Even though Democrats are outnumbered nearly three-to-one in the state Senate, the chamber’s minority leader is hoping bipartisanship can prevail.
This sentiment comes after Republicans swept every statewide race in this month’s election, toppling four incumbent Democrats in the process.
Senator Gina Walsh of St. Louis County says she’ll try to find common ground with incoming Republican Governor Eric Greitens. “I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bath water or think it’s all over” said Walsh. “I don’t know our new governor elect. Until I have an opportunity to work with him and see if we can work together, which I hope we can, I am not going to say ‘Oh we’re going to war and blah, blah, blah’, because we’re not. That’s not what we’re sent here for.”
Walsh contends she has a good relationship with Republican majority leaders in both the Senate and House. She says she wants to work together on some issues, but doesn’t know if it’ll be possible.
One of the big matters facing lawmakers in the next session is transportation. Walsh says she wants to join Republicans in fixing Missouri’s roads. She fiercely backed her party’s nominee for governor, Chris Koster, who was vocal about the need to address transportation issues. Walsh says she’ll continue to work in the same direction when Greitens assumes the office. “I’m not taking my ball and going home. We all need to work together for the good of Missouri, so folks can get from one end of the state to the other in a safe manner. Every day that’s happening less and less with our roads.”
Although he hasn’t said much publicly, Walsh thinks Greitens knows transportation is an issue in Missouri. Before being defeated in the governor’s race, Koster had pegged the cost of repairing and updating roads at $500 million. That figure has been echoed by state Transportation Department Director Patrick McKenna as well as Republican Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City.
One of the most high profile matters going into the next legislative session will be labor laws. Big money was spent on the issue in the governor’s race. Democrat Koster received over $8.6 million from labor interests during the campaign, mostly from trade unions.
Walsh is preparing to lose a long battle on labor. Numerous attempts by the Republican dominated legislature to pass right to work laws have been derailed by outgoing Governor Jay Nixon. But with the office moving to Republican control, Walsh knows GOP lawmakers are now likely to get their way. “They are what they are. They’re anti-worker bills, and they’re not good for the state of Missouri. But I’m not in charge. I’m going to do what can do to stop them, but I’m not hopeful of the outcome.” Right to work laws prevent unions from compelling workers to to pay dues as a condition of employment.
Walsh is a longtime strong supporter of unions. Greitens has indicated making Missouri a right to work state will be a top priority.