As Missouri legislators head home for spring break this week at the mid-point of the 2016 legislative session, some lawmakers are calling the first half “unproductive.”
The Senate has been consumed by a “religious freedom” amendment to the state’s constitution since March 7, when Democrats kicked off a record-breaking 37-hour filibuster of the bill. Republicans responded with a rarely-used procedural maneuver that cut off debate and forced a vote, which in turn sparked a week of Democratic stall tactics in retaliation.
The impasse had many veteran lawmakers worried that the legislative session had been derailed, with little hope of getting back on track before May 13 adjournment. But with just two months left in the session, both Republicans and Democrats seem ready for détente.
In the second half of the session, lawmakers must still finalize the state’s $27 billion budget, along with a list of legislative priorities. Senate Minority Leader Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, said the budget will be the first priority when lawmakers return from break.
Ethics reform, stricter voting laws and tougher abortion regulations are among the top issues awaiting further action. For now, Republicans who control the Legislature say all of those initiatives remain on track.