Lawmakers reflect on end of legislative session

State lawmakers say a mix of bipartisan deals and partisan agenda items drove the 2014 legislative session that ended Friday.

State lawmakers say a mix of bipartisan deals and partisan agenda items drove the 2014 legislative session that ended Friday.

Senate leaders told reporters Friday afternoon they were pleased with some of the deals Republicans and Democrats were able to put together, including a funding plan for Fulton State Hospital and the first criminal code rewrite in 30 years. The two parties worked together to pass legislation legalizing the use of hemp oil for epilepsy, expanding dental care to 300,000 low-income Missourians and increasing funding for K-12 education.

"We formed a working relationship beared (sic) on mutual respect that has allowed us to work together to pass meaningful legislation," Senate President Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said.

Senate Minority Leader Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, went a step further, calling the two parties' relationships "pretty much better than anywhere else in the nation."

But Friday's celebratory mood did not stop members of either party from praising or denigrating some of the most divisive moves of the session. House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, praised what he called a historic override of Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a major income tax cut. Minutes later, House Minority Leader Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis, accused the GOP of putting tax cuts for millionaires ahead of the needs of children in school. Hummel and Justus both also renewed their party's calls to expand Medicaid.

During the 2013 and 2014 regular sessions, some Republicans, including Jefferson City Rep. Jay Barnes and Kansas City Sen. Ryan Silvey, have put forth what they characterized as market-driven Medicaid expansion plans. Their proposals typically combined Medicaid expansion with high-deductible insurance plans featuring various health incentives. Those ideas did not get far, and House Majority Leader John Diehl, R-Town and Country, who will likely succeed Jones as speaker next January, told reporters he doubted that would change.

"DSH payments are now expected to extend well into 2017, and I don't believe DSH payments at the federal level are ever going to go away because half the states have not expanded Medicaid," he said.

As for what might appear on next year's calendar, Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, offered a glimpse when he said he wanted to continue pursuing so-called Right-to-Work legislation and tort reform.

Next year's session will lose several familiar faces. Term limits are forcing out Sens. Justus and Brad Lager, R-Savannah. Republicans John Lamping and Brian Nieves are not seeking re-election. On the House side, Jones is leaving after eight years, including two and a half years as speaker. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, is running for the Senate. Budget Committee chair Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, is also leaving due to term limits. Perhaps the most significant departure, highlighted by Jones himself, is Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia. Kelly was first elected to the House in 1982 and served there for ten years, leaving that chamber the same year voter-approved term limits went into effect. Kelly returned to the legislature in 2008 and is eligible for one more House term but is stepping down.