Wednesday at the Missouri Capitol there was a sense of new energy in the air. Christmas decorations were going up, the weather was that of a spring day, and most of all, new bills were dropping everywhere. December 1 is a day when Missourians get a first look at what legislators will consider as the filing of bills for the 2022 legislative session began.
“Prefiling day is basically a holiday if you’re an elected official down here in Jefferson City. It’s a good day to be back in the building, it’s exciting. You can kind of feel in the air that it’s almost time to get back into the swing of things,” said Representative Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City).
Farmington Republican Dale Wright said it’s often better for legislation to be filed early, as that can give it a better chance of gaining traction early in the session and a better chance at passage. That means a lot of proposals are brought in on day 1.
For some legislators there is some strategy involved in whether they want to put a proposal forward sooner or later.
“I’ve spoken to other members that believe if they prefile something it gives the opposition a month to work on attacking that bill,” said Representative Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon). “I’m one that’s fully transparent. People know what I’m going to file, they know where I stand on issues, and give them an extra month, I don’t care. I just think that voters and the constituents need to know what work is being done in the interim, what work is going to be done in 2022.”
Wright said Missourians should know that it’s a hectic day in the Capitol.
“I truly believe that the people who are serving up here are serving for the right reasons, and that is to be advocates and be the voice of the people back home, and wo when we file these bills it’s usually for something that helps our constituents back home, but in general, also for the State of Missouri.”
Prefiling can feel very different for House Democrats, who face a supermajority of Republicans. Kansas City Democrat Ashley Aune said even when proposing legislation they know will be opposed, members of her caucus can be serving a purpose. She said one piece of advice she has held onto came from fellow Representative Tracy McCreery (D-St. Louis).
“She tells me that filing a piece of legislation as a member of the superminority is like starting a conversation, and that’s what this is for us, especially with the bills that we know aren’t going to go anywhere. It gives us a chance to start a conversation not only with our constituents to signal that we are working for them and doing the work that they sent us down here to do, it gives us an opportunity to have the conversation with our colleagues across the aisle and say, ‘Hey, this is a priority for me. Where can we meet in the middle?’”
Sharp said the enthusiasm of filing day is encouraging, but it’s also a reminder to be thoughtful in what is filed.
“A lot of times people swing for the fences and a lot of times that’s just not feasible in most cases, especially as a member of the superminority. Sometimes you have to just get some of the breadcrumbs that haven’t been picked up in the past,” said Sharp.
Joplin Representative Lane Roberts (R) said he believes it’s important for each legislator to give consideration to not only their own bills, but what others are filing, and that includes those in the opposing party.
“The fact is that that there’s an awful lot of people on that floor who are sincere. They want to do the right thing, and when they file bills it’s because they believe that it has some meaning. Some, maybe more than others, but none of it is meaningless, and whether you’re one side of the aisle or the other, I’ve found that people on the opposite side of the aisle from me sometimes say very smart things,” said Roberts. “Listening to folks who are presenting the bill, listening to what they have to say, it’s changed my mind a time or two. It has overcome some preconceived notions that while I may not intended to have it, it just happened.”
On Wednesday in the House, 372 measures were filed for the 2022 session. The session begins January 5.