Missouri News

Missouri lawmakers take oaths of office, outline goals

Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr speaks to reporters Wednesday during a press conference in the House Lounge of the state Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo. Haahr was elected by colleagues to the top leadership position earlier Wednesday, which was the first day of the 2019 legislative session.
AP Photo/David A. Lieb
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jan. 10, 2019 10:05 am Updated: Jan. 10, 2019 1:36 pm

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Good schools and good jobs were the theme as the 100th Missouri General Assembly was sworn in Wednesday.

Republican House Speaker Elijah Haahr promised that lawmakers "will create bold solutions for the challenges" facing Missourians, including those trapped in opioid addictions or what he described as "a broken criminal justice system."

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz said lawmakers also must work to "reduce the burden of government" by promoting reforms to taxes, regulations and lawsuit procedures.

Joining Haahr and Schatz was a new team of lawmakers from Northeast Missouri.

Cindy O'Laughlin

Sen. Cindy O'Laughlin said in a news release that she's ready to roll up her sleeves and work to make the state a better place. The 62-year-old Shelbina Republican said her 26 years as vice president of Leo O'Laughlin Inc., has given her the perspective to advocate on behalf of all Missouri business owners.

"During this legislative session, one of my priorities is to ensure that our rural communities remain economically viable as our state moves forward," O'Laughlin said.

She also believes that with lots of new legislators people may be willing "to look at problems instead of looking at the party."

Louis Riggs

Rep. Louis Riggs, R-Hannibal, said he's focused on building out broadband internet into rural communities. An educator, Riggs also has been looking at how schools can be better served.

"I especially want to see schools looking for ways they can better serve those who are not going on to get a college degree" but need the skills to help them land quality jobs, Riggs said.

Rep. Greg Sharpe, R-Ewing, wants to see more money for road and bridge improvements. That is a priority for Gov. Mike Parson, a fellow Republican. However, legislative leaders have not been encouraged by the vote against an infrastructure proposal last year.

"I hope the governor will provide some leadership on infrastructure and workforce development" to help prepare students to fill jobs, Sharpe said.

About one-third of the lawmakers are new this year, replacing incumbents who either could not or chose not to run again. But the partisan composition of the House and Senate remains virtually unchanged after November's elections.

Senate Republicans hold a 24-10 majority over Democrats. House Republicans hold a 115-47 majority over Democrats with one vacancy. Republican Scott Fitzpatrick is to be sworn in as state treasurer on Monday instead of serving the legislative term to which he won re-election. Missouri has undergone a significant political reshuffling since lawmakers last met in regular session.

Parson was lieutenant governor at this time last year. Parson took over as chief executive June 1 when Republican Gov. Eric Greitens resigned while facing potential impeachment over allegations of sexual and political misconduct.

Since then, Parson has appointed former state Sen. Mike Kehoe as lieutenant governor, former state Treasurer Eric Schmitt to take over as attorney general after Josh Hawley's election to the U.S. Senate, and Fitzpatrick to take over as treasurer.

Parson has said he wants to focus on workforce development and infrastructure. But that latter goal will be complicated by the fact that voters in November rejected a proposed gas tax increase that would have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for roads and bridges.

Voters in November also approved a minimum wage increase, legalized medical marijuana and adopted new ethics policies for lawmakers.

Parson and legislative budget leaders are forecasting modest 1.7 percent growth for the current budget that ends June 30, although revenues through the first half of the fiscal year were down 2.9 percent. They are projecting an additional 2 percent growth for the 2020 budget that they will prepare this session.

Lawmakers are expected to consider changing state sales tax laws to require out-of-state vendors to collect taxes on items sold to Missouri residents -- something made easier to accomplish by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year.

The first day of the legislative session included a rare joint session of the House and Senate in order to take a group photo commemorating the start of the 100th General Assembly. The Legislature's terms are numbered in two-year increments, and Missouri is approaching the 200th anniversary of gaining statehood in 1821.

 

The Associated Press provided information for this story.

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