Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Missouri Once Again Initiates an Attempt at Presidential Primary Calendar Compliance

For the fourth consecutive year now efforts are underway in the Missouri General Assembly to move the Show Me state presidential primary from February into a compliant position later on the primary calendar. The state legislature was actually closest to shifting the primary back in 2011 when a bill designed to move the presidential primary back to March passed both chambers but was vetoed by Governor Jay Nixon (D) for reasons unrelated to the primary. Since that point in mid-2011, the legislature has been stuck in place or seemingly moving in reverse on the matter of the presidential primary scheduling. Efforts during a special session in the late summer of 2011 and during the regular sessions of 2012 and 2013 failed to gain any traction.

Will the fourth time be the charm?

Considering none of the primary-specific bills even got out of committee -- much less had hearings -- in 2012 and 2013, this current second session of the 97th General Assembly is heading in the right direction. There are two bills -- one in the House and one in the Senate -- that would shift back the date of the Missouri presidential primary. Both HB 1902 and SB 892 originally called for pushing back the primary date from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in April. The House bill -- introduced last week by Representative Tony Dugger (R-141, Wright, Webster) -- has already made it through the Committee on Elections in an amended form on a 10-0 vote with a "Do Pass" designation. The committee substitute now heading to the House Committee on Rules now differs from the Senate version in that the landing spot for the primary on the calendar is no longer in April. Instead, the Committee on Elections passed a version that would shift the presidential primary to the second Tuesday after the first Tuesday in March. That would be March 15 in the 2016 presidential election cycle.

There are a couple of things to note about these developments in the Show Me state:
1) To the extent the efforts to move the presidential primary have been derailed in the time since late 2011, it has been a function of a difference of opinion across chambers in the Missouri General Assembly. The House and Senate were in agreement about the move to March during the regular session in 2011, but that was the point of the last agreement on this issue between the chambers. Now that the House and Senate versions of these two related presidential primary bills differ, one has to wonder whether or if recent history will repeat itself.

2) One thing that might gird against the notion of inter-chamber division this time is that the change in the committee substitute in the House is clearly a nod to the recent RNC rules changes. Missouri Republicans, before the caucuses diversion in 2012, have traditionally allocated delegates in a winner-take-all manner. The move to April was presumably designed to protect that. But now that the RNC has narrowed its proportionality window a bit, there is no need to move the Missouri primary back to April. March 15 is where winner-take-all allocation is first allowed on the 2016 primary calendar; right where Missouri would be under HB 1902.

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