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Precidents in 1995 Session

By: Bureau Staff
State Capital Bureau

May 12, 1995

JEFFERSON CITY _ Legislators on both sides of the aisle concede the 1995 legislative session was one of the most acrimonious in recent years. It also was one of the most unusual.

From the first week of the session in January to the last week in May, lawmakers racked up a long list of historical precedents or near precedents.

Actions that had not been seen in recent memory going back 25 years include:

* The House voting board is held open for hours longer than anybody can remember. Details: On the opening day of the session, the Secretary of State refuses to tally the vote for Speaker pro tem in order to give Democrats more time to scrounge up enough votes to win the race. Republicans had won over enough Democrats opposed to the Democratic leadership to deny the Democratic leadership candidates a majority.

* The majority party in the House fails to elect officers on the opening day of the session. Details: After keeping the voting board open all afternoon on the Speaker pro tem race on the opening day, Democrats can come no closer than a tie vote and give up for the day. The next day, they are able to win back one Democrat defector and secure victory.

* The House operates without formal rules for the entire session. Details: Republicans propose rules that would strip power from the House Democratic leadership. Fearful that there enough dissatisfied Democrats to give Republicans a majority on the rules dispute, the Democratic leadership simply refuses to bring rules before the House. As a result, the House is forced to operate under "temporary" rules from the previous year's session.

* The House leadership is decimated by absenteeism. Details: Recovering from heart surgery and a stroke, Majority Leader Bob Ward, D-Bonne Terre, makes only occasional visits to Jefferson City. The powers of his office in managing the daily agenda of the House are assumed by the assistant majority leader. House Speaker Pro Tem Jim Barnes, D-Raytown, is removed from the powerful Rules Committee because his absences threaten to deny Democrats a majority vote on the committee in the rules dispute.

* The House speaker is under a federal criminal investigation with FBI agents interviewing lawmakers in the Capitol during the session. Details: The U.S. Justice Department continued its investigation into House Speaker Bob Griffin, D-Cameron, throughout the entire session. Late in the session, FBI agents appear at the Capitol to interview lawmakers about why a Democrat switched his vote in January's House leadership election that assured Griffin's re-election as speaker.

* The House experiences a real, Senate-type filibuster that blocks action for days. Details: Holding a majority in the House, anti-abortion legislators filibuster in an effort to force the leadership to allow an anti-abortion bill to come out of committee for full House consideration.

* A ruling by the House speaker is overturned by the full House. Details: Anti-abortion legislators eventually end their filibuster with a motion overturn a ruling by Griffin. Griffin acknowledges it is the first time in his 15 years as speaker and the first time he can remember than a speaker's ruling was rejected by the House.

* A bill is stripped from committee and approved by the House. Details: The anti-abortion bill, stripped from committee, is passed by the House. Bills occasionally have been taken from committee over the years. But before, the House leadership has been able to block a full House vote.

* A bill is vetoed by the governor before the close of the session. Details: The governor's veto of the anti-abortion bill within 24 hours of legislative passage tosses the bill back to the legislature with more than a week remaining in the session. Normally, bills are vetoed after the legislature adjourns. Both the constitution and Senate rules are unclear on how to handle a bill that is vetoed while the legislature is still in session.

* A lieutenant governor of the same party as the governor casts a tie-breaking vote in the Senate against the governor's position. Details: The House removed a Senate-approved provision to the concealed weapons bill that submitted the issue to Missouri voters. Gov. Mel Carnahan said he wanted the matter be submitted to the voters. But when the bill returns from the House, however, Lt. Gov. Roger Wilson votes against a motion to reaffirm the Senate's position for a statewide vote on the issue.

* A filibuster is conducted by the Senate's majority leader, who controls the order of business in the Senate. Details: Majority Leader J.B. "Jet" Banks, D-St. Louis, launches into a filibuster in the closing days of the session to stop passage of the concealed-weapons bill. Filibusters regularly occur in the Senate, but not by the majority leader who has powers that usually allow him to kill bills in less disruptive ways.

* The governor gives encouragement to a Senate filibuster. Details: Carnahan says if the legislature won't agree to submit the concealed-weapons bill to the voters, he wants the bill killed and, the governor adds, a filibuster is one way to kill legislation. Governors usually oppose filibusters since they block action on other bills the administration wants passed.

* A Senator announces on the floor he has been threatened for his actions to kill a bill. Details: In reaffirming his intention to filibuster the concealed-weapons bill, Banks told the Senate he had gotten threatening calls from concealed weapons supporters. The Highway Patrol investigates the matter and assigns troopers to the Senate visitor's gallery. Several years ago, another Senator had been threatened because of his legislative actions, but it was not made a public issue of debate.

* A bill is sent into procedural limbo with neither the House nor the Senate having clear responsibility for the bill. Details: After Banks reports he has been threatened, the sponsor of the concealed weapons bill, Sen. Harold Caskey, D-Butler, gets unanimous Senate approval for a message to the House asking for a House-Senate conference committee to meet on the bill. But Caskey explicitly does not include the bill itself with the message. Without a bill, there technically is nothing for the conference committee to consider. Without a bill attached to the message, the House rejects the request as improper.

* On the Senate floor, the Senate president pro tem grabs a pistol from another senator, points it at his head and pulls the trigger. Details: Thankfully, the pistol is a toy. At times during the concealed weapons bill, Banks has worn a holster holding toy pistols to demonstrate his opposition to the bill. As the Senate was returning from a recess in the last week of the session, Senate President Pro Tem Jim Mathewson, D-Sedalia, grabs one of Bank's toy pistols and shoots himself to express his frustrations with the session.

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