JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers returned to the state Capitol on Wednesday, starting their 2014 session with little legislative heavy-lifting on opening day. The session runs through mid-May.
Here are five things to know about the Missouri legislative session:
1. FORMALITIES: After the House and Senate convened at noon, lawmakers spent the first day with formalities. House Speaker Tim Jones outlined his priorities for the session in a speech to fellow legislators. Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey did not give a speech and began introduction of new legislation.
2. MONEY AND SCHOOLS: The Republican-led Legislature plans to try again at enacting an income-tax cut after the proposal last year was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. Disagreement also has arisen about how much money is available for the state budget taking effect July 1. Legislative budget leaders have said they agreed to an estimate without Nixon and that the governor wanted a higher number. Nixon already has said his budget will include tens of millions of dollars focused on higher education. Dempsey has made addressing a student transfer law for unaccredited districts a key priority. About 2,000 students already have transferred from their home districts near St. Louis and more could follow suit in Kansas City. Jones wants to prohibit payment of union fees as a condition for employment.
3. THE CALENDAR: Legislative hearings are to begin next week, and the House has not scheduled a formal floor session until Tuesday. Nixon is to release his budget recommendations and deliver his State of the State speech on Jan. 21. The next benchmark is a weeklong break in March that has marked the session's traditional halfway point. After spring break will come crunch time and deadlines: May 9 for passage of a state budget and May 16 to pass legislation.
4. PARTISAN IMBALANCES: Republicans hold overwhelming majorities in the Senate and House. But they no longer can count upon a veto-proof supermajority in the House because one GOP member left for Congress and a second resigned after he was appointed to the state parole board. House Republicans hold a 108-52 majority with three vacancies. The GOP controls the state Senate by a veto-proof 24-9 margin with one vacancy.
5. THE POLITICS: Many lawmakers will be able to kick off their next political campaigns during the legislative session. Candidacy filling runs Feb. 25 to March 25. One House Democrat is planning to skip re-election to run for state auditor. Legislative term limits mean others will be barred from remaining in their current chamber. Three senators and 10 House members cannot seek re-election to their current seats.