JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Lawmakers convened their 2013 session with Republican supermajorities controlling both the House and Senate.
Republicans have made tax cuts one of their top priorities for the 97th General Assembly, which runs from Wednesday until May 17. They also plan to pursue business-friendly changes to the state's legal system, a bonding proposal for colleges, job-protection changes for public teachers and potentially a new transportation funding plan.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon wants lawmakers to expand Medicaid coverage for lower-income adults, as envisioned by President Barack Obama's health care law. Republican lawmakers are reluctant to do so.
Republicans control 24 of the 34 Senate seats and 109 of the 163 House seats with two vacancies. About one-third of members in each chamber are in their first term. A combination of term limits that barred more veteran legislators from seeking re-election, a redistricting process that rearranged state Legislature seats and a few electoral defeats resulted in the new faces.
In all, there are 12 state senators and 56 state House members who last year were not serving in their current legislative chamber.
Still, some of the new lawmakers have previous legislative experience. For example, Republican House member Kevin Engler, of Farmington, spent two terms in the Senate and was majority leader. He also served one House term previously. In addition, four House Democrats who lost re-election in 2010 are returning after a two-year break, including Charlie Norr of Springfield, who defeated Melissa Leach in the general election in November.
Legal wrangling from last November's election did not prevented a Republican lawmaker from southeastern Missouri from being sworn in to office. Kent Hampton narrowly defeated Democrat Tom Todd in the 150th House District.
Todd is challenging the election's outcome in court because some voters who live in a neighboring district were given the wrong ballots and vice versa.
Hampton, of Malden, participated when the newly elected legislators were sworn-in Wednesday for the start of the 2013 legislative session. The list of legislators provided to the House from the secretary of state's office included an asterisk by Hampton's name with a note that litigation is pending.