Newly elected State Senators take the oath of office Wednesday, during opening ceremonies in the Senate chamber at the Missouri State Capitol. (Dick Aldrich/Missouri News Horizon)
JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -
The Missouri Legislature convened its 2013 session Wednesday with the largest contingent of Republican lawmakers since the Civil War era who are pledging to cut taxes for residents and revamp the state's business incentives to boost the economy.
The 97th General Assembly, which runs until May 17, kicked off with bold promises from GOP leaders to get past the internal gridlock of the past couple of years and enact an agenda focused on economic growth and education.
About one-third of the members in both the House and Senate are freshmen — potentially raising the learning curve but also resulting in a fresh opportunity for some issues that have gotten bogged down in the past, such as an overhaul of state tax credit programs.
Legislators say it will be interesting to see how the Republican majority works with Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.
Republicans control 24 of the 34 Senate seats and 109 of the 163 House seats with two vacancies. Those supermajorities provide just enough votes for Republicans to override vetoes by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, if all the GOP lawmakers stick together.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say economic development is top a priority to bring jobs to the state of Missouri.
"We'll move forward on job creation, whatever the cost," Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, declared Wednesday.
It is unclear how the Republican super majority will affect this legislative session.
"A super-majority of Missourians supports the House and our agenda. And I hope that helps Gov. Nixon want to visit with us more and negotiate with us more," Speaker of the House Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said.
Nixon wants lawmakers to expand Medicaid coverage for lower-income adults, as envisioned by President Barack Obama's health care law. But Republican legislative leaders restated their reluctance to do so Wednesday, citing fears about the potential long-term costs.
"There is no question that Republicans have a super majority in the state of Missouri. So it will be interesting to see. We have a Democratic governor and a Republican super majority in the House and the Senate. So it will be interesting to see how those two sides work together," said Jolie Justus, D-10th District.
Because of the large majority of Republicans in the Missouri House, this will be a veto proof session, meaning the governor will not be able to veto any legislation passed by the Republican majority because they can override that veto.
The Republican agenda includes business-friendly changes to the state's legal system and workers' compensation process for injured employees; a bonding proposal for public colleges, universities and state buildings; restrictions on union powers such as automatic paycheck deductions; and a wide-ranging education platform that could include limits on teacher tenure and a new evaluation system for school personnel. Republicans also could pursue a ballot measure asking voters to approve a new transportation funding plan.
In Kansas, lawmakers go back to work on Jan. 14.
One of the proposals filed early would be a change in the law that provides tuition assistance for members of the Kansas National Guard.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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