Friday, April 15, 2011

Did the Missouri House Up the Ante on the State Senate Presidential Primary Bill?

And so the presidential primary saga continues in the Missouri state legislature.

What started out as two reasonable bills to shift the date of the Show Me state's presidential primary from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March has seemingly devolved into a process of interchamber one-upsmanship. The Senate bill, SB 282, was amended on the floor in mid-March to anchor the primary to New Hampshire; scheduling the election for a week after the Granite state's first in the nation primary. This happened nearly simultaneous to the House passing its version of the legislation; staying true to the move to March and into compliance with the national party rules.

A few weeks after passing the March version, however, the House has reversed course and one-upped the Senate's change. Here's how the summary for the House Elections Committee substitute to SB 282 reads on the issue of the timing of the presidential primary:
The date of the presidential primary is moved from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
Now, either that "November" is a typo and it really means "March" or the House Elections Committee is proposing to move the Show Me state's presidential primary to November of this year. Call it a hunch, but I'm willing to bet that that won't sit well with Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada. And Florida may have to alter the amended version of HB 1355 to allow the proposed Presidential Preference Primary Date Setting Committee the flexibility to move its primary to a time earlier than the January 3 - March 6 window called for in the bill.

Before everyone gets in a huff over this, it should be noted that the House version of the bill, HB 503, is still active in the Missouri Senate and in fact has a committee hearing there on Monday. That bill, at least until the Senate opts to amend it (if it opts to amend it), still calls for moving the primary to March. Keep in mind also that Governor Jay Nixon (D) is also likely to veto any such bill.1

But that would keep the Missouri primary on February 7 -- a day after Iowa is scheduled to hold its caucuses and a week before New Hampshire is supposed to hold its first in the nation primary. [Both would move to earlier dates of course.] That's also likely to have the side effect of keeping Florida either right where it is on January 31 or bump the Sunshine state up a little closer to January 3.

No matter how you slice it, the Missouri legislature is keeping things interesting.

1 And before any of that action is triggered the bill obviously has to pass on the floor of the state House as well as head back to the Senate if it passes the lower chamber in an altered form.

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