The man who will lead the Missouri House Democrats in the 2013 legislative session is St. Louis representative Jacob Hummel. He must deal with the largest House Republican majority in the history of the state.
Hummel says despite that, his caucus will be relevant.
“Surely, if you want to look at the votes, we’re very much outnumbered, but I think it’s our job as members of the minority to hold the majority’s feet to the fire,” he says. “When we see something that we think is not in the best interest of the state, I think it’s our job to stand up and fight for those issues.”
The Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate are large enough to overturn a veto by Governor Jay Nixon, but Hummel says he doesn’t think the state is as conservative-leaning as the make up of the legislature might suggest.
“I think if you look at statewide, I think the state’s fairly well evenly divided, and I think that the majority should recognize that and I would hope that at some point they could learn to lean in that direction towards a more divided Missouri as we actually, I think, are,” Hummel says.
Hummel considers what he expects in working with the leader of that House Republican majority, House Speaker Tim Jones of Eureka.
“He has an opportunity to not only lead by example, but to set the stage for all of Missouri,” he says. “I think there’s issues that we can work together on. Certainly economic issues. We may not agree on everything but I’m hopeful that we can work together for the betterment of all of our constituencies.”
A priority that House Democrats are already talking about is ethics reform. Hummel says the public doesn’t want or deserve unlimited campaign donations.
“I think that if it was polled anywhere, it’s obvious to anyone that campaign finance limits are needed, a limit on lobbyist gifts and to strengthen the Missouri Ethics Commission,” Hummel says.
That could include a return to provisions in a 2010 bill that was thrown out by the Supreme Court not because of its content, but because it was attached to unrelated legislation.
One issue the leaders of the two caucuses have expressed opposing stances on is education funding. Hummel says Missouri is among the states in the U.S. that spend the least on education and suggests that must change. House Speaker Tim Jones says the amount of money spent on education is not the issue, and says major reform legislation is needed.
The legislative session begins Jan. 9. Lawmakers can begin filing bills in about three weeks.