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State legislators need to get serious about governing

Wednesday, April 8, 2009 | 3:49 p.m. CDT; updated 9:19 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I have a few questions for the people we have elected to represent our interests in the Missouri House and Senate. Exactly what are you doing in your comfortable chairs and offices?

How many bills affecting the lives and education of the citizens of this fine state have been passed and forwarded to Gov. Jay Nixon for signature?  

Just maybe there is nothing happening under the Gray Dome to report. Legislators started their business well before the session starts, yet it took about 20 days to get the first piece of legislation out of both houses and that concerned the pocketbooks of our elected officials — and only as a resolution.  

As of April 6, only two bills have made their way to the governor for his signature. SB313 will allow the state to receive federal recovery money; the bill got the governor’s signature on March 26. HB14, appropriating money to pay for “equipment, payment of claims for refunds, for persons, firms and corporations,” is still waiting.  

How many bills were introduced so far in 2009 by the House and the Senate? Go ahead, guess.

You are wrong.

There are at least 16 bills concerning abortion, 75 on agriculture and animals, 120-plus concerning business and commerce, and about an equal number concerning children and minors. There are nearly 200 bills concerning education, from kindergarten to public and proprietary colleges. That is only the surface of the list.

According to the House Communication office, as of April 6 almost 1,830 pieces of proposed legislation have been introduced in both chambers. Some will be dead-on-arrival. Some will never make it to committee. Some will never make it out of a committee. Some will be indefinitely postponed. Few will never see the governor’s office. Too many are introduced so the elected official can say, “See, I introduced all of these bills. See, I am working.”  

I find little news offered by our three television stations and three newspapers serving Columbia and Jefferson City summarizing political activities under the Gray Dome concerning the lives and welfare of Missouri citizens. Why do I have to read about proposed legislation in the Post-Dispatch or, worse, USAToday? Why do I rely on my students to tell me what is important and what our legislators are doing? What is wrong with this picture?

One of the jobs of the Fourth Estate is to monitor and report on the actions of our elected officials. Personally, I do not care who is having sex with whom, but I am concerned with the energy squandered by those whose job is legislating our laws.

OK, the Missouri basketball Tigers and Columbia College basketball Cougars are champions in their own right. The weather is important to farmers, those who work outdoors and those who are dressing their children for school. However, these are not the important issues of the day.  

Representative Robert Cooper (R-155) has introduced a bill concerning the teaching of science in our public schools. In my mind, HB656 is not a well-written bill; in fact it is quite confusing. It does address a difficult and well-argued issue about what is to be taught in school: evolution or intelligent design, giving science second place.

HCR16, introduced by Representative Clint Tracy (R-158), says that Missouri “reject any asylum, containment, transport, imprisonment, or state medical care of any suspected terrorists released from United States operated foreign prisons.” This is no more than an emotional issue designed to get votes at home. When Gitmo is closed, its former inhabitants will be sent to federal, not state, facilities. How many federal prisons do we have in Missouri? One, in Springfield, and it is a minimum-security medical-administrative facility. Get serious people.

Dear Legislators — this is the Show-Me State! Think education, health, welfare, roads, jobs and alike. Now, show citizens that you can do the job we are paying you to do: Protect the welfare of your constituents and improve the economics of the state instead of playing “See Me — Look At Me!” like a 5-year-old. You do like your leather seat and big desk under the Dome, don’t you?

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. Besides the Missourian, David is also a featured columnist for MissouriTribune.com and TRCB.com.  He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net. 

 


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