Missouri's 2019 Legislative Session officially underway

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- "It is my sincere pleasure to hand Speaker Elijah Haahr this emblem of authority," announced Rep. Sonya Anderson, a Springfield Republican who had been named the ceremonial 'temporary' Speaker of the House on Wednesday.

She handed the gavel to Haahr, another Springfield Republican, who officially takes the reins as Missouri's House Speaker for the 100th General Assembly for the next two years.

Opposite him, Representative Crystal Quade, a Springfield Democrat, will lead her party as the House Minority Leader.

Compared to the Republicans 116 seats, the Democrats only hold 47 and is considered a super minority.

"Make no mistake, the democratic caucus will be representing our constituents here in the General Assembly," Quade said on the House floor.

Haahr says one of the top things he wants the legislature to tackle is workforce development.

"Finding ways to educate those who are already in the workforce who want to go back and find a better paying job, that will be critical in the first two months of 2019," Haahr said.

Haahr also says he wants to look at higher education funding - helping Missouri State and OTC get funding other schools across the state get. He also says he wants to look at improving transportation infrastructure and tourism in the south and west parts of the state.

Quade says one of the things the Democratic caucus wants to focus on is improving healthcare, especially for low income seniors and those with disabilities, who saw cuts to their benefits in 2017.

"One of our big priorities is to get that back, as well as increasing access to healthcare," Quade said. "In Missouri, we've been going backwards, and it needs to be the opposite. We still have a lot of people in that coverage gap who are not getting the coverage that they need."

Both Haahr and Quade say they also want to look at ways to fight the opioid epidemic.

Right now, there are bills refiled in both the Missouri House and Senate that could again bring Right to Work to the forefront.

Right to Work failed at the ballot box in August.

"With all the work there is to do in workforce and education and those areas, Right to Work is not something we're focused on this session," Haahr said, despite members of his party filing those bills.

Quade also mentioned Clean Missouri, passed by voters in November, which aims to increase transparency in Jefferson City. Governor Mike Parson has been vocally against it, but Quade says the will of the people should not be repealed

During his address, Haahr told Quade and the Democratic party he values the ideas brought to the table, and despite not always agreeing on policies, they'll always agree on the goals.

Governor Mike Parson is scheduled to give his State of the State Address to the General Assembly next Wednesday at 3:00.

Even though it'll be his second address to a joint session of the General Assembly as Governor, it's his first State of the State address.