Filibuster over KC landfill bill ends, Missouri Senate puts spending bills on deck for debate

A group of GOP lawmakers, led by Sen. Rick Brattin, staged a filibuster to demand approval of a bill blocking a landfill near Kansas City. The $50 billion state budget must be approved by 6 p.m. Friday

By: and - May 4, 2023 5:00 pm

Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, held the Senate floor for more than four hours Thursday, preventing the chamber from taking procedural votes to begin the day’s work (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

A filibuster consumed about nine hours of the Missouri Senate’s time as the Friday deadline to pass the $50 billion state budget loomed, putting a dispute over a bill designed to kill a proposed landfill in south Kansas City into the spotlight.

Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, held the Senate floor for more than four hours Thursday, preventing the chamber from taking procedural votes to begin the day’s work. He threatened to continue his filibuster until the Senate approves legislation he said was essential to protect his constituents’ property rights.

“You’ve got the wrong person,” Brattin said. “You messed with the wrong Marine. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

With only a few working days left before the Missouri General Assembly must adjourn for the year, the filibuster could prevent the state from passing a budget, which would be a historic failure. 

“Until I get a resolution on this,” Brattin said, “ain’t nothing happening.”

After a few hours one of Brattin’s colleagues — Sen. Bill Eigel of Weldon Spring, a potential GOP gubernatorial candidate next year — took over to give him a break. Later, Sen. Jill Carter of Granby took over. 

The filibuster ended just before 7 p.m. when the Senate came back from a nearly two-hour recess, during which Eigel, Brattin, Senate Appropriations Chairman Lincoln Hough and others were seen going into confer with Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden and Majority Leader Cindy O’Laughlin.

Outrage over proposed Kansas City landfill sets up showdown in Missouri Capitol

Brattin launched his filibuster at a moment of maximum pressure for senators. All spending bills must pass by 6 p.m. Friday, and four were waiting for procedural action necessary for a Senate vote. 

As long as Brattin filibustered, that action couldn’t move forward. 

Brattin’s goal was to force senators to vote on legislation that would stymie a plan by KC Recycle & Waste Solutions, owned by Jennifer and Aden Monheiser. 

The company has proposed a landfill on 270 acres at the extreme southern tip of Kansas City, where it borders Grandview, Raymore and Lee’s Summit. The landfill project has outraged neighbors, including a nearby golf course community with homes worth up to $1 million, and officials from surrounding municipalities.

The site is just far enough from the border that a Missouri law requiring approval from an adjacent municipality before a landfill is built in Kansas City does not apply. So Brattin and state Rep. Mike Hafffner, R-Pleasant Hill, have been trying to change the law to allow the adjacent municipalities to block landfills within a mile of the border.

While Haffner’s legislation passed the House with an overwhelming 139-16 majority, it was stymied Wednesday night by a filibuster by Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, who said it was important to base policy on more than simply a desire by residents not to want a landfill in their backyard.

Coleman said the legislation is additional regulation on “an incredibly regulated industry.” 

“It is narrowly written legislation that doesn’t protect most Missourians,” Coleman said. “Its sole purpose is to stop a female-owned business and (put) an operator out of business.”

Brattin, whose district borders the proposed landfill site, was outraged at the interference by a senator whose district is across the state. 

“The flagrant disregard for senators in this chamber is beyond like anything I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Landfill showdown

Rumors of a proposed landfill began circulating long before the community could confirm anything, Haffner said earlier this year. 

He was only able to confirm the existence of the plan when lobbyists for KC Waste & Recycling Solutions came to his office early in the year. 

The company has hired 19 Jefferson City lobbyists compared to three hired by Raymore, the most active of the municipalities in opposition to the landfill.

That set up a showdown between the dozens of area residents who implored representatives to pass Haffner’s legislation and kill the project and the Monheisers’ company. 

Jennifer Monheiser said passing the legislation would be like changing the rules in the middle of the game. While the Monheisers haven’t sought rezoning for the property or an environmental permit, she said they have been acquiring land for the site. 

Monheiser reiterated that in a statement Thursday. 

“It’s difficult enough to create and run small businesses without lawmakers trying to change the rules in the middle of the game,” she said. “We are glad to see a significant number of policymakers in Jefferson City sticking up for small businesses like ours and fighting this government overreach.”

But Haffner and officials opposed to the project disputed that.

“The game hasn’t even begun if you’re going to equate this thing to a game, which was very offensive to us…when a landfill at that location would affect so many people negatively,” Raymore Mayor Kris Turnbow said earlier this year.

Filibuster on filibuster

Haffner’s legislation came up on the Senate floor Wednesday evening, but after Coleman’s filibuster, it was placed on the Senate’s informal calendar where it could come up again at any time — or never.

In a news release Wednesday night, the city of Raymore said “it is clear that a majority of the Senate is in support of the bill,” but Coleman’s filibuster kept it from coming up for a vote.

Turnbow called Coleman’s filibuster “tone deaf theatrics from a politician with no empathy or understanding of the very real threats facing communities like ours.” 

“Countless people in our community, including me, listened to today’s debate appalled at the disregard for their health and well-being.”

Approached by a reporter, Coleman said she was too busy to comment.

When the Senate came back Thursday morning, Brattin made a motion to amend the Senate Journal, which the Senate must approve before it begins other work for the day. Then, Brattin proceeded to hold the floor for four hours, decrying Coleman’s filibuster. 

Brattin spoke at length about the disrespectful nature of Coleman’s filibusters and read emails from constituents opposed to the project. He said repeatedly that he had a box of “5-hour energy” drinks to keep him going. 

He accused Coleman — without naming her — of filibustering the bill for financial gain.

Coleman received a $2,400 donation from a political action committee associated with one of the lobbying firms working for KC Recycling & Waste Solutions.

Shutting down the Senate

The General Assembly’s only unavoidable duty is passing appropriation bills. Since a fixed deadline was set in 1988, only once, in 1997, have lawmakers failed to pass all spending bills. Then-Gov. Mel Carnahan called lawmakers into special session 30 minutes after they adjourned to complete the appropriation process.

There are 17 spending bills – one to pay the state’s bills through June 30, 12 to fund state agency operations and four to finance construction and maintenance – awaiting action. The Senate must get past approval of the journal for any of them to get to a vote.

Even as the Senate was wracked with bitter GOP infighting for the past two years, the budget was never in danger of not passing. With the filibuster over, the danger of failure is not over because of the short time left to complete the process and any renewed filibuster would upset that timing.

Brattin and Haffner’s legislation has support from Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, whose district includes the proposed landfill site. 

Razer said he didn’t know where the opposition to the legislation was coming from, but he was having discussions about the legislation Thursday morning as Brattin held the floor. 

“We need to come up with a solution to this,” Razer said. 

Razer said he hoped the legislation passed, but he didn’t want to see the chamber shut down over any single piece of legislation. He noted that if the legislature doesn’t kill the landfill project, it still faces votes at the local level.

In addition to the budget deadline, Razer pointed out that the legislature must adjourn for the year by 6 p.m. May 12.

“We’re getting to the point where not only every day matters, but almost every hour matters,” Razer said.

He added: “The closer we get to 6 p.m. next Friday, the more every minute counts.”

The Missouri Independent’s Annelise Hanshaw contributed to this report. 

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Allison Kite
Allison Kite

Allison Kite is a data reporter for The Missouri Independent and Kansas Reflector, with a focus on energy, the environment and agriculture. A graduate of the University of Kansas, she previously covered City Hall for The Kansas City Star, as well as state government in both Topeka and Jefferson City.

Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget and the legislature. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he spent 22 of his 32 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics for the Columbia Daily Tribune, where he won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.