On Monday, January 6, 2020, the St. Louis Regional Chamber hosted the rescheduled Chamber Champion Awards Dinner. In celebration of the achievements of lawmakers from both sides of the Mississippi River, members and community partners gathered at the Missouri Athletic Club in downtown St. Louis. The bipartisan, bi-state coalition of awardees included former U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, U.S. Representative John Shimkus, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, and Illinois Assistant Majority Floor Leader Jay Hoffman.
The theme for the evening was unity and collaboration. In 2019, Democrats and Republicans in both state legislatures worked together to achieve great wins for the St. Louis region. Among the Champion Award winners were Illinois Senate President John Cullerton who was awarded the Champion Award for his leadership on the Illinois Capital Bill and the Legacy Award for his lifelong commitment to inspiring a greater St. Louis region. “I am able to leave after one of the most productive legislative sessions in recent history that was brought about by bipartisanship even though we do have a supermajority,” said Cullerton, who will retire this January.
In Missouri, President Pro Tem Dave Schatz was awarded the Champion Award for his role in passing Senate Bill 68, the largest economic and workforce development package in Missouri history, and Senate Concurrent Resolution 14, a $300 million bridge bonding package that will fix 215 bridges in the state. Echoing his counterpart in Illinois, Senator Schatz spoke of the unity and collaboration taking place in the Missouri Legislature, “The relationships I have with those from across the other side of the aisle…is not what like we see in Washington D.C. or maybe what the media might portray…we have great working relationships, great communication…and I think that we will work together to get the best for Missouri and move Missouri forward.”
Perhaps the most talked-about awards of the night were the Legacy Awards bestowed upon former U.S. Senator for Missouri Claire McCaskill and retiring Illinois Congressman John Shimkus. Both leaders gave remarks that made an impact on the room. McCaskill, speaking on the dysfunction in Washington, made a contrast to the fruits of bipartisanship in the Missouri and Illinois legislatures this year, “If we just play red shirt, blue shirt, it makes it really hard for there to even be a middle ground.” Congressman Shimkus spoke on the importance of the business community in our region and how important it is to fight the growing sentiment that business is bad for our nation, communities, and citizens, “I thank you for employing our citizens, paying them for their work, providing healthcare, and supporting government through your taxes.”
This year’s Chamber Champion Awards was certainly one for the books, and, as we head into another year of legislative sessions, we are reminded that the best way to get things done is by working together. The St. Louis Regional Chamber looks forward to continuing these great working relationships in 2020 and into the future.