Veteran legislature watchers at the state capitol have never seen a special legislative session begin the way this one has.

The state senate has gotten off to a contentious start with obvious deep divisions within majority Republicans and doubts from some minority Democrats that the key issue in the governor’s special session call should or will pass.

The senate has spent more than three hours arguing about whether to pass a resolution telling the House it was in session.  In that time, Senator Jason Crowell of Cape Girardeau and allies attacked the governor’s limits on what the legislature can consider in this session, the validity of proposed tax breaks to create a major China trade hub at St. Louis Lambert Airport, and whether a so-called Facebook fix bill can be considered because it does thing the governor says lawmakers cannot do in this special session.

Senator Jane Cunningham of St. Louis, the sponsor of the Facebook bill says it will allay fears by teachers and parents that the state is overstepping its bounds in controlling online messaging between teachers and students by changing the law approved in the regular session.  She maintains a 1922 state supreme court decision allows the legislature to pass her bill although it goes beyond what the governor says the legislature can do on the issue in the special session.  Governor Nixon’s expanded special session call says the legislature can repeal the confusing language but he specifically says lawmakers cannot pass replacement language.

Cunningham’s position has led opponents of the so-called  China Hub to argue that Cunningham’s position means the legislature can do anything it wants with the economic development bills beyond what the governor has called for. That assertion has led to some heated words between Crowell and the Senate President pro Tem.  

Senate leaders, facing internal conflict and challenges to their own leadership called things to a temporary halt. Republicans are planning a caucus late in the day to talk things over behind closed doors.