Thursday, May 23, 2013

Senate Grades

Pro Tem Tom Dempsey: B+

On the one hand, Dempsey took a complete dysfunctional Senate and produced substantive change and results.  The results: last year 38 Senate bills were TAFP’d.  This year 82 Senate bills were TAFP’d.  That alone would make the case for being in the A range, but it’s just hard to give a pro tem an A when several of the “big” issues didn’t get done.   Dempsey gets a slight mark-up from his teammate, Ron Richard (below), because of the numerous situations where Dempsey was scurrying around as The Fixer, putting an egg back together.  It’s a skill he has clearly mastered – though it may drive him to insanity.

Floor Leader Ron Richard: B

Richard greatly exceeded expectations, but ultimately his tool box seemed limited.  When a bill has momentum, Richard knows how to plow ahead and take it to its conclusion.  But the sticky, the messy, the thorny issues where the lines are drawn along personality or geography rather than partisanship seemed to befuddle the floor leader.  Richard needs a more coherent strategy for the last two weeks (the red zone of the legislative session) if he wants to score touchdowns.

Minority Leader Jolie Justus: A-

Still outgunned, and dealing from a position of deep weakness, Justus displayed the savvy that served her predecessor so well.  Know when to deal, always act respectfully toward the majority, and stay away from deliberately provocative or meaningless posturing.  She played her hand very well.

Mike Parson: A

Amazing recovery after losing the race for floor leader.  The complete opposite of the “funk that sunk” Kevin Engler in a similar situation.  Parson took three innocuous bills (SBs 23, 24, and 83) and sent them to the House to be loaded up, which made him the best friend of anyone looking for a vehicle.  Parson was able to get the Use Tax passed, Right to Farm, and the MO Works Training program. 

Will Kraus: A-

This may be a matter of Kraus exceeded what the expectations were, but he won strong reviews.  Kraus changed his perceived place in the Senate by hopping off the filibuster wagon.  He quit opposing all imperfect ideas and began promoting viable options for change.  The most visible manifestation of this change was his signature on the tax credit reform conference committee report.  He’s now trying to get things done (his big tax cut bill for example), and that means not opposing others’ efforts because they’re not exactly what you want.

Scott Rupp: B+

Nearing the end of his senate career and thus battling senior-it is, Rupp lent his Midas touch to the vexing Second Injury Fund problem.  Always prepared on the floor, always with a disarming sense of humor, the younger senators should be taking notes.

Eric Schmitt: B+

The Schmitt who was martyred on the cross of Aerotropolis has given way to a less passionate, more resilient senator.  He never got emotionally invested in economic development this year, and maybe that detachment helped him move a few of the smaller items to the governor’s desk.  Schmitt excelled on the floor where he demonstrated a dedication to preparation.  For example, when the liquor franchise bill was grafted onto one of his bills, he boned up on the issue to debate Sen. Kurt Schaefer blow-for-blow over the somewhat arcane legal history of the case.  But Schmitt’s shining moment in this legislative session came early when he extended a courtesy to a fellow senator who wanted to offer amendments after debate had closed.  It helped set the tone for the new “functional” Senate.

Maria Chappelle-Nadal: B

One of the Dems more reliable filibusterers, in past sessions Chappelle-Nadal had taken to highly personal attacks against Rex Sinquefield which only seemed to diminish the substance of her arguments.  Without Sinquefield as a foil, she was able to articulate her case more forcefully. 

Kurt Schaefer: B

On the one hand, Schaefer found and made great hay over the Nixon administration’s various stumbles: buying an airplane, document scanning scandal etc.  On the other hand, there seemed a near mutiny brewing near the end of session over his handling of the budget.  The former may help him in some greater political ambitions, but the latter represents a challenge to his near-term effectiveness in the Senate.

Mike Kehoe: B-

Kehoe gets an A for proposing bills of substance and vision.  They may have been controversial, but being progressive without fearing political consequences is rare, and that is how real change happens.  Still Kehoe gets a B- because he needs to work on his inside game to get the big ideas passed.  Whether it’s working the other side of the building more or relying less on the Senate leadership for leadership, Kehoe needs to rethink his strategy for next session.

Rob Schaaf: C

On the policy side, Schaaf had a noteworthy session.  The two special interests groups he clashes with the most, and they are often epic clashes, he sat down with and reached compromise on.  HB351 represented a first-ever Schaaf-Missouri Hospital Association compromise.  And SB262 contained compromise language between Schaaf and Blue Cross.  Still stylistically, Sen. Rob Schaaf could do much better.  Much better.  And that combined with his readiness to kill bills – helped kill or killed several priorities: ISRS, tax credit reform, the transportation tax, the Major Brands bill – give him the image of Dr. No, and make him one of the most isolated senators.

John Lamping: C-

The person who ran as a different kind of Republican had a session that looked like someone positioning himself for a statewide primary.  Whether it was denouncing Medicaid expansion, killing the transportation tax, or railing against Common Core, this John Lamping sounds quite different from the Lamping who won a Democratic-leaning district in 2010.

Freshmen Republicans: B

Although there were exceptions – like Sen. Ryan Silvey challenging the Appropriations Chair over the budget conference – the freshmen Republican senators mostly kept their head down.  In particular Sens. Ed Emery, Wayne Wallingford, Gary Romine, and Doug Libla built a lot of goodwill and cultivated relationships that will serve them well in the future.  (It should be noted that Silvey had a very good session legislatively advancing issues previously blocked by his predecessor, and winning big on the North Kansas City hospital issue.)

Freshmen Democrats: B+

The new class of Democrats infused their caucus will much needed fresh air, and fresh legs.  Sens. Jason Holsman, Paul LeVota, Scott Sifton and Gina Walsh all appear to be potential understudies for Justus’ minority leader role.  Meanwhile Sen. Jamilah Nasheed injected a dose of passion and unpredictability to the floor which is helpful for the caucus as a whole.

Hill to BMW

Matt Hill, formerly a lobbyist with John Britton before going out on his own last year, has made a career switch.  In a letter sent to lobbyist colleagues, Hill announces that he’s joined Machens BMW in Columbia.  Hill writes, “What you drive is important especially working in and around state government.  An automobile is a reflection of your personality…”


What does my Mazda 5 minivan say about my personality? Wait, don’t answer that.  Let’s just move on….

Funderburk Clarifies His Criticism

On Facebook yesterday Rep. Doug Funderburk sought to clarify his provocative floor remarks…

“Based on feedback I've received from various sources, I may need to clarify exactly what I was concerned about last Thursday night on the House floor. My frustrations were based on my differences with Noranda and the Majority Floor Leader and how this issue was handled. Noranda and its affiliates were using misleading information in an attempt to sway votes their way and reportedly making hefty promises to anyone who would support them. At no point was Speaker Tim Jones involved and, in fact, has always been a supporter of ISRS and responsible regulatory reform.”

eMailbag: Reader Tired of Me

“So first you rant and rave about a perceived problem then list anonymous sources praising you.


$5K+ Contributions

Dooley for St. Louis County - $10,000 from Slay for Mayor.


Happy birthdays to Zach Monroe.

MOScout Schedule

Out of session means no Friday updates.  But tomorrow look for “House Grades” and then the Weekly Summary.  “Who Won the Week” will resume next week.  And no update on Monday (Memorial Day).