With the swearing-in of 56 first time state representatives and 12 newly elected state senators the 97th session of the Missouri General Assembly opened at about noon Jan. 9.
In addition to the newly elected senators and representatives, there were also six re-elected representatives and five re-elected senators. Two of those newly representatives, Rocky Miller, R-Tuscumbia and David Wood, R-Gravois Mills, took the oath of office, as did re-elected state representative Diane Franklin.
After being sworn, the members of the House of Representatives elected Tim Jones, R-Eureka, to serve as Speaker of the House and Representative Jason Smith, R-Salem, to serve as Speaker Pro Tem.
In the Senator Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, was nominated as President Pro Tem and Senator Ron Richard, R-Joplin, was chosen majority leader.
In the Senate the Republican will now control 24 of that chamber's 34 seats and in the House, Republicans took control of 109 of the 163 positions.
With Republicans holding a "super majority" in both houses of the General Assembly the state goals set by each chamber were similar in focusing on tax cuts, the state's economy, job creation, education and building and maintaining the state's infrastructure, particularly the highway system.
Although Democratic Governor Jay Nixon will have to try and get legislation through a Republican controlled General Assembly, most political wags do not see this as a major problem since the governor has also pledged to focus on job creation and the tax incentives needed to draw new business to the state.
The only issue on which the governor and the General Assembly seemed to be split is that of Medicaid. Governor Nixon wants to expand the program while the House and Senate opposes any expansion of the program. In the meantime, there is a $138 million shortfall in Medicaid funding that will have to be addressed by both the governor and the General Assembly before any further action is taken.
In addition to the swearing-in ceremonies, parties and balls held last week, the two houses of the General Assembly introduced some 289 bills, 156 in the House and 133 in the Senate.
Newly elected Lake Area State Representative Rocky Miller sponsored three of the House bills.
Miller introduced a bill that would change the way in which the Missouri Department of Natural Resources handled E. coli testing at state park beaches and toughen the regulations governing the closing of those. A second Miller bill would allow out-of-state students attending college in Missouri to purchase fishing and hunting license at the same rate as in-state students. Under Miller's bill the lower license fee would only be good so long as the student was attending college in Missouri. Once the person left college he or she would be required to purchase hunting and fishing licenses at non-resident rates.
The third bill introduced by Miller would allow spouses in the midst of a divorce to petition the court for reimbursement of any insurance premiums paid for the other spouse that occurred while the bill of divorcement was under consideration by the court.
State Representative Diane Franklin also introduced a bill that would place a special tax on violent video games.
This year's spring session of the General Assembly is scheduled to close on Friday, May 17. The Missouri Constitution also requires the General Assembly to hold a fall session, which is usually reserved for address bills that have been passed by both houses but then vetoed by the governor.