August 4, 2015

New Missouri House Floor Leader Cierpiot on issues and John Diehl

The Republican elected by his peers to steer debate in the state House expects to deal with three key issues in 2016.

Mike Cierpiot (left) becomes House Majority Floor Leader after that position was vacated when Todd Richardson (right) was elected Speaker of the House.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Mike Cierpiot (left) becomes House Majority Floor Leader after that position was vacated when Todd Richardson (right) was elected Speaker of the House. (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Lee’s Summit representative Mike Cierpiot was elected by House Republicans to serve as Majority Floor Leader, meaning he will choose what bills are brought up on the floor for debate and for how long.

Cierpiot says his own legislative agenda during his five years in the House has been very light.

“I play defense as much as anything down there,” Cierpiot told Missourinet, “but I know next year we’re going to look at ethics, try to get an ethics law done, as far as the revolving door, and the gift ban and things like that. We made an attempt at it this year but there was some disagreement between the House and the Senate.”

He also expects discussion of how to fund maintenance of and additions to Missouri’s transportation infrastructure.

“I know the revenues from the gas sales is up and so the hurry is kind of removed, but I think it’s going to be looked at again for a long-term fix,” said Cierpiot.

He also hopes the legislature can pass a voter photo ID proposal in 2016. The House again succeeded in sending the Senate legislation on that issue this year, but it did not reach the Senate floor for debate.

“It’s something Republicans have wanted to do for a long time. It’s something that unites our caucus, and I’m hoping we can give it a high priority next year,” said Cierpiot.

Cierpiot also said he would work with Democrats on their priorities, but said it, “depends on what the issue is. There are some things that they want that we don’t want, and that’s just the way it is with Republicans and Democrats right now.”

“Some of the things like Medicaid expansion … I think has a very small chance of getting much light, but there are other issues I think we can work together on. I look forward to that,” said Cierpiot.

One priority for Democrats is a law to prevent discrimination against LGBT individuals in employment and housing. Cierpiot said he would have to see what can reach him out of the committee process.

“If it gets through the committee process I’ll certain look at it and talk to some people and see,” said Cierpiot. “It’s really hard to predict how a bill will be handled until you see the actual way it’s drawn up.”

Cierpiot had planned to run for floor leader in 2016 anyway, but the position came open at the end of this year’s session when then-Majority Floor Leader Todd Richardson was elected by his caucus to be House Speaker. Richardson replaced John Diehl, Junior, who resigned after admitting to sharing sexually-suggestive text messages with a college intern.

Cierpiot hopes his election is another step toward getting the caucus back on track following that controversy.

“I was a big fan of John. He was a very talented guy. I, of course, was disappointed with what happened. I think with John resigning we got it behind us pretty quickly,” said Cierpiot.


Missouri Senate Leader Resigning

Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles) is going to resign from office. In a statement Friday from Dempsey, he cites spending more time with family as his decision to step down.


Sen. Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles)

“It is with mixed emotions that I announce that my time in the legislature has come to an end. I have been honored to serve. I have been blessed in more ways than I can count, and I leave owing a great debt of gratitude to my neighbors who have allowed me to serve,” says Dempsey.  “However, my family is my highest priority, and in the proud tradition of the ‘citizen legislator’ the framers of our Republic envisioned, I now return to private life.”

Dempsey was first elected to the House in 2000, where he eventually became majority floor leader. He was elected to the Senate in 2007, becoming majority floor leader before being elected to serve as the Senate’s top leader.

Senators will elect a new leader from among their colleagues, possibly at the veto session in September.

He is the fifth lawmaker to resign in the past year. Dempsey’s resignation will be effective August 7.




Advocates speak about importance of bill to treat eating disorders

Missouri law will in 2017 require that insurance companies cover specific mental health treatments associated with eating disorders. The new legislation will put Missouri ahead of other states in fighting such diseases.

Miss America 2008 Kirsten Haglund stands with Representative Rick Stream, sponsor of the House version of the eating disorder insurance legislation. (Photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Miss America 2008 Kirsten Haglund stands with former Representative Rick Stream. (Photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Now advocates like Miss America 2008, Kirsten Haglund, hope people will take advantage of it, and that can mean overcoming stigma.

“Stigma is one of the biggest non-tangible barriers to treatment,” says Haglund.

Other times, Haglund says, it can take a friend or family member recognizing an eating disorder and confronting the sufferer.

“I think it’s hard and there’s a lot of denial and frustration,” says Haglund. The people around that person need to have courage in confronting them and maybe they need to have conversations with that person multiple times before they want to get better.”

Rick Stream pushed for the law for seven of his years in the state House.

“We’ve given the tools now to the families and kids to get treatment and we hope that they’ll take them and use them,” says Stream.

He says he hopes people will take advantage of the new law, and he also talks about the stigma associated with eating disorders.

“Nobody wants admit they’ve got an addiction. Nobody wants to admit that they are doing this to their body. Anorexia and bulimia are not a natural thing,” says Stream.

Stream’s daughter, Katie, died while fighting bulimia in 1995.



Governor wants Legislature to support veto on A+ scholarships bill

Governor Jay Nixon (D) is asking the Legislature to uphold his veto of a bill that would revoke A+ scholarships from students because of their federal immigration status.  Nixon says it’s unfair to those students who have worked hard for the scholarships.

Governor Jay Nixon (D)

Governor Jay Nixon (D)

“I think it’s a mistake in policy to say to a student that while you’re in high school if you do all these hard things we’re gonna give you a scholarship and come back later on and take it away from them. It’s just a matter of fairness,” says Nixon.

Nixon says the state shouldn’t base Missouri students on their federal immigration status. The budget bill also included a provision to require public colleges and universities to charge those students their international tuition rate. The scholarship grants students two years tuition at any community college or technical school in Missouri.

The Legislature could try and override the Governor’s action during September’s veto session.

Parson switches from Governor’s race to Lt. Governor

State Senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar) has announced that he’s dropping out of the Governor’s race and instead running for Lieutenant Governor. Parson says via Twitter that the opportunity “will give a better path to win real reform for Missouri and promote Positive Politics.” The switch comes three months after Parson announced his candidacy for Governor.

Senator Mike Parson (photo courtesy; Harrison Sweazea, Missouri Senate Communications)

Senator Mike Parson (photo courtesy; Harrison Sweazea, Missouri Senate Communications)

Bev Randles is the only other announced candidate for Lieutenant Governor at this time. Randles is a Kansas City attorney and former chairwoman of conservative political group Club for Growth. She has a $1 million campaign donation from St. Louis businessman Rex Sinquefield.

Five other Republicans remain in the crowded Governor’s race including Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, former Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, Springfield State Senator Bob Dixon, St. Louis businessman John Brunner, former state representative Randy Asbury.  Former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens is expected to join.

The only announced Democrat is Attorney General Chris Koster.