House Republicans say they have achieved most of their slate of legislative priorities for the session heading into Spring Break, but House Democrats say one top priority has been absent from floor debate. An education bill has yet to advance out of the committee process.
House Speaker Steven Tilley (R-Perryville) says those bills are still being worked on but right now there is no consensus in his caucus on them. While leadership in both parties called education a “must pass” issue early on, Tilley now says, “If we can get it done we certainly well and if we can’t, we can’t, and we’ll come back next year and work on it.”
Several GOP leaders said from the outset that they want to package together education issues this year. That could put the issues both parties are concerned with, fixes for the foundation formula and the Turner decision, in a bill with things like tuition tax credits and tenure reform.
Tilley stands by that plan. “Part of the logic between the leadership team is to try and put parts of it together so it actually could cobble together coalitions to get us to 82 (votes in the House).”
Minority Leader Mike Talboy (D-Kansas City) has his own opinion of the Republicans’ motivation. “I realize that they have (St. Louis philanthropist) Rex Sinquefield to answer to, and if Daddy Rex says that something needs to be in there then Daddy Rex is going to get what he wants.”
Talboy has said since the beginning of the session that the education issues need to be separated out. “Education of children in this state is more important than creating jobs that we don’t necessarily have an educated workforce to fill if we don’t do something about the education system, and I think that it is offensive to sit there and say that the economic development bills should stand on their own, but that the education bills are not important enough to stand on their own and pass on their own merits.”
Tilley says if an education bill does not pass, the session can still be called a success. “I’m not gonna pin any specific thing on whether it’s a success or a failure. I think you have to look at the session in totality.”
He adds, “But, it certainly would be something I’d like to get done.”
AUDIO: Listen to the House Republicans media conference, 13:09
AUDIO: Listen to the House Democrats media conference, 8:24