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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As the legislative session gets underway, the House will keep a keen focus on the budget and congressional redistricting, Majority Floor Leader Dean Plocher said.

Of course, there will be other issues that arise that will attract attention: A bevy of election integrity and security bills have been filed as well as legislation aimed at education, an issue that has risen in popularity among Republicans across the nation and one Plocher said will certainly be addressed.

And there are the usual suspects: GOP-backed bills further restricting access to abortion services and increasing the ability to own and carry firearms colliding with the Democrats’ cascade of legislation that would do the exact opposite.

But the priorities, according to the floor leader, will be on money and maps.

“Our basic goal must be what we are constitutionally obligated to do — and that is pass a budget and somehow pass the congressional redistricting. Our biggest approach to getting things done is what we are mandated to do by the constitution,” Plocher said in an interview ahead of session.

When it comes to the budget, Plocher said the legislature will need to transparently appropriate an unprecedented influx in federal funds while also addressing newer challenges in supply chain concerns and inflation. He said an emphasis should be placed on advancements in education and workforce development.

“I don’t doubt that Missourians are challenged and many of them are suffering. The goal is to get many of them into a job and not just receive checks,” Plocher, an attorney and former municipal judge, said. “Those checks that the federal government has been handing out have to be paid back at some time.”

“We’ve, perhaps, walked into what could be, in a twisted sense, a perfect storm,” he continued. “When we have supply chain challenges coupled with the federal government flooding the economy with money, we have an overabundant supply of cash and an underabundance of products and goods people need to live on which is driving up the cost of those goods while they’re challenged to find employment.”

From the massive infrastructure package recently signed into law to pandemic relief funds still awaiting to be greenlit by the legislature, Plocher said he was “confident” lawmakers will be able to “appropriately allocate the resources” from the federal government.

However, Plocher stressed that allocation must come with pellucidity.

“We need to do our due diligence and have a transparency element to how these resources are going to be spent and where the benefit is going to be provided to Missourians so we can look back at this saying, dollar per dollar, we did it the right way,” Plocher, the speaker-elect, said.

It’s possible the legislature will also work on approving a new Capitol improvement project — this time within the building, Plocher said.

“There was a great deal of investment put into the outside of the building to keep the water outside. But the infrastructure and challenges that our grounds crew are always facing with technology, with wear and tear on a building now over 100 years old, we’re talking about doing different things,” Plocher said.

Redistricting will provide a unique challenge to legislators, Plocher said, as House members have not been in the General Assembly long enough to have worked on previous maps drawn 10 years ago. He acknowledged there is a time crunch which could add additional pressure.

It was no secret tensions flared between the two chambers as the last legislative session came to an abrupt halt. But Plocher has maintained at least a slight air of positivity ahead of a new session, saying the “House is more than happy to work with the Senate.”

“I’m certainly confident to pass a law it takes both the House and the Senate to agree upon it,” Plocher said. “The challenges, I think, always come within the bodies, and that’s a Senate thing in regards to how they’re going to handle their house compared to how we handle our house.”

Plocher doesn’t seem interested in letting weather, COVID-19, or upcoming elections derail the session. He said the legislature will “be in session unless things drastically change” with inclement weather or pandemic policies.

“We have a job to do,” Plocher said. “I think it comes back to why we’re all there. We’re all there because we believe in the future of Missouri; we’re all there because we want to make Missouri a better place tomorrow than it was today. Ultimately, I think that is what will bring us back and ground us to what we’re going and why we’re doing it.”

“We’re certainly going to have some challenges with those who are maybe trying to gain a pulpit position to leverage something for another office, but I hope people sit down and look at why they’re there and not what they want to do later down the road,” Plocher continued. “We have an immediate opportunity to do something now.”

This piece originally appeared in the Jan. 9, 2022 edition of The Missouri Times newspaper.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.

Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.

She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.

Contact Kaitlyn at kaitlyn@themissouritimes.com.

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