Missouri Republicans grow their veto-proof majority in the state House and Senate

Republicans strengthened their grip on the Missouri General Assembly on Tuesday, expanding their veto-proof super majorities to historic levels and amending the state’s constitution to limit the governor’s budget authority.

The GOP came into the night with 110 seats in the Missouri House and 24 in the Senate, already enough to override any gubernatorial veto. Republicans picked up seven seats in the House Tuesday, bringing their total to 117. In the Senate, Republicans now hold 25 seats.

Adding to the good news for Republicans, voters signed off on an amendment to Missouri’s constitution giving lawmakers the ability to have final say on state spending by allowing them to override a governor’s budget cuts. The arcane but critical constitutional change in the budget process tilts political power further away from the governor and toward the legislature.

It was approved 57 to 43 percent.

“We’ve succeeded in increasing our numbers in the House by recruiting good candidates who fit their districts and having a consistent message of lower taxes, less regulation and a dedication to pro-growth policies,” said state Rep. John Diehl, a Republican from the St. Louis suburbs who will become Speaker of the House in January.

The Republicans’ House majority would be the largest number of GOP seats in that chamber in Missouri history. It’s also more seats than either party has held in in the House since Democrats had a 117-46 majority in 1981.

Voters also approved a change to Missouri’s constitution creating an exception to the prohibition against using evidence of past crimes against defendants facing new criminal charges. It allows past criminal acts — even alleged crimes that didn’t result in convictions — to be used to corroborate victim testimony or demonstrate a defendant’s propensity to commit such crimes when people face sex-related charges involving victims younger than 18.

The amendment was approved 72 to 28 percent.

Two other proposed constitutional amendments were defeated by voters.

Amendment 6 would have created a six-day early voting period in Missouri, although only if the legislature agreed to fund it. Democrats panned the measure over the funding issue and the fact that it doesn’t allow for voting to take place on weekends or in the evening.

The amendment was defeated 70 to 30 percent.

Amendment 3 would have eliminated the tenure system for public school teachers and was defeated 76 to 24 percent. Proponents of the amendment abandoned their campaign earlier this year, leaving little chance that it would pass.

In Cole County, incumbent Circuit Court Judge Pat Joyce, a Democrat, defeated Republican Brian Stumpe, 52 to 47 percent. The election has statewide implications because judges in Cole County handle lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of state laws and regulations, as well as litigation involving statewide ballot measures. Joyce is the only Democrat on the 19th Circuit Court’s three-judge panel.

The race gained national attention after a Washington, D.C.,-based Republican organization dropped $200,000 into the state in October. Half went directly to Stumpe’s campaign. The other half went to the group’s Missouri political action committee, which used it to fund a television ad campaign attacking Joyce’s record.

To reach Jason Hancock, call 573-634-3565 or send email to jhancock@kcstar.com.