Order, Ethics & Transportation May Carry Missouri Session
January 6, 2016

(AP) – Missouri lawmakers opened the 2016 session under new leadership Wednesday and saw a relatively quiet start after a tumultuous end to last year’s session.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, who took the helm after John Diehl admitted to exchanging sexually suggestive texts with an intern and resigned on the last day of the 2015 session, said changes to the Legislature’s ethics policies are a top priority.

Nixon and legislative leaders of both parties have said ethics changes and a way to pay for repairs to the state’s aging roads and bridges are needed this year. Both issues have been discussed for years in the Legislature with little success.

“This institution should not and will not be defined by the actions of a few,” said Richardson, a Poplar Bluff Republican. He added that while there is no rule or law “that can make our imperfect process perfect, we can, and we must, work to improve the environment in the people’s Capitol.”

After Diehl resigned, former Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence, left office in August amid claims that he sexually harassed interns, which he denied.

Proposed changes to ethics policies include banning lobbyist gifts to lawmakers and not allowing lawmakers to immediately become lobbyists after leaving public office. Measures to cap campaign contribution limits appear less likely to pass.

The Senate also is under new Republican leadership. Sen. Ron Richard, of Joplin, took over after former Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey resigned in August to work at a St. Louis-based lobbying firm, although he does not lobby in Missouri.

Richard is the first president pro tem to also have previously been House speaker. He said little in the chamber on the first day of session, adding that he’d leave that up to his colleagues. “Let’s get to work,” Richard said

One Ethics Bill Clears Missouri Senate
February 4, 2015

(AP) – State senators on Wednesday gave initial approval to strengthening ethics laws in Missouri, the only state with the trio of unlimited campaign contributions, no limits on gifts from lobbyists and no restrictions against state lawmakers going into lobbying as soon as they leave public office.

The bill by Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, a Joplin Republican, is the first ethics bill to gain approval in either chamber this session. It begins to deal with lobbyist gifts and the revolving door of employment after public service, but it does nothing to limit campaign contributions.

The legislation would increase public reporting on gifts to legislators, ban lawmakers from becoming lobbyists until at least two years after they leave office and ban out-of-state trips paid for by lobbyists.

The bill needs a second Senate vote to go to the House, which has been hearing public testimony on its own package of ethics proposals.

Bills to beef up ethics laws have been introduced with little success in previous sessions. But Republican and Democratic legislative leaders both have placed a higher priority on the proposals this year.

Missouri Tax Cut Bill Waits for Talks between Senate And Nixon
February 12, 2014

(AP) – The Missouri Senate has delayed a debate on tax cuts while negotiations continue with Gov. Jay Nixon’s office.

Senators had been expected to debate legislation Wednesday that would cut income taxes for individuals and many businesses.

But Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard said that debate will wait until next week to give more time for the Republican sponsor of the measure to try to work out a compromise with the Democratic governor’s office.

Nixon vetoed an income tax-cut bill passed last year, citing technical problems and concerns that the measure could drain money available for public schools.

Richard said negotiations are focused on the dollar amount of the proposed tax cut and whether it should apply both to individual and businesses that report income on individual tax returns

Missouri’s Federal Gun Law Nullification Bill May Return in 2014 with Changes
November 1, 2013

(AP) – Seven weeks after thwarting a veto override attempt on a highly publicized gun bill, a Missouri Senate leader put forth a pared-back proposal Thursday that still seeks to nullify some federal gun control laws but stops short of criminalizing federal agents.

Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard had pledged to work on a revised plan after he and Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey split from the rest of the Republican caucus to defeat a veto override attempt of the gun legislation in September. At the time, they cited concerns about the constitutionality of the bill.

The new draft still attempts to declare void any federal policies that “infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms,” but it deletes wording that could have allowed state misdemeanor charges to be filed against federal agents for attempting to enforce certain federal gun control laws.

It also limits the proposed circumstances in which people could sue police and prosecutors for enforcing those gun laws and drops a provision that could have subjected journalists to misdemeanor charges for publishing the identities of gun owners.

“The original bill had great intent, but there were some language problems that kept local law enforcement (from being able) to work with federal authorities on bad guys with guns,” said Richard, of Joplin.

Richard said he posted the revised plan on his website Thursday so that people can review it and recommend any changes before pre-filing of bills for the 2014 session begins in December.

The gun legislation “will be the first bill Tom is going to send to committee, and it will be the first bill that we do on the floor and we’ll stay on it until we get it done,” Richard said.

In September, a 109-49 vote by the Republican-led House barely met the minimum two-thirds majority needed to override Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of the gun legislation. But the Republican-led Senate’s subsequent 22-12 vote fell a single vote shy of the mark needed to complete the override.

Missouri Senate Republicans Have BIG Ideas
November 9, 2012

(AP) — Republicans in the Missouri Senate pledged Thursday to focus on education and jobs in the next legislative session and planned to iron out the specifics at a caucus meeting next week.
Newly nominated Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey said the acronym “BIG” describes the GOP’s priorities in the Senate: “build” infrastructure, “invest” in education and “grow” the economy.
“We’re working first on a jobs agenda, getting people to work. And that’s our focus,” said Dempsey, R-St. Charles.
Although next week’s meeting was expected to focus on the policies, some ideas were already surfacing.
Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Kirkwood, the chairman of the Senate’s economic development committee, said he wants to consider broad-based tax cuts in addition to an overhaul of the state’s existing tax credits.
Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, who was chosen Thursday as the majority leader for the 2013 session, said he intends for the Senate to concentrate on economic development.
In past sessions, the Republican-controlled Legislature has included changes to employment discrimination laws and the workers’ compensation system as part of a package that it said could improve Missouri’s business climate. But Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon has vetoed the bills, citing concerns about weakening the legal protections for workers.
The Republicans this week preserved their supermajority in the Senate, controlling 24 seats in the 34-member chamber. The GOP picked up several state House seats, now giving it a veto-proof majority in that chamber too.
Still, Dempsey said he plans to work with Nixon’s administration and legislative Democrats.
Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, who as chosen Thursday as the chamber’s minority party leader, said many Democrats are interested in enacting new economic development incentives.
“I suspect there’ll be a big emphasis on job creation – that seems to be what we’re all talking about right now,” Justus said.