Republicans in the House railroaded a resolution through to preliminary passage, not allowing Democrats to offer any amendments during floor debate.
House Speaker Pro Tem Bryan Pratt (R-Blue Springs) presided over debate on resolution HCS HJR 41 that would prohibit state courts from raising taxes. Pratt ruled an amendment offered by Republican Rep. Joe Smith (R-St. Charles) out of order. He waited a fraction over one second and then recognized sponsor Rep. Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield) to close debate. No Democrat was allowed to speak during debate.
Democrats were furious. A few Democrats stood at their microphones seeking recognition. Pratt told reporters afterward that he didn’t see them. When a reporter stated he saw at least three Democrats standing at their microphones, Pratt said the rules are clear that a representative must stand at the microphone and raise his hand to be recognized by the Speaker to speak. Pratt insisted he didn’t see anyone, Democrat or Republican, seek recognition.
House Minority Floor Leader, Rep. Paul LeVota (D-Independence), confronted Pratt at the dais, engaging in an animated conversation. Afterward, he told reporters there was no justification for Pratt’s actions. LeVota said several Democrats had amendments ready to offer and several had stood at their microphones for some time, seeking recognition to speak.
The resolution has received tentative approval. It needs another favorable vote in the House to move to the Senate.
Pratt said he didn’t believe the incident would have any long-term affect on the legislative session this year. LeVota isn’t so sure, stating that if Republicans are going to cut the minority party out of debate on an issue as fundamental as how the courts operate, it doesn’t bode well for the session.