Yesterday afternoon the House Democratic Caucus held a press conference in the House Lounge after the opening of the legislative session in Jefferson City. After prepared remarks by Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D) and Assistant Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D) they took questions from the press.
Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D): Questions.
Question: There is not agreement between the Governor and, uh, legislature on a consensus revenue estimate, so a couple of questions there. Where does your party stand on how much money the state should, uh, plan on having next year? And does that play into where you hope to see money come to the foundation formula? Do you think there’s more money there that can be pumped into that, or where is that gonna come from?
Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D): Well, first of all, I haven’t seen the, uh, Governor’s budget proposal, but I assume that that is where his, uh, numbers are coming from. Uh, look, I think we know that the, the House is going to, the Governor is gonna start with his number and the House Budget Committee will start with their number. You know, if, if they want to go ahead and start cutting money from education, from fully funding the foundation formula, um, and not try to trust the Governor’s number then that’s up to them. Then they can be in the position to go ahead and cut things from education. So, do I know which number is the absolute correct answer? I don’t. And I don’t think, I don’t think that it’s fair to say that either one, either one party does, so.
Question: From a position of a minority with fifty-two members you can’t force much, um, in the House of Representatives. So, you’re gonna have to rely on public pressure in some ways to [inaudible] the Republicans. What do you intend to do that would be different from what happened last year on Medicaid that would, uh, create that pressure to [inaudible] move ahead on this bill?
Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D): Well, first of all, I think that there’s enough people within the majority party that would vote for Medicaid expansion if someone in the Speaker’s office had the courage to let it come to the floor for a vote. How are we going to know if no one will bring it up for a vote? The Chamber of Commerce in Missouri as well as numerous chambers of commerce across the state have come out more strongly in favor of this. You know, they realize that this is a huge, uh, job creation tool. Why is it that the majority only wants to listen to the business community when it suits their agenda? I don’t think it’s fair to say that they want to say that, okay, fine, we can’t expand jobs in the state unless we do this. They’ve come out and said they think this is gonna create twenty-four thousand jobs. I mean, they agree with us. We’re not always on the same page as the Chamber of Commerce.
Question: Yeah, but chances are that, you know, barring peasants with pitch forks coming up here and pushing the Speaker in to this, um, up to the dais, uh, to get a vote on that, how do you, how do you get that pressure on him?
Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D): Well, what we have been doing is we’ve been going, in the interim, we went around the state for quite a while. Uh, we went to different areas of the state and we tried to inform the voters and the citizens that this is the right thing to do. And we’re gonna continue to do that. Um, and as you said, it’s up to public pressure to get these guys to do what they [inaudible], so.
Assistant Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D): Just a, a quick comment, too. I think as we start to see some of these hospitals start to close I think, uh, a lot of our counterparts are gonna have to rethink, uh, how they vote on this.
Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D): For the first time in history BJC has laid off employees. I mean, if that’s not an eye awakener I don’t know what is.
Question: Where would you like to see the minimum wage increase to? What is your, what, what’s your proposal [inaudible]?
Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D): That’s Representative Roorda. Let’s let Representative Roorda answer that, it’s his bill.
Representative Jeff Roorda (D): Thank you, Jake. Uh, well, first of all, it’s great to be part of a team that is bringing common sense solutions to the table, uh, instead of what we heard in a very red meat speech from the Speaker today that, uh, I think folks notice that, uh, his own caucus was not excited about. We saw nothing but unenthused golf claps, uh, throughout the Speaker’s speech. And I think it’s because it’s an extreme speech, uh, that offers no bipartisan attempt to work with the Governor to pass important legislation. Uh, and I don’t think that’s reflective of the Speaker’s entire caucus, so.
To confirm what, uh, my friend and leader said, I think we’re gonna advance issues like minimum wage, House Bill 1098 was filed in early December. That seeks to raise minimum wage to eight dollars twenty-five cents per hour. Uh, for tipped employees it, it raises their percentage of minimum wage from fifty percent to sixty percent. It also, uh, doubles the damages, uh, for employees who were not, uh, paid properly under the minimum wage statutes. So, uh, it very closely mirrors the, uh, petition initiative, uh, that just fell few signatures short of getting on the ballot in November two thousand twelve. And it’s common sense legislation I think, uh, Missourians of every stripe can agree that it’s good for our state and good for our economy.
Question: Do you keep the COLA on?
Representative Jeff Roorda (D): Keep the COLA, yes.
Representative Jeff Roorda (D).
Question: Last year, uh, Representative Barnes, uh, worked on an alternate Medicaid proposal that would include, uh, a smaller increase with some, uh, market based reforms mixed in. And he’s been working on that over the, uh, since the last session ended. Is that something the House Democrats can get behind?
Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D): I, absolutely willing to sit down with Representative Barnes and, and discuss the proposal. I mean, the Speaker created special interim committees. So did the Senate. So tell me now why after we have been working on this the entire interim that all of a sudden they’re, it’s just not gonna be brought up. I mean, why did we waste all the taxpayers’ dollars having these interim committees if they weren’t going to do anything? And, you know, the Speaker said in his speech that he was tired of the Governor picking winners and lose, losers as he did in the Boeing proposal. Unless I’m mistaken, I could’ve swore the Speaker voted for that proposal. So, I’m confused on where he’s going with that.
Question: Question for some of your, uh, maybe for some of your members with the Education Committee. But, on the transfer issue if there comes up an opportunity to leverage that with some of the other issues that, uh, uh, Speaker Jones or the Republicans have been favorable for are there any that you can see working with or using as leverage?
Representative Genise Montecillo (D): Well, first of all, I don’t feel that we should be leveraging the children of this state on anything. They should be our number one priority. Educating our children in this state should be our number one issue that we’re addressing this session. Um, without that everything else falls by the wayside. So, no, I don’t believe that our children should be wagered. Uh, there were bills last year, I filed a bill, and, and several of us did and we were told that unless the Speaker’s legislation was moved ours wouldn’t see the light of day and it didn’t. That’s wrong. If we know something is gonna provide good education outcomes that should be a priority.
Representative Genise Montecillo (D).
Question: What would you like, do you have a proposal on the transfer law in terms of what changes you, your caucus supports on, on that law?
Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D): No, we don’t, we don’t have a, you know, we’ve looked at the proposal that being brought forward in the Senate. Um, we think there’s some good ground work there, think there’s some changes that probably need to be make, be made. But, um, and I’ll let Representative McNeil. She’s not here. [crosstalk] Well.
Representative Genise Montecillo (D): Representative McNeil does have, um, she’s working on legislation. She’s not present today.
Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D): I think there’s some common sense things that we can, we can start with. Like, I think that it’s, I think that it’s not out of the picture to say that the receiving districts can at least have some common sense way to set classroom sizes. Certainly I don’t think that they should be able to lower them they way some of them have below the number of students that they already actually have in class. Uh, but I think that there’s, there should be some reasonable expectations to, uh, take in mind classroom sizes in those proposals. And there’s some other things that we can work on, but, um, it’s a tough issue as everybody knows.
Representative Genise Montecillo (D): I think one other point to understand and, it’s worrisome to me that the Speaker said that the transfer issue doesn’t seem to be a priority for him. Back in St. Louis we have students that already lost their teachers this year. They, when they return to school after the snow storm they are going to brand new schools. Their school has closed. I don’t, I cannot understand how that’s good, um educational policy for our children.
Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D): Any other questions? Okay. Thank you.
Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D).