Taxes, education, ethics among key issues of 2018 legislative session

As state lawmakers gather this week to launch the 2018 legislative session, Republicans will likely pick up where they left off in 2017, while also taking on new issues that have cropped up over the past year.

After a Republican sweep of statewide offices in the 2016 election, the GOP-controlled legislature was optimistic about pushing through bills with the help of Gov. Eric Greitens. While he made ethics reform a staple of his campaign, efforts to clean up the Capitol stalled in the Senate last year, and Greitens himself has been operating under a veil of secrecy.

The legislature is likely to tackle ethics reform once again in hopes of creating a more transparent system. With the passage of a tax reform bill in Washington, lawmakers will also have to decide whether to decouple Missouri’s tax system from the federal one.

The Senate will play a key role in the fallout of the recent ouster of the state’s education commissioner, Margie Vandeven. The Missouri Board of Education voted 5-3 to remove Vandeven in December, with all five votes coming from members appointed by Greitens in a span of four months.

The removal raised tensions between Greitens and the Senate. Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, has already mentioned filibustering Greitens’ appointees and filed Senate Bill 794, which would require the governor to notify the Senate in writing of any appointments made to state boards or commissions when the General Assembly is not in session.

As for Democrats, they’ll have to find common ground with the Republican supermajority to pass any part of their agenda. Both sides will work on tax reform.

Whatever the agenda, lawmakers will have to work within another tight budget year. Many significant cuts were made in last year’s session, including a 9 percent reduction for higher education. State leaders hope to avoid slashing the budget again this year, but they may have their hands tied.

Read more: Columbia Missourian, Jefferson City News Tribune

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