By SUMMER BALLENTINE
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Private negotiations over Missouri's proposed $26 billion spending plan for next fiscal year are raising questions about transparency in lawmakers' decisions.
The Legislature on Thursday passed next year's budget after a compromise was reached during closed-doors talks with a few key negotiators. Lawmakers and political scientists say the practice is common in Missouri and statehouses across the country.
Some legislators have defended private discussions as aiding the compromise process, and shielding legislators from interest groups.
But this year such discussions also meant some lawmakers had to vote on a spending plan with only a few hours to review sweeping changes to spending for social services, mental health and health and senior services.
Democrats say the process lacks transparency and is irresponsible.
Associated Press writer Summer Ballentine covers Missouri government and politics. Follow Summer Ballentine at https://www.twitter.com/esballentine
An AP News Analysis