JEFFERSON CITY — Senators "kumbaya'd" during Wednesday morning's session — literally.
Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, and Sen. Kiki Curls, D-Kansas City, sang a few bars of the classic spiritual, but their attempt at fostering collegiality was short-lived as no other senators audibly joined in and no progress on any bills happened during the rest of the day.
"I'm at my wit's end," Dixon later said of the inaction. "It's the worst thing I've seen in 15 years."
Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, handed out a list of 79 bills that he said "several" senators — he wouldn't name them — had concluded wouldn't face opposition and so could easily be passed in the closing days of the session, which ends May 12. But under a deal forced on Monday by a group of senators led by Schaaf, nothing can be discussed until his dark money bill is heard. No action has taken place in the Senate since then, as the senators warned that they would filibuster any attempt to bring up other bills.
"You have been able to hijack this session, this chamber, without repercussions," Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, told Schaaf on the Senate floor, "and now you've dropped a ransom note."
"I didn't hijack anything," Schaaf replied.
He said the purpose of the list was to help the Senate accomplish as much as possible in the limited time remaining before the session ends May 12.
"We're not telling anyone what to do," Schaaf said.
Even before Monday, the Senate has been bogged down with filibusters and stalling. Schaaf and other senators have read book excerpts on the floor. As of Wednesday, 11 bills had been sent to the governor's desk. Last year, 34 bills had been passed by this point in the session. Two years ago, it was 40.
Dixon said in his time as a representative and senator, there's always tension at the end of session. But "then things cut lose and start moving."
Schaaf's dark money bill would mandate nonprofits disclose some financial information. The nonprofit associated with Gov. Eric Greitens, A New Missouri Inc., has not disclosed its donors, and, recently, it published Schaaf's personal cell phone number in an online ad critical of the senator.
During the morning session, Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, said he supports Schaaf's requirement that nothing be discussed until the dark money bill is debated.
"I can't believe anyone in this chamber thinks what happened to you is a good thing," Libla said about A New Missouri Inc. releasing Schaaf's cell number.
Republicans, in control of the General Assembly, have been behind much of the stalling, but a Democrat jumped in Wednesday.
Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis, said she was willing to try to shut the session down if one of her bills wasn't debated on the floor.
The bill, SB 22, would allow people who live in an area with contaminated groundwater to sell their house for fair market value to the Department of Natural Resources. Chappelle-Nadal has said throughout the session the contamination in her district is life-threatening. She wants to make sure homes next to a contaminated landfill in her district are included and that the measure passes.
"If we can't save lives, we don't need to be here," she said, adding that if the bill isn't heard, "I will personally shut (the Senate) down."
In the afternoon, the Senate met for about five minutes to hear announcements — including a reminder to attend the Senate Crab Boil that night at 6 p.m.
The Senate then adjourned to allow a conference committees to hash out details of the budget, which is due Friday. After that, the General Assembly will only have one week to pass any other laws — unless a special session is called.
According to officials with the House and Senate, a special session could cost anywhere from about $80,000 to $140,000 a week.
Dixon said that while some of his constituents are happy with the fact that bills they don't agree with are stuck in gridlock, others are more concerned with the lack of progress. One issue in particular that concerns people in his district is that if the General Assembly doesn't pass a Real ID bill, Missouri drivers licenses will no longer work as ID to get on airplanes and into facilities such as military bases.
"Most people.... they just want their drivers license to work," he said.
Natalia Alamdari, Emily Sheppard and Meg Hilling contributed to this report.
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