Capitol Perspectives: Dividing Ideological Battles | Opinion

The Missouri Legislature enters the final days of the 2022 legislative session facing an unusually large pile of divisive partisan and ideological issues.

In an election year, it’s not uncommon for some legislators to seek to highlight issues that will get their party’s supporters to vote.

Partisan issues this year include requiring photo ID to vote as well as other voting restrictions, limiting the duration of unemployment benefits and topping the list is a vote credit. $1 billion Republican-sponsored tax from federal stimulus funds that Democrats support could be used to improve state services.

What is striking about the dominant partisan issues this year is the large number of conservative Republican ideological proposals.

They include restricting abortion, restricting Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood, expanding concealed-weapons rights, legislative authority to block voter-approved Medicaid expansion, tougher amendments constitutional rights to initiative petitions, the imposition of curricular restrictions in public schools, and the restriction of gender reassignment. for minors.

Then, of course, there are the proposals to prohibit the government and corporations from imposing COVID-19 vaccination requirements and allow an employee to sue an employer for the adverse effects of a mandatory vaccination.

There is even a measure to prevent medical licensing boards from taking disciplinary action against health care providers who prescribe or administer the antimalarial drug that Donald Trump has promoted as a treatment for COVID-19.

Many of these issues are what political observers describe as “corner issues” that are designed to drive a wedge among voters with issues that, for some, are more important than any other issue.

But many of these ideological issues do not represent the GOP’s traditional core issues. As a result, some of these issues have divided Republicans, effectively forming an internal party wedge.

Most obvious are the Republican proposals to prevent companies from requiring their employees to be vaccinated and to allow an employee to sue an employer for any adverse consequences of a mandatory vaccination.

Some of the strongest opposition in committee hearings to some of these proposals has come from representatives of trade organizations that many Republicans rely on for support.

Another obvious corner issue for Republicans involves interference with a historically strong GOP principle of local control over public schools.

Public school issues include banning the teaching of “critical race theory,” restricting discussion of public policy issues, and blocking a male student who transitioned to a female from participate in an all-women’s public school sports team.

The potential of the transgender issue to divide the GOP was demonstrated when the House debated the issue. This prompted an amendment from Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-St. Louis County, to prohibit discrimination in public schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

This amendment divided House Republicans with 20 votes for the amendment and 76 against.

Another issue dividing Republicans is the fuel tax hike passed in 2021.

Increased funding for the maintenance and expansion of national highways has traditionally been a Republican issue, in part because of corporate support to facilitate the delivery of their products and supplies.

Senate Republican leader Senate Pro Tem Chairman Dave Schatz sponsored the tax increase and Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed it.

But the 2021 tax measure has deeply divided Republicans. He won a slim majority of House GOP members and demanded Democratic votes to advance to the Senate.

This year, a repeal amendment barely won the approval of House Republicans (50-41), but the amendment failed due to Democratic opposition and a large number of members who did not just didn’t vote on the repeal amendment.

But anything is possible in the hectic closing days of the legislature when lawmakers frantically try to add their stalled proposals to completely unrelated bills.

The potential for internal party divisions over these kinds of corner issues was no surprise.

Some lawmakers seeking higher positions are facing challenges in their party’s primaries just months after the session adjourned.

The final days of a legislative session provide a platform for candidates to market themselves to primary voters.

Blocking a legislative leadership priority or pushing an ideological wedge issue in the final days is a sure way to get media coverage and voter attention.

Just remember how conservative Senate GOP caucus members blocked action on congressional redistricting after the nominations deadline.

All of this points to a fascinating conclusion to Missouri’s 2022 regular legislative session.

Phill Brooks has been a reporter at the Missouri Statehouse since 1970, making him the dean of the Statehouse’s press corps. He is the National Correspondent for KMOX Radio, Director of MDN, and Distinguished Faculty Member of the Missouri School of Journalism. He’s covered every governor since the late Warren Hearnes.

Melvin B. Baillie