Missouri’s House Speaker describes the historic 2020 session as “incredibly successful,” noting lawmakers lost about six weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic. His Democratic counterpart disagrees.
House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, tells Missourinet that he’s most proud that lawmakers approved a state budget, before their constitutional deadline.
“The work that the Budget Chair (State Rep. Cody Smith) did in having to take six weeks off, try to come up with the best calculated estimate of what we believe the revenues would look like,” Haahr says.
The $35.2 billion state operating budget approved earlier this month includes $20 million for Missouri meat processing facilities, impacted by COVID-19. House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, says it’s for plants with less than two hundred employees, for support, workforce assistance and capital improvements.
The budget also contains $12 million for broadband expansion, relating to the pandemic. Both parties say that is critical.
In addition to the six weeks the Legislature lost because of the coronavirus, they also lost several days in January and February because of snow and ice in Jefferson City.
“If I look back at the beginning of the session, and I look at the things that I most wanted to accomplish and that our caucus listed as their priorities to get done, I think it’s an incredibly successful session for having lost six weeks in the middle of it,” says Haahr.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, disagrees, telling Capitol reporters that the GOP-controlled Legislature should have focused more on protecting Missourians from the coronavirus.
“In fact, the House spent far more time discussing feral hogs than it did talking about COVID-19,” Quade says.
The $35.2 billion state budget approved by the Legislature contains language that prohibits the state Department of Conservation from funding a federal employee at the Mark Twain National Forest in southern Missouri.
The feral hog issue was discussed in-detail during that May debate, and also came up on the House floor and during budget hearings this session.
Leader Quade says House Republicans “largely ignored” COVID-19 during the 2020 session, an issue she describes as the single-biggest crisis that Missouri has faced in at least a century.
During a floor speech just before Friday’s adjournment, Quade praised grocery employees across the state.
“To our grocery workers truly keeping us alive, I’m sorry the Legislature chose not to give you the protection of essential workers that you truly deserve,” Quade said on the floor.
One area Speaker Haahr and Leader Quade agree on is that there will be a special session this summer. Haahr believes it will involve the budget, and Leader Quade tells Missourinet she is hearing that it could happen in three to four weeks.
Haahr also told colleagues from the dais on Friday that he and Quade both share a love for Springfield. She nodded her head in approval, from her desk.
Republicans control the House 114-48.
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