House and Senate legislative leaders unveiled a broad agenda in opening remarks to the 2013 legislative session that began at noon Wednesday.
House Speaker Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, and Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, called for measures to improve accountability for school teachers, submitting a nearly $1 billion bond issue to voters for building needs, and a package of proposals sought by businesses to reduce their taxes and limit their lawsuit liabilities.
It marked the start of a legislative session than will run until May 17.
Dempsey used the acronym “B-I-G” to summarize his overall objective during this session. This includes building infrastructure, investing in technology, and growing the economy.
Dempsey said improving infrastructure, such as the state’s transportation system, would bring more revenue to the state.
“As you look at us geographically on a map — Missouri being in the center of the country — we should be a hub for the movement of goods and services, and we need to have an infrastructure system that can handle that activity,” Dempsey said.
Jones agreed with Dempsey that the 97th General Assembly should work on economic development and education funding, he also included improving Missouri’s energy policy as a legislative priority.
Dempsey and Jones both said lowering income taxes and fostering a pro-business environment would be a better method to grow the economy than raising taxes. Both of the Republican leaders said they want to address the state’s workers’ compensation laws and 61 tax-credit programs.
“We’re going to be looking to create jobs as best we can,” Jones said. “Government will not create them, but the government will look at what it can do to facilitate that and to remove barriers to innovation and reform.”
The two leaders voiced concerns about the governor’s proposal to expand Medicaid health care coverage as part of the president’s new federal health care law.
With two seats vacant in the House, Republicans hold 109 of 163 House seats and 24 of 34 Senate seats, giving them veto-proof majorities in both chambers.
Despite the GOP majorities in both chambers, House Minority Leader Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis, said Democrats should not be discounted from the legislative process.
“House Democrats stand prepared to work with our Republican friends for the betterment of our state, but we will not be complacent in any action that undermines it,” Hummel said.
Jason Kander, a former state representative, will replace Robin Carnahan as secretary of state on Monday, Jan. 14.