By Alex Derosier, Missourinet contributor
Republican leaders in the Missouri General Assembly say they are pleased with the first half of the legislative session and now turn their sights to the budget, REAL ID and other issues that were temporarily shelved.
In the past two months, both chambers passed legislation aiming to change labor laws, education and the legal system– key issues for Republicans in the legislature and Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who say it will improve the state’s economic environment.
Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard (R-Joplin) told reporters Thursday he never thought a lot of the legislation they have moved this year would even pass in his lifetime, calling the session “outstanding.”
Lawmakers have the next next week off for the spring break, but plenty of work still lies ahead for House and Senate Republicans in the coming months. The budget is first on the list when they reconvene on March 27.
Currently, the House budget has departed from some of the governor’s recommendations. The current proposal would restore around $22 million to higher education, after the governor recommended $90 million be cut from the state’s university system. It would also restore funding for K-12 transportation, to which the governor proposed a $36 million in cuts.
House Budget Chair Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) says it is too early to speculate on whether Gov. Greitens will line-item veto parts of the budget. “We’ll see what happens,” he said, explaining more details of the budget still need to be finalized.
Fitzpatrick says they’ll have the budget bills sent to the Senate by the first week of April, and that he expects little trouble meeting the May 5 deadline.
House Majority Leader Mike Cierpiot (R-Lee’s Summit) said that once the budget is sent through, they’ll look to bring several issues to the floor they had previously shelved. “Once we see the lay of the land, Real ID will be coming forward,” he told reporters at a joint press conference with Republican Senate leadership Thursday. “Then prevailing wage is going to take some time out there too.”
After waiting for the Senate to establish a position on a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, long-awaited House debate on a PDMP bill introduced by Rep. Holly Rehder (R- Sikeston) is also expected to happen soon.
House Republicans have been moving their key bills at a furious pace, but Democrats in the body say the GOP is forgetting about more urgent issues. Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City) criticizes Republicans Thursday for putting off discussion of REAL ID. “That’s what our constituents want,” Beatty says, adding that many businesses and the Chamber of Commerce in Kansas City consider bringing Missouri into compliance with federal ID standards a priority.
If Missouri does not become compliant with federal ID requirements by Jan. 18, 2018, IDs issued by the state will no longer be valid for air travel or entering military bases like Ft. Leonard Wood.
Meanwhile in the Senate, Republican leaders stressed cooperation between chambers in the State Assembly. If REAL ID gets through the House, Richard said he thinks there are enough votes to pass in the Senate.
In the coming weeks they also plan to move other key Republican-backed pieces of legislation passed by the House, such as a minimum wage cap and the elimination of the circuit-breaker tax property tax credit for elderly and disabled renters.