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Analysis: Missouri's Legislative Session 2014 to be Remembered for its Partisanship, Ideological

Mo. Capitol/Credit: Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

Friday marked the last day of the Missouri legislative session this year.  That means lawmakers go home for the rest of the year, and then come back to Jefferson City again in January for a new session. 

Phill Brooks, the longest serving journalist in the statehouse, said this year's session will go down in history as a "mixed bag" for Democratic Governor Jay Nixon.

"He had his veto of a tax cut bill overridden--that he had travelled around the state trying to rally opposition to for more than a year," Brooks said. Also, the issue of Medicaid Expansion, which has been championed by Nixon, essentially went nowhere in the House and Senate.

But Nixon also scored some major victories out of this sesssion, says Brooks.

"The state is creating an early pre-kindergarten childhood education program he had called for," Brooks said.  Also, lawmakers bought into Nixon's call to rebuild an old, dilapidated mental health facility in Fulton, Missouri.

"And he got legislative approval for some pretty major education spending increases," Brooks said.

The one thing that has struck Brooks this year as standing out, he said, is the rigidity and degree of ideological purity in both parties, and the discipline they will use to enforce that rigidity.

"Not every Republican was happy about voting for that tax cut bill. In fact, one complained to me about the enormous pressure that he came under to vote to override the governor's veto," Brooks said.

Similarly, one Democrat lawmaker sided with Republicans to vote to override the veto, then the next day was stripped of all committee assignments by the House Democratic leader.

Also, at the beginning of the session, Senate Republicans blocked the nomination of one of their House colleagues nominated for a state job by the governor--he was blocked, Brooks said, becuase he was one of the 15 Republicans who voted to sustain the governor's veto the year before.

"That's a level of party discipline, of rigidity, of punsishment that I don't recall over the decades I've covered this place," Brooks said. "We have a very rigid, partisan structure in Missouri's General Assembly -- less so in the Senate, but it's still there."

That will be an interesting issue to follow after the general elections this fall, Brooks said.