November 7, 2014

Election recap

Below are highlights of this week’s General Election and activities that have occurred in House and Senate caucuses since voters went the polls Tuesday.

Jeff-City

Missouri Senate

The Republicans netted one new Senate seat out of 17 contests this week in Missouri’s Senate, giving them a 25-9 majority. Rep. Jeanne Riddle (R-Mokane) won the 10th Senate seat formerly held by Jolie Justus (D), and Rep. Paul Wieland (R-Imperial) won the Jefferson County seat formerly held by Ryan McKenna (D). Rep. Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) defeated Jay Ashcroft to pick up what was a Republican seat in St. Louis County.

Republicans strengthened their control of rural Missouri, with the 22nd district in Jefferson County and the 10th district in east-central Missouri flipping to the Republicans and leaving no Democratic districts outside of the metropolitan St. Louis and Kansas City areas.  No incumbent Senators lost. There will be five freshman Senators sworn in in January: Riddle, Wieland, Schupp, Bob Onder (R-St. Charles) and Rep. Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan).

Top Senate leadership will remain largely unchanged with Senator Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles) continuing as President Pro-Tem and Senator Ron Richard (R-Joplin) continuing as floor leader.  Senator Joe Keaveny (D-St. Louis) was elected minority leader.  The appropriations committee will continue to be chaired by Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), and the education committee will be chaired by Senator David Pearce (R-Warrensburg).  Final committee assignments for the 34 senators have not yet been released.

Missouri House

Republicans gained eight House seats, extending their supermajority to 118 of 163 seats. Four House incumbent Democrats were unseated: Rep. John Wright (D-Rocheport) was beaten by Republican Chuck Bayse; Rep. John Mayfield (D-Independence) was beaten by Republican Bill Kidd; Rep. Vicki Englund (D-St. Louis) was beaten by Republican Cloria Brown; and Rep. T.J. McKenna (D-Crystal City) was beaten by Republican Becky Ruth.

Rural Missouri also became more red with Republicans taking over seats in southeast Missouri, Lincoln County, Jefferson County, and central Missouri including part of Boone County. The only rural House seats still held by Democrats are districts in St. Joseph and Springfield and two districts each in Columbia and Jefferson County. All other seats held by Democrats are in the metropolitan Kansas City and St. Louis areas.

The House Republican Caucus added its 118th member on Wednesday when Rep. Linda Black of Bonne Terre switched parties from Democrat to Republican and joined the majority caucus meeting.  As expected, Republicans elected Rep. John Diehl (R-Town and Country) as speaker, Rep. Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg) as speaker pro-tem, and Rep. Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) as majority floor leader.  The Democratic floor leader will continue to be Rep. Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis).

During a news conference following the Caucus, Speaker-elect Diehl outlined four priorities for the majority party in the coming session: economic development incentives that invest in small business; an education blueprint that improves job readiness; policies to bolster the agriculture industry; and a plan to help the state move toward energy independence.

National update: Makeup of 114th Congress

The Republicans take a majority in the U.S. Senate for the first time since 2006 when they are sworn in on January 3. Democrats have lost at least 7 Senate seats. Republicans will have a minimum of 52 seats in the Senate. The likely result puts the Republican Senate majority at 54-46. Alaska’s Senate race is still too close to call. Louisiana will have a run-off on December 6 between incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu (D) and Republican challenger Bill Cassidy (R). Notable Republican wins include incumbent Pat Roberts (R-KS), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Joni Ernst (R-IA).

In January when the new Congress is sworn in, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) will lose her position as chair of Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, while Roy Blunt (R-MO) will likely become a committee chair. Senator Blunt also serves as the Republican Conference Vice Chairman, making him the 5th ranking Republican in the Senate.

Republicans expanded their majority in the United States House of Representatives, gaining at least 13 seats and bringing their majority to at least 243 members. Republicans are on track to meet or exceed the 246-seat majority that they last held during President Truman’s administration. There are still 13 House races that are too close to call or do not have enough returns to declare a winner. In Missouri, all 8 sitting members of Congress were re-elected and major changes in committee assignments are not anticipated.

For higher education policy, the next Congress will likely address the Higher Education Act. Incoming Senate Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced priorities that include the FAFSA, streamlining federal student aid programs, and reducing regulations on colleges and universities. Previous proposals such as student loan refinancing, ‘gainful employment’ rules for institutions, and tying a federal college rating system to financial aid are not likely to be considered.

Gubernatorial Election Results

After Tuesday’s election, there will be 29 Republican Governors and 21 Democrat Governors.  Republicans picked up governorships in Maryland, Arkansas, Illinois, and Massachusetts. Pennsylvania is the only state where a Democrat upset a Republican. Governors Sam Brownback (R-KS), Scott Walker (R-WI), and Rick Scott (R-FL) were all re-elected in what were expected to be very close races.

Voters approve amendment related to budget withholdings

Voters this week approved Constitutional Amendment 10, which limits the Governor’s ability to include certain future funds in his proposed budget and also gives the General Assembly the opportunity to override budget withholdings by the Governor with a two-thirds majority vote similar to veto overrides.  Currently, Governor Nixon is withholding funds from several departments, including higher education, out of concern that revenues are not strong enough to assure a balanced budget.  The withholdings include $10 million in recurring funds for the MU School of Medicine’s clinical campus partnership with hospitals in southwest Missouri, as well as nearly $30 million in matching funds for 50-50 capital projects on each of the UM campuses.

State releases October revenue numbers

The Office of Administration announced this week that the 2015 fiscal year-to-date general revenue collections are up 4.3 percent compared to the same point last year. This continues a trend upward over the last two months and led to the Governor releasing more than $5 million in restricted funds earlier this week in several programs including $2 million for the A+ scholarship program and $1 million for Access Missouri.  This year’s budget was built on a 4.2 percent revenue projection, but the state is still making up lost ground from the last fiscal year, which ended at negative one percent off a budget that was built on a 2.8 percent growth rate.