The Missouri Legislature convened its 2013 session Wednesday with the largest contingent of Republican lawmakers since the Civil War era pledging to cut taxes for residents and revamp the state's business incentives to boost the economy.
The 97th General Assembly, which runs until May 17, kicked off with bold promises from GOP leaders to get past the internal gridlock of the past couple of years and enact an agenda focused on economic growth and education.
About one-third of the members in both the House and Senate are freshmen - potentially raising the learning curve but also resulting in a fresh opportunity for some issues that have gotten bogged down in the past, such as an overhaul of state tax credit programs.
"We'll move forward on job creation, whatever the cost," Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, declared Wednesday.
Republicans control 24 of the 34 Senate seats and 109 of the 163 House seats with two vacancies. Those supermajorities provide just enough votes for Republicans to override vetoes by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, if all the GOP lawmakers stick together.
Nixon wants lawmakers to expand Medicaid coverage for lower-income adults, as envisioned by President Barack Obama's health care law. But Republican legislative leaders restated their reluctance to do so Wednesday, citing fears about the potential long-term costs.
The Republican agenda includes business-friendly changes to the state's legal system and workers' compensation process for injured employees; a bonding proposal for public colleges, universities and state buildings; restrictions on union powers such as automatic paycheck deductions; and a wide-ranging education platform that could include limits on teacher tenure and a new evaluation system for school personnel. Republicans also could pursue a ballot measure asking voters to approve a new transportation funding plan.