As Legislature Returns, Whose Priorities Will Take Priority?
Happy New Year! After a lackluster 2023 legislative session, hope springs eternal for 2024 as the Missouri Legislature returns to do the people’s work in Jefferson City this week. Show-Me Institute analysts have shared ideas for legislative priorities in the 2024 Blueprint, and over the winter break I reiterated some discrete ways of improving governance in the state.
But even the best-laid plans can go awry, so how optimistic are legislators that items important to taxpayers will get across the finish line this year? As an article in the Missouri Independent emphasizes, it depends on who you ask:
“I mean, I think we’ll get things done,” said Senate Majority Leader Cindy O’Laughlin, a Shelbina Republican. “Will we get everything done that we want to do? No, we never do. But I’m an optimist.”
Democrats and Republicans share many of the same goals, O’Laughlin said, and progress can be made if people are willing to sit down and talk about how to reach those goals.
The Missouri House has generally been effective in advancing good legislation in the last few years, often only to be stifled in the Senate. The real question for whether 2024 will be “successful” hinges on how the Missouri Senate, now in an election year, handles its business. Will the majority party see itself often split, with leadership joining with the minority party to pass or stop legislation as it did in 2023? Will the majority party use Previous Question motions to scuttle filibusters from all quarters to pass its priorities? Will we see a mix of the two? Or will the chamber mostly be mired in dysfunction and nothing really gets done (again)?
How the factions in the Senate align will play an enormous role in what actually gets done in 2024. With a handful of exceptions, the last few years have been littered with missed opportunities, primarily because the Senate has alternated between watering down important measures or not passing them at all. So 2024 is a Yoda moment of sorts, especially for Missouri’s outgoing senators; lawmakers have entered “do or do not, there is no try” territory if they want to build a legacy before they leave the legislature for good. Giving lip service to good legislation isn’t going to cut it this time around.
What’s ultimately done (or not) remains to be seen, and we at the Show-Me Institute will keep you posted as the session progresses. But I hope that all Missouri legislators will set aside their squabbling and make decisions that keep the good- and limited-government promises made to their constituents. If they do, 2024 could be a banner year for the state, but if they don’t, well, this year will look a lot like last year. And that would be unfortunate.