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story.lead_photo.caption Representatives toss papers in the air Friday during the last day of session. Photo by Mark Wilson / Fulton Sun.

Even the Democrats agreed, Gov. Mike Parson had a good legislative session.

"He got a lot of what he wanted," Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, told reporters Friday evening. "We all worked together."

She noted that, a year ago, Eric Greitens still was governor and tensions were running high over the possibility he might be impeached, in addition to his sometimes-controversial relations with the Legislature.

"It was kind of pleasant to have somebody you could sit and talk to, and work with," Walsh said.

Even when people disagreed, she added, "The work atmosphere around here was a lot better than it was a year ago."

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, agreed "it was a good first year for him. The best I can tell, (the governor) batted 1,000."

Rowden added: "There were things that obviously weren't without controversy and weren't without some pushback — but were things generally that I think both sides of the (political) aisle were able to latch onto.

"And they presented a good case."

For Republicans, the first year of the 100th Missouri General Assembly was one to celebrate, House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, told reporters.

"Without hyperbole — I believe it to be the most successful policy session that I have been a part of in my seven years in the Legislature," Haahr said during a post-session news conference by the Republican caucus. "We passed 94 bills that were truly agreed and sent to the governor's desk."

That was 5.32 percent of the 1,766 bills that originally were introduced.

Abortion

Maybe the most noteworthy — and the one getting national attention — was the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act, which Haahr described as "the most comprehensive pro-life law in the nation."

Missouri on Friday became the eighth state to pass strict abortion bans this year, joining Ohio, Utah, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. It still needs Parson's signature to become law.

"I think we accomplished a lot this session," Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, said, mentioning the "very contentious" pro-life bill.

"The yeoman's work on that (abortion bill) from both sides" was proof the Senate can work to get things done, she said.

"My colleagues in this Senate, from both parties, work well together — and we try very hard to represent our districts," Riddle added.

It's "shameful, scary" that Republicans did not include exemptions for incidents of rape or incest in the bill, House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said during the post-session minority caucus news conference.

"It's no secret that it was designed for a court challenge," Quade said. "They're trying to overturn Roe v. Wade. It's no secret."

Parson promised to sign the bill — although he didn't say how quickly that would happen.

He said he wasn't concerned that exceptions for rape and incest were not included in the bill.

"I believe the (unborn) child has rights," the governor said.

Agriculture

During this session, House Democrats fought for counties to retain local control over contained animal feeding operations (CAFOs), Quade said.

But state Agriculture Director Chris Chinn said the bill lawmakers passed gives the state "a consistent regulatory framework to help us build our rural communities and bring that next generation back home to our family farms and ranches."

Quade said House Democrats also opposed efforts to tell local communities how to run their school districts, demanded answers from the Missouri Department of Revenue on taxation questions and "ultimately forced the resignation of its director," she said.

The Legislature passed three different criminal justice reforms, Haahr said, several workforce development laws, tort reform, the CAFO measure and protections for children.

Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz also highlighted the tort reform bills, saying they will "streamline judicial proceedings, lower costs to Missourians' businesses and consumers."

Education funding

Schatz and Haahr pointed to a record level of state aid to public schools, fully funding the state's K-12 foundation formula.

The formula is the basis for distributing state education funding to Missouri's public school districts, and it's calculated using attendance figures, adequacy of education, costs of living in a community and how much local taxes contribute to a local district's operations.

At the same time, Senate Appropriations Chairman Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, said: "We added to the core funding of higher education."

But, Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, noted the Senate's Conservative Caucus led the fight to make sure taxpayer money didn't subsidize college costs for students who are in the United States illegally — even those students brought to the country when they were children.

Bridge bonding

The General Assembly passed the balanced budget, which includes $100 million for infrastructure. It also passed the bonding bill intended to pay for repairing or replacing 215 Missouri highway bridges.

Transportation Director Patrick McKenna said on Friday those bonds can't be sold unless the state wins a grant from the federal government to help replace the Interstate 70 bridge over the Missouri River at Rocheport.

"What we do have, as a done-deal in the budget, is the first $50 million" to repair or replace 35 bridges that already have been identified, he said.

"We have a plan in place to have them under contract by the end of this calendar year," McKenna said.

He said the state won't know about the Rocheport bridge grant — and whether the bonding plan will go into effect — until September or October.

Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, who just finished his fifth year in the Legislature, called the bridge bonding plan "a significant path forward on rebuilding our bridges," and said using $50 million in general revenue money to address 35 of the total 251 bridges in the plan "a smart way to do it, without going into too much debt."

Schatz, R-Sullivan, said: "We took decisive action to repair and replace hundreds of failing bridges in Missouri."

The Legislature also passed a new helmet law, which would allow riders 18 and older to forgo helmets — if they carry insurance to cover accidents.

Wind energy,
eminent domain

One of the things that didn't get passed that he would like to see go through, Haahr said, is a prohibition on eminent domain.

Lawmakers proposed to block the Public Service Commission's approval of the Grain Belt Express plan to build high-voltage transmission lines across eight northern Missouri counties, that would carry wind-generated electricity from western Kansas to the Illinois-Indiana border.

The PSC's approval means the company can use eminent domain to pay for the right to build the line on land where the owner doesn't want it — just as other utilities or the Transportation Department can do.

But the bill to block Grain Belt's eminent domain power failed.

"We started that after spring break," Haahr said. "It was sort of 'Hail Mary,' and try to get that done this year. I still maintain that our private property rights are absolutely important."

No House Democrat-sponsored bills passed through the General Assembly, Quade said.

"This was the first time since Republicans took control of the House that the majority leader did not approve a single bill from us," she said. "So few of our members got hearings, it was laughable."

Being in a superminority and not getting bills heard is difficult, she said.

"It's tough," Quade added. "What's next for us is we keep working. We keep digging. We keep fighting for our constituents in our districts, and we work tirelessly."

Senate Democrats didn't have the same problem, Gina Walsh said.

"Our members sent important provisions to the governor's desk," she said, including protections from unlicensed day care operations, expungement of criminal records for some, allowing domestic violence victims to break leases, and dealing with blighted and nuisance properties.

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