would be the first bill out of the chamber this year.
Missouri does not have any limits on the meals, ballgame tickets and other perks lawmakers can get from lobbyists.
“Both sides are really looking forward to that,” said Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield. “Governor-Elect Greitens has talked about real ethics reform and really doing that well, so I think this is a year that we might actually get some stuff done.”
The only thing the legislature is truly required to do each year is pass a budget.
Right now, there is a shortfall in the current budget year that began July 1. Nixon already cut out $200 million and Greitens has hinted some more cuts could be on the way.
“It’s certainly challenging, obviously revenues did not grow as much as we expected them to and so in years past it was not uncommon for us to be growing and for us to give everyone what they were asking for in the budget,” Haahr said. “And this year we won’t be able to do that, so we’ll have a lot of places where we will have to hold the line on that.”
Governor-Elect Greitens and the other statewide officials will be inaugurated at the Capitol on Monday. The legislative session will run from now until mid-May.