Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Senate Mess

Nothing was accomplished yesterday in the Senate.  Here’s how nothing got accomplished.


In the Beginning

At the beginning of session, SB 498 was “read in” from the House where it passed last week.  This bill had been twice refused last week by Pro Tem Rob Mayer.  It has the funding for the veterans’ homes that is considered crucial for the budget conferees.


But the House version lacks language that’s important to Sen. Jane Cunningham regarding QRS, Quality Ranking System for daycares.  Mayer apparently had been refusing to read in the bill in sympathy with Sen. Jason Crowell who has another version of the bill in his committee.  But Crowell wanted assurance that the Senate would have his back when it comes to his private little war with Speaker Steve Tilley.


Tilley has “earmarked” $2 million for SEMO, Southeast Missouri State University.  Crowell doesn’t want SEMO to get that money.  (For what it’s worth Tilley, Crowell and Mayer all graduated from SEMO).


The Senate started debate with Sen. Mike Parson’s SB 568 which deals with a bunch of random motor vehicle laws.  Parson explained the conference committee report on 568.  And then Crowell took the floor and changed the subject of debate to SB 498.  He was unhappy that it had been “read in,” (and that he hadn’t been extended the courtesy of a heads up about the development).  When Floor Leader Tom Dempsey realized Crowell was starting an extended discussion, Parson set SB 568 aside, and the Senate took up SB 498.



The Gang Reunites

Crowell made a point of relating to Cunningham that he didn’t really care much about QRS, but he would help her filibuster – and he expected her to help him with the SEMO issue when the time came.  That general message also emanated over the course of the next couple of hours from Sens. Rob Schaaf, Jim Lembke, Chuck Purgason and Luann Ridgeway.  This is basically the core of the “gang of nine” from last week which killed the drug-monitoring bill which 48 other states have adopted to prevent prescription-shopping.  They appear to have a pact to support each others’ pet projects/pet peeves, finding their strength sufficient to stop legislation.


Compromise Scuttled

At some point, I think maybe 8pm-ish, Sen. Brad Lager – who skates in and out of the gang of nine – offered the possibility of a compromise.  His idea was for the Senate would commit to a work-group or frame-work or some such structure to tackle funding inequities among higher education institutions in the coming years.  For Tilley had said that his $2 million request for SEMO was based on his pursuit of equity for that university.


So Cunningham traveled to the speakers’ office to present the compromise; Tilley rejected it.


Over the course of the night Crowell repeatedly – like maybe twenty times – said that Tilley was going to be a lobbyist next year, and he was fundraising for sitting state senators and representatives, and that his $1.5 million campaign account was the reason he had influence over other legislators.


Budget Chair Ryan Silvey, apparently listening to the debate, continued his recent tradition of rebutting via twitter: “Hey, remember when Sen. Crowell used to pay a sitting Speaker consulting fees? Yeah, me too. #MoneyWellSpent”



The End

Somewhere around 2am or so, Crowell was recognized to close on one of his motions and he refused to do so.  (Crowell used this technique a few years ago during one of the tax credit battles).  There wasn’t anything to do to take the floor from him in this circumstance except a PQ.  So Sen. Brian Munzlinger withdrew his underlying motion.  And then brought it back up.  Crowell then went through the same parliamentarian procedures however and the Senate once again ended in that stalemate.


After a half-hour or so of that impasse, Dempsey directed that Parson’s motor vehicle be brought back up.  Crowell began weaving his motions to tie that knot up that bill as well.  He explained to the body that he would attempt to stall every single bill in the Senate until his issue with the SEMO money was resolved.


After a civil, but unproductive exchange between Crowell and Parson, the Senate adjourned.  It was 3:30am-ish, and it was Sen. Tom Dempsey’s birthday…



About the PQ

Along the way, Crowell made a habit of laying motions on top of the underlying motion to pass SB 498.  He would move that the motion be indefinitely postponed, then add a definite date on top, and then change the date with a third motion.


The reason he gave for the convoluted process was to make it as painful and time consuming for leadership to PQ him, if it came to that.  PQ is short for calling the previous question which closes debate and allows a vote.  PQ is considered the nukes of the Senate.  Only after all other options have been exhausted do senators even talk about PQ.


The three layered motions would require three different PQs.


PQ requires 18 votes.  And by my count, leadership probably couldn’t find the votes although Crowell’s demeanor wasn’t exactly helping his case by the end of the night.  The math is this: 8 Democrats won’t PQ because they don’t want to be on the receiving end of a PQ ever.  So keep that door closed.  Then add in the Republican “gang of nine” and you’re at 17.  Assuming you could peel one or two of the gang off, you also might have problems getting a PQ vote out of some of the “temperamentally moderate” Republican senators.  It’s a close count.



What Does Crowell Really Want

Three theories were circulating about the motivation of Senate problem child Jason Crowell.


First, he’s offended by Tilley’s earmark and has some ancient grudge involving SEMO, so has decided to do everything humanly possible to stop it.


Second, this all stems from a distain for Appropriations Chair Kurt Schaefer who had a nasty exchange with Crowell maybe four years ago, and the two never got over it.  In this theory Crowell wants to make life as miserable for Schaefer as he can.


The third theory is that Crowell wants to be PQ-ed so that he can use that precedent next week to argue for use of the PQ against Democrats on stalled anti-labor legislation like prevailing wage.




Dirty tricks in the Dem primary in House 37.  Tony’s KC reports that Chris Moreno created a bogus website of his opponent Joe RunionsSee the website Here.  It claims that Runions is anti-god and pro-taxes etc.  Perhaps too clever though, the “paid for” disclaimer looks bogus and will likely bring a MOEthics complaint.



Yesterday the Secretary of State announced the petitions turned in signature certification (Read them Here).  One high profile petition NOT turned in was the renewable energy petition.



Sen. Scott Rupp vowed yesterday to filibuster Rep. Jamilah Nasheed’s SJR 41 if it comes up for debate in the Senate. “HJR 41 would double the amount of years permitted to serve under the Missouri state constitution from eight to sixteen in either chamber. This bill has already passed the Missouri House of Representatives, but I will fight, even filibuster if needed, to keep this proposal from passing in the Senate.”



The House voted 93-59 to defund the Sue Shear Institute, which offers programs to encourage women to run for office.  Critics of SSI say that a disproportionate number of the women are Democrats.  Republicans voting with Dems: Reps. Don Gosen, Lincoln Hough, Caleb Jones, Mike McGhee, Cole McNary, David Sater and Don Wells.



Candidate Withdrawals

Former state representative Mike Vogt withdrew from Senate 1.  That leaves former Rep. Sue Schoemehl and Rep. Scott Sifton to battle for the Democratic nomination.  The winner will face incumbent Sen. Jim Lembke in November.



Lobbyists’ Principals Changes

From the Pelopidas website:


Jewell D. H. Patek added John Bardgett & Associates Inc.

Tricia Workman deleted Wind Capital Group LLC.



$5K+ Contributions

Stand Up Missouri - $9,600 from Security Group Inc.

Committee to Elect Ron Richard - $25,000 from David and Debra Humphreys.

AGC-MO PAC - $11,600 from Branco Enterprises Inc.

Friends of Mike Cunningham - $10,000 from David Humphreys.



Contributions Exegesis

Humphreys have been aggressive Republican donors in an attempt to advance their free-market agenda.  But frankly $10K is kind of chump change for them, and it’s not really a game-changer in Senate 33.




Happy birthdays to Sen. Tom Dempsey (45), and Rep. Jeanie Lauer (58).