Every institution has its drivers and agitators – those who set expectations, direct projects and decide programs.
The state government of Missouri is no different. As the General Assembly prepares to meet on Wednesday for its 2022 legislative session, various factions and individuals will craft a broad agenda that includes abortion, education and other burning issues, as well as critical decisions on how to spend record levels of public funds. .
Here’s a look at all the key players and groups at work in Jefferson City as lawmakers and officials prepare to make policy and budget decisions over the next five months.
Governor Mike Parson
He is no longer a member of the General Assembly, but as the most elected Republican in Jefferson City, Parson plays an important role in setting the party’s annual policy and budget priorities and holds a veto over any legislation that he personally opposes.
The former Polk County sheriff and state senator is expected to fully outline his top issues in the state’s annual state address on January 19. His first official move from the session came in December, when he called on lawmakers to allow additional state spending to raise civil servants’ salaries.
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Senate Leadership: Dave Schatz, Caleb Rowden and Mike Kehoe
This trio of Republicans dictate the pace, business and order of the upper house, effectively deciding whether Bills live or die there.
Schatz, of Sullivan, serves as the interim president of the Senate, presiding over the chamber when the lieutenant governor is absent and assigning bills to Senate committees. Last year, his signing policy was an increase in the gasoline tax, which passed and became law despite outward hesitation from some Republicans. Schatz is running for the US Senate in an overcrowded GOP primary.
Rowden, the Columbia majority leader, determines the order in which bills reach the entire Senate for debate and votes. Rowden has spoken often on education issues; he refused to enter the race for the 4th Congressional District of Missouri after examination.
Kehoe, the lieutenant governor, presides over the Senate and breaks ties (which is generally rare with the current composition of the Senate: 24 Republicans and 10 Democrats). He is seen by some as a possible candidate for governor at the end of Parson’s term.
All three have faced criticism from their more extreme Senate colleagues (see Conservative caucus below), who have recently argued with them over the rules and traditions of the chamber.
House management: Rob Vescovo and Dean Plocher
Vescovo, a Republican from Arnold, is serving his second year as Speaker of the House, presiding over the chamber. Last year he supported tax credits for foster and adoptive parents; his approval and willpower behind a bill is often important in a chamber that can be chaotic and at the mercy of a number of different groups and interests. Vesocvo will be leaving the House next year due to term limits.
Plocher, a Republican from St. Louis County, is currently the majority leader and has been elected by his colleagues as the next president. Last year, he was at the forefront of efforts to reverse voter-approved changes to the Missouri redistribution process.
Conservative Senate Caucus
Widely regarded as one of the most hard-line members of the General Assembly, this Republican subgroup has complicated what at first glance would appear to be a qualified chamber majority that can effectively shift party priorities to the office of the party. Governor Mike Parson.
The Conservative caucus has repeatedly split from the party leadership on key issues, pushing proposals further to the right and questioning the Conservative good faith of those leaders. It comprises seven of the 24 GOP seats in the chamber, holding enough votes to potentially prevent an approval majority.
This year, they lobbied to withhold a key Medicaid tax to ban funding for Planned Parenthood (it ultimately passed without this measure despite protests from several members); asked Governor Mike Parson to call a special session to ban vaccination warrants (Parson did not); and argued with Senate officials over chamber procedures. A GOP Senate meeting in December excluded members of the group, the Missouri Independent reported.
Budget Chairs: Cody Smith and Dan Hegeman
The first numbered bills of each legislative session are always assigned to budget bills – and most of the time their priority in Jefferson City is this fact. Budget debates can become some of the most intense and complex of the legislature, as lawmakers, state officials and state-funded institutions struggle to solve the puzzle of where the billions of public funds should go every year.
The two lawmakers overseeing this puzzle are Representative Cody Smith, a Republican from Carthage, and Senator Dan Hegeman, a Republican from Cosby, who chairs the House and Senate Budget Committees. They play a central role in deciding how money is allocated, how much money is allocated and who gets what they want in any given year.
Democratic leaders: Crystal Quade and John Rizzo
Show-Me State’s red trend in recent years is reflected in the current state of the General Assembly, where Democratic delegations are vastly outnumbered and mostly concentrated in metropolitan areas.
Springfield Parliamentary Minority Leader Crystal Quade and Independence Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo take on the often thankless job of leading the supremacy caucuses throughout the session and are the most active Democratic voices in the within the state house. Much of their political power is spent fighting or watering down what they see as unacceptable Republicans legislation, but their party members are also joining forces with lawmakers across the aisle to push through the finish line to bipartisan political goals.
Make no mistake, the active elected officials are not the only ones with influence in the Capitol. Lobbyists from all industries and policy areas, from abortion rights to education and business, work day and night during the session to advance the political goals of their clients or employers. They work both in private, taking meetings with lawmakers, and in public, testifying at hearings for certain bills.
Some of these lobbyists were themselves legislators; Since term limits were imposed in Missouri, a number of lawmakers have (after a two-year window, according to the constitution) registered as lobbyists after leaving state office to continue using the relationships and reputations they have formed during their tenure in the legislature.