Lawmakers Open 2017 Session: The First Regular Session of the 99th Missouri General Assembly opened at noon Wednesday, kicking off a year predicted to be dominated by a fast-tracked, pro-business agenda in the House and Senate. Republican super-majorities in both chambers, plus a new Republican governor to be sworn in on Monday, will guarantee action on several issues previously passed but spiked by out-going Governor Jay Nixon. Republicans last controlled both the legislature and Governor’s office under Governor Matt Blunt from 2005 to 2009.
Opening day saw 117 Republicans and 46 Democrats seated in the House; with 24 Republicans and ten Democrats in the Senate. Forty-five new legislators were sworn in; 39 in the House and six in the Senate. Rep. Todd Richardson was again elected Speaker of the House, and Senator Ron Richard once more took control of the upper chamber as President Pro Tem. With experienced leadership and little possibility of Democrat road-blocks, pro-business issues including right-to-work, tort reform, and regulatory reduction should be quickly approved. Action is also expected on ethics reform, charter schools, and ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft.
A new committee procedure in the House debuted on Wednesday, replacing the previous system adopted just two years ago. The number of committees have been reduced and consolidated, and will meet in two “flights” each week; one group on Monday and Wednesday and another on Tuesday and Thursday. Each flight will have a Rules Committee that approves issues moving to the debate calendar. The stand-alone Telecommunications Committee formed in 2014 has been scrapped; along with the Energy & Environment Committee which had handled bills dealing with electric, natural gas and water companies. Those issues will now be considered by a revised Utilities Committee, chaired by Rep. Rocky Miller from Lake Ozark.