Under the Dome – May 20

Under the Dome graphic with Missouri State Capitol Dome in background

Welcome back to Under the Dome, your weekly update on the goings-on of the Missouri state legislature.

Majority rule survives as dysfunction, chaos reign in Jefferson City 

The Missouri Legislature ended its session for the year in a display of utter dysfunction with only a few bills reaching the finish line despite Republicans holding a super majority.

The chaos worked in the favor of democracy this year, however, as a resolution that would have stripped Missourians of their century-old right to amend the state constitution through the initiative petition process was stalled out in the final hours of session. It paves the way for ballot measures including paid sick days and improved wages for workers as well as the right to access abortion. A majority of Missouri voters can pass these measures into law using the initiative petition process in place since 1907. 

Missourians told politicians that they must protect majority rule and the essential principle of “one person, one vote” in Jefferson City in January. Photo by Ryan Gavin/Progress MO.

The victory was possible through a massive and sustained nonpartisan wave of support to protect the sacred principle of “one person, one vote” as well as pro-democracy legislators who filibustered to quash the resolution. 

As noted in the Missouri Independent, the session was the least productive and most chaotic session in living memory. 

“In the end, only 28 non-budget bills found success this year. That’s fewer than the previous low-water mark in 2020, when only 31 bills passed because the legislative session was upended by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Independent reported.

At every turn, legislators failed to enact laws that would actually improve people’s lives, from expanding child care tax credits to banning child marriage to supporting children in foster care. Even a bipartisan bill allowing women to pick up an annual supply of birth control pills rather than going to the pharmacy every few months failed to advance.

What legislators instead were able to pass directly hurts Missourians, such as the ban on Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood, an essential health care provider on which thousands of Missourians – often those in vulnerable populations – depend. Not to mention the education spending bill that takes money from public schools and pumps them into private charter schools and vouchers.

Dean Plocher screenshot via YouTube.

Certainly a low point for the session was the thoroughly unsatisfying conclusion of the investigation of House Speaker Dean Plocher, who was under investigation throughout the year for gross violations of the public trust, including lobbying for unneeded and expensive communications software, double billing travel expenses and threatening staffers who dared to truthfully report about his unethical behavior. Although Plocher was publicly called out for obstructing the investigation by the House Ethics Committee and intimidating potential witnesses, the investigation was ultimately dropped. 

The good news is that despite the dysfunction in Jefferson City, voters continue to hold the power to put forth ballot measures that matter to them and to change the tide under the dome.

Power dynamics are always shifting, and anyone watching the goings on in the capitol could plainly see that politics as usual are broken in Missouri. The winds of change are blowing like an afternoon pop-up storm in late spring. This is what a super majority looks like. It’s time to break it.