Volunteer Emblem Overview: Power Structure of the Missouri House

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Flowchart of House Power
The House Speaker and Majority Leader play key roles in the passage of a bill

As of 2016, there are a total of 76 committees in the House.The House has 163 members, which means there’s nearly one committee for every two members. That’s too many.

Nineteen of those committees are “joint” committees. Most of the Joint Committees were created by statute. Since they do relatively little, we'll ignore them.

We'll also ignore the two “special committees”, which were temporarily created to address an urgent topic in the state. Neither of them appear to be doing anything in the current session.

That leaves 55 committees.

Those committees fall into roughly four types:
  1. Standing Committees.

    There are 32 Standing Committees, plus 3 Clerical Committees (more on them later). Each Standing Committee has a topic assigned to it, like education, agriculture, insurance, etc.

    When a bill is filed, the House Speaker assigns it to a Standing Committee. If a Standing Committee - particularly its chairman - is hostile to a bill, the bill won't come to a House vote. It will disappear, never to be seen again.

    Standing Committees control topics that are often vague or overlapping. "Emerging Issues" is a prime example. Poorly-defined responsibilities allow the Speaker to assign a bill where he or she wants. Trusted chairmen sometimes get more bills, while lesser chairmen end up twiddling their thumbs. The workload becomes very uneven, with some chairmen assigned only three bills, while others have forty.

    All Standing Committees must submit their bills to their designated Select Committee for final approval.

  2. Select Committees.

    There are 13 Select Committees. Every Standing Committee is required to send its final draft of a bill to an assigned Select Committee. The Select Committee then reviews the bill, and decides whether to send it to the floor, to amend it, or to bury it.

    Obviously, the Select Committees are very powerful. They have the final say on all bills before they reach the Majority Floor Leader.

    The Select Committee on Fiscal Review does not oversee any other committee, but is likewise not subject to any oversight.

  3. Appropriations Committees.

    Appropriations Committees are a lot like Standing Committees, except for two things.  First, they only work with a few bills. Second, these bills are all about spending money.

    Appropriations Committees deal solely with the state's budget – who gets what, and how much. This makes them a great deal more powerful than other committees.

    There are currently 7 Appropriations Committees, which all report to a single Select Committee on the Budget.

  4. Clerical Committees.

    There are three Clerical Committees.  They do not usually pass legislation. Instead, they deal with internal matters of the House. 

    Administration and Accounts handles supplies, office and intern assignments, and so forth.  The Ethics Committee reviews complaints between House members. The Rules Committee is fairly important. It has some influence over how a bill gets debated.

    There is no Select Committee to oversee the Clerical Committees.

Finally, there are the House Leaders. The Speaker is by far the most powerful of these. Next come the Floor Leaders, who set the day-to-day schedule for the House, act as spokesmen for their party, and control committee memberships for their party. All of these positions also have an assistant and one or two supporting Officers.

These people essentially control who gets to review a bill, and when (or if) a bill comes to a vote. A bill will not pass without the approval of the House leadership.

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