Democrats objected to a decision by House Republicans to rushed through a bill distributing federal economic stimulus money, eventually walking out on a committee meeting.
Rep. Mike Talboy (D-Kansas City) raised a point of order when the House Rules Committee is presented with the federal economic stimulus bill.
"This bill is an appropriation bill and, obviously, does not belong in the Rules Committee as the committee of origin," Talboy said during the Rules Committee hearing. "It is against our rules and I would ask that it be referred to the Budget Committee or referred back to the committee that it belongs in under our rules."
House Minority Leader, Rep. Paul LeVota (D-Independence), sitting in on the meeting as an ex-officio member of the Rules Committee, suggested that Speaker Ron Richard (R-Joplin) violated House rules by assigning HB 22 to the Rules Committee rather than the Budget Committee. Other Democrats stated that the Budget Committee would be the proper venue to discuss the merits of the bill, that the members of the Rules Committee don’t have the expertise to be the first to consider the bill. The Rules Committee hears bills from other committees, clears them for floor debate and decides the rules that will guide floor debate.
Republicans on the committee pointed out the Speaker has broad authority in assigning bills to committee and can declare that a bill needs special consideration in assigning it directly to the Rules Committee.
Republican Chairman Mike Parson of Bolivar, with time running out to approve budget bills, rejected the point of order.
"I’m satisfied that the Speaker has decided this bill requires special consideration, so the point of order is not well taken," Parson stated.
That ruling didn’t sit well with Democrats on the committee.
Rep. Don Calloway (R-St. Louis) called for a walk out.
"Given the committee’s usurpation of the rules, I would ask that not only my colleagues on my side of the aisle, but all of our colleagues not participate, because we have decided not to follow the rules of the committee," Calloway said.
With that statement, the Democrats left the room. Republicans decided to make them pay.
House Majority Floor Leader Steven Tilley (R-Perryville) succeeded in passing an amendment that withdrew $31.2 million allocated to the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in Columbia and distributed it to Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the state’s community colleges. Tilley took pains to point out the Rep. Stephen Webber (D-Columbia) was among the Democrats walking out of the meeting and wasn’t there to defend the allocation to an important project in his district.
Perhaps lost in the drama was an amendment by Rep. Bryan Pratt (R-Blue Springs) that removed the $1 billion dollar tax cut being promoted by House Republicans. That had been the main feature of the bill, a proposed two-year half-a-percent cut in the state individual income tax. Pratt explained that it didn’t need to be part of an appropriations bill and would be authorized in separate legislation.
Republicans approved the bill with Democrats absent and sent it to the full House for debate.
Download/listen Brent Martin reports (1:15 min MP3)
Download/listen House Rules Committee debates rules (17 min. MP3)
Download/listen House Rules Committee Chairman Mike Parson (R-Bolivar) responds to walk-out (2 min. MP3)