As lawmakers began the 2019 legislative session on Jan. 9, we took note that we were marking a milestone – the 100th time a new class of legislators had gathered since Missouri’s statehood in 1821. Mindful of the historic significance, the First Regular Session of the 100th General Assembly of the State of Missouri got underway in typical fashion, with ceremony and traditional rituals.
Over in the House of Representatives, 163 members – the entire body – began their two-year terms of office by reciting their oath of office. In the Missouri Senate chamber, where terms last four years, 17 members elected since the body adjourned in 2018 did the same. Nine of those members are brand new to the Senate.
The Senate began the year’s work by electing a new president pro tem and reading more than 250 pre-filed bills and motions into the record. The remainder of the first day’s business centered on introduction of guests and a number of routine parliamentary procedures required by law. Some of the activities may seem mysterious to visitors in the gallery, but they contribute to the august atmosphere of Missouri’s upper legislative chamber.
The formal air of the Senate relaxed fairly quickly as the body adjourned and members retired to hallways and offices to greet guests and reconnect with their legislative colleagues. The first day of session is largely a social event at the Capitol and plenty of time is set aside for friends, family and constituents.
In my own case, I welcomed a number of visitors to my office. I was especially pleased to meet with a courageous 9-year-old from Springfield. Izabella has spina bifida and hydrocephalus. She is just one of many children who would benefit from the passage of Senate Bill 45, which would expand insurance coverage for a number of developmental disabilities not currently included in most plans.
Many of the visitors in the Capitol stayed to enjoy the evening festivities of the Legislative Ball. Similar to the Governor’s Ball, which is scheduled following inauguration, this gala is a semi-formal affair, though all guests are welcome. Open to the public, the ball attracts many local residents and offers a tremendous opportunity for lawmakers to mingle with constituents. A highlight of the evening is the Grand March. Each legislator is introduced and descends the sweeping staircase of the Capitol Rotunda with their family members.
While the first week of session is one of pomp and circumstance, the Legislature will quickly turn to the business of governing. In the next few days, our leadership will announce committee assignments and bills will be submitted at a furious pace. We also look forward to the governor delivering his State of the State address and presenting a budget to the General Assembly. Just as you must balance your checkbook at home, Missouri lawmakers must balance the state budget. Making the numbers work is a difficult, but critically important task.
I’m excited about the start of the new legislative session and look forward to getting to work. My hope is that we can hit the ground running in the coming weeks and focus on making Missouri a better place to live and work.
As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at 573-751-4302. You may also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.