JEFFERSON CITY - The doors to the Missouri General Assembly have closed and all of the lobbyists, interns and legislators have gone home. The last days of the Missouri General Assembly were anti-climatic, although there was still some debate and bills passing through the body at an incredible rate.
Most noteworthy may have been the actions in the House and by its leadership.
As the final day last Friday came to a close, a controversial tort reform bill that caps the amount a plaintiff can receive for pain and suffering in civil suits came to the floor. Rep. Richard Byrd (R-Kirkwood), the bill's sponsor, spoke briefly about the bill. As soon as he finished House Majority Floor Leader Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau) moved that all debate on the bill end. The Democrats were visibly upset regarding this move and erupted into a chorus of boos and desk beating.
In response to the actions of Crowell and Byrd comment: "This very well might be the most important vote" they would make all session, House Minority Whip Rick Johnson (D-High Ridge) was the most vocal of the House Democrats. "It's the most important vote, yet there is no debate," he yelled across the aisle. Johnson then beat on his desk, threw papers and then attempted to stand on his chair and desk in protest before being pulled down by other members of his party.
Rep. Denny Merideth (D-Caruthersville) responded more calmly, but no less harsh, to the activities of the opposing party throughout the course of the final day. When asked about the multiple motions to end debate on the last day Merideth said: "They've set a new record" and that it "falls in line with the way they gone about the business of the people by letting committee reports be written by lobbyists and just a few legislators."
But Rep. Peter Myers (R-Sikeston) viewed it otherwise. "It's (Rep. Crowell's) prerogative," said Myers. "(The Democrats) used to do it to us all of the time."
Speaker of the House Catherine Hanaway (R-Warston Woods), said those actions were taken throughout the final day because "the sole agenda" of the Democrats was to "put on things to kill the bills."
With the announcement of Gov. Bob Holden intent to veto more than one budget bill, the General Assembly will be called into special session next month. This comes to no surprise to the members of the General Assembly, especially Hanaway who at the Republican press conference last Friday stated "As sure as I am standing in front of your today, we will have a special session."
With this statement still echoing through the halls of the state capitol during the press conference, Holden made the prophesy come true this Monday with his announcement.
Tort Reform is SB280