The limit of criticism was tested on the House floor as Democrats harshly criticized majority Republicans for pushing pay-day loan reform they claim is anything but.
Battle lines were drawn from the start of debate on the House floor over HB 656. Republicans pushed the measure as reform of the pay-day loan industry, under scrutiny for its extremely high interest rates and suspect tactics. Democrats railed against the measure as fake reform, an attempt by Republicans to convince the public they are reforming the industry while actually protecting it.
Things didn’t really get heated during floor debate until Rep. Mary Still, a Democrat from Columbia, proposed an amendment that would cap the annual interest rate (APR) at 99%. Rep. Ward Franz, a Republican from West Plains, offered a substitute amendment and, then, Rep. Don Wells, a Republican from Cabool, proposed an amendment to Ward’s substitute.
Still accused Republicans of orchestrating the moves so that they wouldn’t have to vote on her amendment.
“What they have done is freeze my amendment out,” Still said on the House floor. “It indicates that they are afraid to take a vote…”
With that, Still’s microphone was cut off.
Speaker Pro Tem Shane Schoeller, a Republican from Willard who was presiding, warned her to stay on topic, a comment that brought Rep. Chris Kelly, a Democrat from Columbia, to his microphone. Kelly objected to Schoeller’s contention that Still wasn’t arguing the issue at hand.
“To not let her speak is a disgrace,” Kelly told Schoeller. “She’s arguing the issue and you ought to let her do it.”
That brought Rep. Darrell Pollock, a Republican from Lebanon, to his mic.
“The lady has every right to speak on this bill. She has the time like every one of us out here,” Pollock responded, his voice rising with emotion. “We have rules for this body and these rules need to be followed. This is not some dog and pony show to get up here and poke people in the eye with.”
Passions seemed to cool; for a while.
Rep. Jake Zimmerman, a Democrat from St. Louis, stood on the floor to criticize the bill. Pollock rose again to object, calling on Schoeller to direct Zimmerman to confine his comments to the bill.
“I think your comments have gotten off the direction of the bill. I’d advise you to please stick to the bill and, while you’re witty, please keep to the bill itself and not your personal opinion,” Scheller told Zimmerman.
“Mr. Speaker, he (Pollock) might not like it, but I am speaking about the bill and, yes, I’m conveying my opinion about the bill which is what every member of this chamber is permitted to do,” Zimmerman responded. “And my opinion about the bill is that it’s a joke.”
That brought the gavel down again. Zimmerman, admonished once again, continued his criticism of the bill.
It now has advanced in the House. It needs to pass another round of voting to move to the Senate.
AUDIO: Rep. Mary Still (D-Columbia)
Proposes amendment, tempers flare 10 min mp3
AUDIO: Rep. Jake Zimmerman (D-St. Louis
Criticizes bill, is admonished by Speaker Pro Tem Shane Shoeller (R-Willard) 3 min mp3