House Democrats and Republicans disagree about how much has been accomplished in the first half of the legislative session, and what direction the second half must take.
In January, House Democrats said eliminating institutionalized racial injustice in all levels of government in Missouri must be a top priority of the 2015 session. Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D-St. Louis) said the Republican House majority has not debated or passed a single bill that advances that goal.
“It appears that House Speaker Diehl, who on opening day said we’re not going to have a Ferguson agenda in the House, is being true to his word,” said Hummel. “Over the final seven weeks of session, the House must dedicate to transforming the promise of equal justice for all into a reality.”
Republican House Speaker John Diehl said the House has been, and will be, working on bills that address the real issues.
“I don’t think any of this is Ferguson related, I think it’s a mistake to try to address something to, or fashion legislation to address a specific situation. I think we have to look at the culture and we have to look at the overall issue of what’s happening,” said Diehl. “I referred SB 5, which is the Macks Creek law provisions to committee earlier this week to Representative Cornejo, we’re going to be working on dealing with the municipal court situation across the state.”
At the start of business day, protesters paraded the halls of the Capitol disrupting the Senate by calling for expansion of Medicaid eligibility. Hummel said Republicans are refusing to expand Medicaid in Missouri for the third straight year.
“By not expanding Medicaid, Missouri will continue to let rural hospitals in Missouri close. Two have shut down already, the Osage Hospital in Osceola and Missouri Rehabilitation Center in Mount Vernon, and many others are on the brink of closing right now,” said Hummel. “300-thousand Missourians will continue to needlessly go without health care access.”
“They have the right to come to the Capitol and speak their peace,” said Diehl of the protesters. “We’re going to take a look at some reform, that’s part of what we’re working on is part of the second half agenda.”
Diehl told Missourinet he is very satisfied with the pace of work and it has been a very productive first half.
“We have a very good working relationship with the Senate. I appreciate the efforts of my Pro Tem Denny Hoskins, the Floor Leader Todd Richardson, the entire leadership team, we meet very regularly, we discuss issues, we vet out how we are going to move them forward, and we communicate with the Senate,” said Diehl. “I think you’re going to find a very productive second half with a lot of good policy.”
Diehl highlighted legislation the House has passed, including bills dealing with agriculture, unemployment reform, a bill to shorten the amount of time a family can spend on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, changes to non-economic damage liability in medical malpractice cases, “right-to-work,” a rejection of pay increases for elected officials, and getting the state budget to the Senate ahead of schedule.
The session resumes March 30.
House Speaker Diehl assesses the 2015 legislative session so far:
House Minority Leader Jake Hummel assesses the session to date: