A quick and quiet quitting

Four senators adjourn for day while others out of chamber
Thursday, April 22, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:21 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — With Republican senators out of the chamber during floor debate Wednesday, Columbia state Sen. Ken Jacob told four other Democrats to snatch control and adjourn for the day to prevent debate on a bill to limit liability lawsuit awards.

The move angered Republicans — and some Democrats — who said it violated Senate customs and traditions.

Sen. Wayne Goode, D-St. Louis, was one of those offended by the move.

“It’s perhaps the greatest breach of trust I have seen in the Senate in the 42 years I have been in the General Assembly,” he said.

Republicans, Jacob absent when adjournment call made

Jacob, the Senate minority leader, said he gave Sen. Joan Bray, D-University City, a note saying to move to adjourn if all Republicans left the chamber at any point. Jacob said he suggested the call for adjournment in order to delay the lawsuit legislation. He was not in the Senate chamber when the move to adjourn was made.

Jacob said only so many bills can be passed in the remaining days of the session. He said he dislikes a number of the Republican bills, including lawsuit liability, which would limit the amount juries could award to individuals for pain and suffering.

“To me, the more of that legislation that doesn’t pass, the better off the people of this state will be,” he said.

Goode said the call for adjournment is a sign of the move toward more partisanship in the state Senate — something he believes Missourians don’t want.

Move likely to stifle future debate

While Democrats were able to exercise power with the call for adjournment Wednesday, the minority party may have a more difficult time getting its voice heard in the remaining 3½ weeks of the session.

Republicans said they are more likely to use a procedural move to shut off debate and force an immediate vote on a bill. Traditionally this is not done in the Senate, happening only a handful of times in its history.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, said Republicans will move to shut off debate for a vote as often as is needed.

“The majority will respond, as any majority would, to move the agenda — and that will now happen with dispatch,” he said.

Republicans blames selves for absence

Kinder said his party was partly to blame for giving Democrats the opportunity to adjourn. As often happens, many senators were out of the chamber to eat lunch or meet with others. Kinder was just outside the chamber listening to the debate and arrived in the chamber moments after adjournment.

Kinder said the Senate will probably meet Friday — and possibly over the weekend — to make up for the loss of Wednesday, but he said he is not concerned about its ability to complete the budget on time. The constitutional deadline for the legislature’s completion of the budget is May 7.

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