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Some Republican priorities pass at least one chamber as Missouri lawmakers go on break

Members of the Missouri Republican Party stand next to each other during a news conference on Thursday, March 9. Speaker of the House Dean Plocher stands at the podium and speaks into a microphone.
Tim Bommel
Missouri House of Representatives Communications
House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, speaks surrounded by fellow Republicans during a news conference Thursday, the last day of session before spring break. Legislators will return March 20.

As lawmakers leave Jefferson City for a weeklong break, only one bill has made it through the entire legislature so far.

That bill, an emergency supplemental budget containing a nearly 9% raise for state workers, passed with broad bipartisan support.

Many other bills that have made it through either the House or the Senate have done so without such support in the Republican-controlled legislature. Those bills will continue their way through the opposite chamber once legislators return on March 20.

Speaker of the House Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, said he believes it’s been a successful first half for House Republicans.

“Our members have stood fast in protecting a conservative agenda, passing good bills that protect Missouri farmers, protecting Missourians from increasing tax burdens, protecting Missourians from violent crime, the list can go on and on,” Plocher said.

Plocher said he’s pleased with the passage of a House bill that allows for the appointment of a special prosecutor to address violent crime in cities that meet a specific homicide case rate such as St. Louis.

“I'm proud of the fact that we're looking and doing everything we can to improve the crime and safety in St. Louis,” Plocher said.

Currently, St. Louis is the only city that meets that rate, and the bill is widely seen as targeting Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner. Gardner is also facing an attempt from Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey to remove her from office.

One of the bills passed in the House this week creates an open enrollment program for public schools.

As to its chances of passing the Senate, where it has died in previous years, Rep. Brad Pollitt, R-Sedalia, said that with a new batch of senators, he believes there is a path.

“They may have some things they might want to put on it, some things they might want to look at, and I'm willing to listen, willing to talk,” Pollitt said.

Other legislation passed so far in the House includes a resolution that, if passed by voters, would make it harder to amend Missouri’s constitution as well as a bill that would place St. Louis’ police department under the control of a state-appointed board.

These bills have received little to no Democratic support, and House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, criticized them.

“The first half of session alone, they prioritize stripping the power of voters to use the initiative petition process, dismantling the political power of Black communities and attacking public schools and their teachers,” Quade said.

Quade also denounced bills that have targeted the LGBTQ community.

“Perhaps worst of all, they've wasted countless hours demonizing children who just want to live their lives in peace as who they are,” Quade said.

Lawmakers have heard hours of testimony on bills that would ban drag performances in public spaces, prohibit the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, bar transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports and stop transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming health care.

Most of those bills have not seen action on either the House or Senate floor.

The Senate spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday debating a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, that would bar transgender youth from accessing transition-related care like hormone therapies, puberty blockers and surgeries.

Senate Democrats took turns filibustering the bill for hours at a time, until the Senate adjourned a day early without taking a first-round vote.

Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensberg, as well as others took to Twitter to complain about adjourning for break without moving forward on the bill.

“In my 15 years in the Missouri legislature, I’ve never adjourned early to go on spring break,” Hoskins said.

Senate Floor Leader Cindy O’Laughlin, R-Shelbina, said on Facebook that she intends to return to the issue when they return from break.

One of the biggest Republican priorities passed by the Senate so far is a bill establishing greater transparency requirements for public schools, including a Parents' Bill of Rights. The bill also bars the teaching of certain diversity-focused topics, which Republicans often include under the umbrella term of critical race theory.

Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.