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A new normal awaits when 2017 Missouri session starts Wednesday

The Missouri Capitol Building in Jefferson City, Mo. Legislative action here on Thursday by Sen. Jason Crowell would refer the "right-to-work" issue to voters next year.
File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio
The Missouri Capitol Building in Jefferson City, Mo. Legislative action here on Thursday by Sen. Jason Crowell would refer the "right-to-work" issue to voters next year.

Not since Matt Blunt was governor of Missouri nearly a decade ago did the Republican Party control both the executive branch and both houses of the legislature. Even then, there were enough Democrats in both the House and Senate to block any veto override attempts, rare as they were then.

That will differ once Eric Greitens takes the oath of office and has the benefit of veto-proof GOP majorities in both chambers.

House and Senate leaders have made no secret that they're excited to have a governor who won't make them rely on the annual veto session to get their top priorities passed. House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, suggested during a recent Politically Speaking podcast that Greitens' win as governor plus the re-election of GOP super-majorities equal a mandate from Missouri voters.

"It's not been an opportunity that Republicans have had very often in this state," he said. "Only four years since Republicans took the majority have they been able to have a Republican governor to work with, and so we're really excited about the possibilities."

He continued, "We're also mindful of that big responsibility that comes with it. … I think Missourians wanted to see a different government than they had – that's why the results of the election were the way they were – so we're going to be mindful of that and we're going to be working hard every day when the session starts to make sure we deliver on those expectations."

Those expectations include the GOP's first priority of 2017: turning Missouri into a right-to-work state. Doing so would bar labor unions from forcing all workers in a bargaining unit to pay dues or fees.

Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, is taking over as House minority floor leader. She admits it won't be easy to get the Democratic agenda heard or to prevail against the so-called "red tide" that swept both Jefferson City and Washington, D.C.

"To a certain extent that's true, by virtue of our numbers … but it is what it is; it's something we will have to deal with," she said. "We've got to figure out how we work on legislation that makes Missouri a better place."

McCann Beatty said that will largely be in the hands of Republican leaders, including Richardson.

"It's up to the speaker's office whether or not we spend an entire session on strictly those issues where we're all on opposite sides, or whether or not we're going to work on some of those issues that we all really need to come together on."

That would likely include a change to the state's student transfer law, which drew bipartisan support in 2014 and 2015, but not enough to overturn vetoes by Gov. Jay Nixon.

Nixon, a Democrat, cited an expansion of virtual schools for his veto in 2015.  He vetoed the 2014 bill because it would have allowed private non-sectarian schools to receive tax money.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.