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2016 MO Gen. Assembly session begins Wednesday

Posted at 7:13 PM, Jan 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-06 12:18:11-05

Missouri state leaders are getting set for the start of the General Assembly on Wednesday in Jefferson City.

Several issues are expected to be the focus for this year’s session, including abortion, ethics reform, and funding for road projects.

Ethics reform was thrust into the spotlight last May, when it was revealed that House Speaker John Diehl, a Republican from St. Louis, had a relationship with a 19-year-old intern.

Just a few weeks later, Sen. Paul LeVota, a Democrat from Independence, resigned after facing allegations of sexual harassment involving former interns.

As a way to combat the culture of politicians in Jefferson City, proposals are being put forward that cap campaign contributions and limit gifts from lobbyists.

State Representative Jeremy LaFaver (Democrat, District 025) says the real focus of the ethics reform talks should be on contributions rather than gifts.

"A $50 steak is nothing when it comes to $100,000, $500,000 or a $1 million campaign contribution," he explained. "That is what we have in Missouri right now."

Abortion is also expected to be a hot-button issue getting attention at the 2016 session. Some lawmakers are targeting Planned Parenthood as they try to cut off public funding for the group.

Other bills focus on putting new restrictions on abortion doctors.

"There are a lot of other options for women's health," said Jackson County Republican Committee Chairman Mark Anthony Jones. "No one is saying that we shouldn't take care of women's health, but Planned Parenthood is a controversial company. A lot of Republicans feel it should not be supported."

One issue in particular that may have a direct impact on Kansas Citians is funding for road projects.

Missouri has seen a decline in road funding in recent years, and state leaders will be working on plans to raise funds.

One proposal would raise the state gas tax by two cents.

Right now, Republicans control the majority in both the House and Senate.

As a result, Democrats like Rep. LaFaver may need to reach across the aisle to try and get things passed.

"When there are bills that I want to pass, I try to pass them off to my Republican colleagues," said LaFaver. "(In return) I help them with members of my side of the aisle."

Both Rep. LaFaver and Jones said that with 2016 being an election year, they do not expect much action from state leaders.

The Missouri General Assembly convenes at noon on Wednesday.

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Tom Dempsey can be reached at tom.dempsey@kshb.com.

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