JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Missouri’s newly anointed House Speaker John Diehl said there is no specific legislative agenda in response to racial unrest in Ferguson following the shooting of Michael Brown.
“We’re not going to have a Ferguson agenda here in the House. The Senate has indicated the same thing. I view the situation of Ferguson as really a reflection of decades of bad government policy,” said Diehl, R-St. Louis. “To the extent that there’s an interest in fixing some of the fundamental building blocks that have led to the deterioration of society, we’ll be open.”
Already, lawmakers have filed an array of potential policy changes from policing reforms to changing the amount of revenue a city can pull from traffic tickets. Another has even suggested eliminating the grand jury process, entirely (Speaking earlier in the day, Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, said he was against that idea).
In the Senate, Eric Schmitt, a Republican who grew up in north St. Louis County near Ferguson, has filed legislation that would drop the revenue cities can pull from traffic tickets from 30 percent to 10 percent. Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said that would be the key post-Ferguson priority for the body.
The leaders remarks came even as demonstrators made their way to Jefferson City on the first day of the legislature’s session. Some disrupted the upper gallery of the Missouri Senate, forcing the swearing-in ceremony to be delayed.
During a rally in the Capitol rotunda, their ask was clear: They want lawmakers to expand Medicaid. Nixon said earlier in the day that he believes Medicaid expansion is on the table this session, despite the repeated insistence of a handful of Republican senators who have threatened to filibuster any such motion.
Diehl said the same was true in the House. “I don’t see any appetite for Medicaid,” he said.