The Missouri General Assembly opened the 2015 Legislative Session with calls to do more to improve Missouri’s economic competitiveness and to address the issues that led to unrest in Ferguson last year.
The Missouri House of Representatives welcomed a new Speaker of House in Rep. John Diehl, a Republican from Town & Country. In his opening remarks to the House, Rep. Diehl promised to focus on job growth and fiscal discipline.
“There’s an ongoing competition among the states for investment, development and jobs,” said Rep. Diehl. “These days, it’s getting serious and it’s too often a battle we lose. Like any competition, it requires discipline and, above all, spending discipline. Problems cannot be solved just by throwing more money at them and declaring mission accomplished. We must be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and we must insist that our moneys are spent in a more effective and transparent manner. By standing together in support of the families and businesses in Missouri, we will rein in the ever expanding government bureaucracy and foster the freedom of workers and innovators to do what they do best. Together, we will provide the kind of opportunities that will encourage and foster economic growth and job creation. Together, we will challenge our educational systems to put students first and to graduate students at all levels who are ready to compete in the 21st century economy. And together, we will work to ensure the doors of opportunity are open to anyone who wants to and is willing to work hard to put in the work and sacrifice necessary to succeed.”
Also in the House, Minority Floor Leader Rep. Jacob Hummel, a Democrat from St. Louis, said lawmakers should attempt to address the problems that led to the issues Ferguson. He said the state government should work to create more fairness.
“For our society and system of government to function, citizens must have trust in our public institutions and in the people who run them,” said Rep. Hummel. “Trust is difficult when there is widespread perception that the rules are applied on a sliding scale that becomes stricter and more onerous the lower one ranks in the economic system. It is the duty of this General Assembly to begin the process of rebuilding that trust and to eradicate institutionalized injustice wherever it is found.”
In the Senate, Sen. Tom Dempsey was elected again to serve as President Pro Tem. In a news conference, Sen. Dempsey said helping agriculture would be the Senate’s first priority.
“There are still a number of important pieces to support what is an important industry in the state of Missouri—the agricultural sector and the thousands of jobs that agriculture” provides “taking care of people in the state of Missouri and helping them live and take care of their families,” said Sen. Dempsey, a Republican from St. Charles.
Senate Minority Floor Leader Sen. Joe Keaveny said making Missouri more competitive for business expansion should be the Senate’s top goal, with education being the key to attracting new jobs.
“These are very difficult times, there’s a lot of people who think they aren’t a part of the system, that they are being taken advantage of,” said Sen. Keaveny, a Democrat from St. Louis. “I think in order to improve that, we need to provide an environment in the state where companies want to relocate to give better jobs to the people that live here. I believe to do that we need to provide an environment of good health care and good schools. Hopefully coming into this session, we’ll have an environment where we fully fund the school foundation formula. We need to extend preschool in the state, early childhood education. We need to have that for every child in the state. We started down that path with provisionally accredited schools and unaccredited schools but this is an investment we need to (make). “Companies want to come to Missouri and have a place where their employees are comfortable sending their kids to school and we need to provide that environment.”