The Missouri Senate after dark: What got traded and why

05/13/2014 10:23 AM

05/13/2014 8:03 PM

Missouri Senate Democrats — all nine of them — gave up their fight to block a noxious three-day waiting period for abortion services in exchange for holding off a voter photo ID law for another year.

Also, they conceded to putting a sham early voting bill to the statewide ballot in exchange for Senate Republicans dropping an anti-union measure for the session.

If not quite a grand bargain, the deal wasn’t a cave-in either. Rather, it was an acknowledgment by leaders of both parties that much work needs to get done in the final week of the session and the Senate had to find a way to get beyond the divisive waiting period and voter ID issues.

Democrats, who are outnumbered nine to 23, could continue to filibuster the abortion bill, but Republican Senate leaders had threatened to use a parliamentary procedure to silence them and bring the measure to a vote. But in doing so they ran the risk of losing Democratic cooperation on bills such as the important fix to the state’s flawed student transfer law.

Hence, the late-night negotiations that resulted in people who care about these matters waking up to find that the Missouri General Assembly is on the verge of passing a bill requiring women to wait 72 hours between the time they consult a doctor about an abortion and when they can actually receive the procedure.

It’s a terrible bill, and one that Senate minority leader Jolie Justus especially dreaded. It’s a safe bet she and other Democrats are hoping Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoes it. Nixon has allowed several bad abortion bills to go into law without his signature, rather than making the annual veto session all about abortion. But if the nearly completed bill becomes law, Missouri would become only the third state with such a draconian requirement.

Republicans dropping their voter ID requirement is big. The effect of the measure — and the intent, also — would be to stifle voting among minorities, students, low-income people and senior citizens. It’s a bad deal for democracy, and it’s meant to be an obstacle for Democrats. So killing it for another year is a coup.

As for the other two measures, the demise for this year of the so-called “paycheck protection” law will disappoint some wealthy campaign donors who favored the measure making it harder for public employee unions to collect dues.

The Republicans’ early voting measure is a blatant effort to sabotage a stronger initiative that appears headed for the statewide ballot in November. Instead of enabling voting for several weeks ahead of election day, including weekends, it basically allows no-excuse absentee voting on six business days ending the Wednesday before the election. Pretty paltry, but it will make for an interesting battle of dueling ballot initiatives. The one with the highest number of votes will prevail.

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