The next Speaker of the Missouri House has been selected.
The House Republican caucus has chosen Representative Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) to be the next Speaker of the House. It is unlikely that position would go to anyone else because the caucus holds a 117-member supermajority. 82 votes are needed to elect the new Speaker.
Richardson will replace John Diehl, Junior, who announced he would resign after admitting to exchanging sexually suggestive texts with a freshman college intern earlier this year.
“I don’t think the last five months have put the legislature and this public institution in a particularly good light,” said Richardson. “It’s my great hope that beginning [Friday] we can get back to work and focusing on improving that public perception, so that’s going to be a priority for me as the speaker and I know it’s going to be a priority for our entire leadership team.”
Asked how he plans to do that, Richardson said it’s by setting an example and getting back to work.
“Six-plus million people across the state sent us here to do a job and [Friday] we intend to do that job and to complete our responsibilities as they exist over the next 24-hours,” said Richardson.
Richardson inherits a final day of the session in which the state Senate has been stagnant for two days and the House for one, while some major priorities remain.
There are several bills that the House could send to the Governor without the help of the Senate, Friday, if it backs off of its own position and accepts the Senate’s version of them. Richardson said it will do that with some.
“Others, we felt like the amendments and House Committee [substitutes] that were added to those included important changes that we just can’t roll back from,” said Richardson. “There’s an important workman’s compensation update that’s in our control. I believe there’s a use of force statute which, we’ll take a hard look to see whether we can truly agree that. I know we would prefer not to take that approach, but we’ll work with the bill sponsors of those to unwind those if we can,” said Richardson.
Still, Richardson acknowledges it will be difficult for the legislature to get many bills out on the final day.
“Obviously there is at least one priority piece of legislation that the legislature has to pass,” Richardson said, “and that’s the [Federal Reimbursement Allowance] extension, which has to happen before the end of September.”
That proposal would allow Missouri to accept more than 3.5-billion federal dollars from a tax on hospitals, but it has been held up in the Senate since Wednesday morning by Democrats who are blocking debate, after that chamber’s Republicans forced a vote on “right to work,” Tuesday.
“We very much hope we can get that done [Friday],” said Richardson.
Both chambers go into session at 10 a.m. and must adjourn at 6 p.m. Friday.