JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers continued sparring Tuesday over what they see as efforts to hold legislation hostage as the end of the 2019 session looms.
After filibustering Monday until the day’s session was halted, Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, stalled for three more hours on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon because of his frustration with the inaction of a House committee that he said has held up legislation sponsored by him and other members of the Senate Conservative Caucus.
Hoskins said members of the committee are using other bills as political pawns in a battle to push through legislation that would create a statewide prescription drug monitoring program.
“I am not going to reward the hypocrisy and play political games with veterans and children as the House Rules Committee is doing right now in order to reward them with a prescription drug-monitoring program, which the House Conservative Caucus voted against,” Hoskins said.
One of the two bills cited by Hoskins, known as HAILEY’s Law, aims to improve the state’s Amber Alert system. The other would extend the lifespan of the state’s Veteran’s Survivor Grant program beyond 2020.
Although both were referred to the House Rules Committee in April, neither was discussed during the committee’s hearing Tuesday morning.
Hoskins said he can’t act like everything is “hunky-dory” while the committee plays “political games” to get its prescription drug monitoring bill passed.
After more than three hours of filibustering, senators allowed some House bills to be debated in what they said was a show of good faith that the House committee would take action on some of their legislation Wednesday.
Senate Floor Leader Caleb Rowden said he had spoken with members of the House and was hopeful they would pick up Senate bills and “work hard” on them Wednesday.
“I think they’ll recognize the work that we’re doing on their stuff, and I think they’re going to operate in the same manner.
“I think everybody is in agreement that there are a number of things that we want to get done, and we’re all going to work together to make that happen,” Rowden, R-Columbia, said when asked if Senate leadership offered the Senate Conservative Caucus a concession so the filibuster would end.
Hoskins said he has not given up, saying he would “call it more of a pause.”
“I don’t want to punish all House members that have some other priorities on House bills just because a couple (committee) chairmen ... over in the House are holding hostage Senate bills,” he said
He said he hopes this gives committee leadership “time to reconsider their position.”
If the Senate does discuss prescription drug monitoring, more debate is certain. The bill would make Missouri the final state to establish a prescription drug tracking database, and Hoskins and others in the caucus say they have privacy concerns.
“We believe putting law-abiding citizens in a database is not a good idea for the state of Missouri, and it’s not a good idea for our fellow Missourians,” Hoskins said. “Why as law-abiding citizens ... do they want their names on some database that tells what prescription drugs they’ve been prescribed?”
Proponents of the bill, which passed out of the House in February, argue the program would help the state tackle its growing opioid epidemic.
Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, chairs the House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee, and she is also the sponsor of HB 188. She was unavailable for comment Tuesday afternoon after the House adjourned earlier in the day.
Representatives couldn’t seem to agree on why the House floor adjourned so early, or how much value Tuesday’s session had. The House voted on a handful of bills and spent much of its time on a resolution about the federal Green New Deal.
Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, said that while he expects the House to have a productive day Wednesday, his confidence wasn’t as high regarding his Senate colleagues.
“When you have grown adults that can’t function when they are in the same room together when they’re sent down here for the people they represent, it’s disheartening. It’s embarrassing,” Schroer said.
Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, said that the House is focused on passing the budget for the upcoming year but that other bills are still on its radar.
“I think there’s a reason to be concerned that some good bills could be, as I said, defeated or have the clock run out on them,” Kendrick said.
Rep. Tommie Pierson Jr., D-St. Louis, described what the House did on Tuesday as “time-fillers.”
“I think you have to look at the leadership in the House and Senate and see how a lot of times they are their own worst enemy in how they are fighting and arguing amongst themselves,” Pierson Jr. said.
With the clock ticking down, some legislators remain confident that they will carry out their full agenda.
“I have full faith in our leadership that the next week and half will be very productive,” Schroer said. “That’s all we have left.”