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GEORGE KENNEDY: Gridlock, largely inactive governor kept bad legislation from passing

Thursday, May 26, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 8:02 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 26, 2011

COLUMBIA — Now that the perpetrators have fled the scene and enough time has elapsed to provide some perspective, let’s try to evaluate the five-month calamity that was the 2011 legislative session.

There’s already been a lot of post-session talk, some of it on this page and most of it focusing on what legislators approved when they didn’t stymie themselves with intra-party, inter-chamber gridlock. The benefits of their action accrue mainly to their big-monied big business sponsors.

By contrast, we ordinary citizens can only heave a sigh of relief when we contemplate what the Republicans who dominated both houses didn’t do. They tried and failed to:

  • Replace our modestly progressive income tax with a broad-based sales tax that would have shifted the tax burden to the middle and lower economic class and produced even less revenue for starving state services.
  • Reverse the remarkable victory the voters gave low-income workers in 2006 by removing the inflation adjustments to the state minimum wage.
  • Cripple unions by joining Missouri to the ranks of the right-to-work-for-less states.
  • Penalize newcomers from foreign lands by limiting driver license tests to English only.
  • Overturn another law passed by statewide referendum and allow Ameren to charge its customers for the costs of applying for a license to build another nuclear power plant.
  • Make it more difficult and expensive to buy the most common medicines for colds and allergies by requiring sales by prescription only.

Sometimes, gridlock isn’t such a bad thing.

Disagreement between House and Senate also prevented passage of another huge giveaway to developers, this one in the name of the far-fetched notion of transforming Lambert Airport into a center for cargo coming in from China. That beauty would have been financed in large part by taking away money that now helps thousands of old and poor people pay their rent.

For most of the spring, Gov. Jay Nixon might as well have remained concealed in his turkey blind. He was invisible to the naked eye. Occasionally, however, he emerged. Once he showed off a turkey he’d bagged with his shotgun. Another time, he bagged with his pen a legislative turkey by vetoing a bill that would have weakened enforcement of the law against workplace discrimination.

Perhaps the governor’s finest hour was his “Missouri compromise” that prevented the complete gutting of yet another law we’d passed by referendum. That was the law intended to address the abuses that have led to our long-running reign as puppy mill capital of the country.

The legislature, in thrall as usual to the Farm Bureau, wanted to dismantle the new restrictions. The compromise, announced at the last minute, saves key provisions and actually adds some needed enforcement staff. Most backers of the referendum, it appeared, recognized that this was the best they were going to get.

Gov. Nixon prevented another legislative misstep from bad to worse by first vetoing and then winning modification of a bill to limit lawsuits against the noisome nuisances that have driven most small producers of hogs and chickens from the field. No change in existing law would have been better, but the Factory Farm Bureau wasn’t going to allow that.

Of course, there were a few positives. The most important for Columbia was a reduction in the size of the cut to the university budget. As far as I can tell, we have Sen. Kurt Schaefer to thank. He also did the state a big favor by refusing to go along with the budget-slashing demands of a vociferous band of his colleagues. We’ll have to hope that such statesmanship doesn’t get him read out of the ranks of Republicans.

Anyway, we’ve survived another season in Jeff City. It’s too soon to relax, though. The same cast of characters will be back next January. Hide the silver.

George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.

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Comments

Mark Yount May 26, 2011 | 3:29 p.m.

It never ceases to amaze me how every time George Kennedy puts his fingers to the keyboard, the thoughts that result are--almost unfailingly--not only wrong, but harmful to our city, state and country. With professors like him pouring their ideas into naive young j-school students, it's no wonder the mainstream media has become a joke.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire May 26, 2011 | 3:45 p.m.

Thank you for your detailed observation. I'm sure that everyone will understand the issues more clearly now.

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders May 26, 2011 | 5:46 p.m.

If it wasn't for gridlock, we'd have full-blown Communism by now.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking May 27, 2011 | 4:42 a.m.

Do you really know what Communism is? It means full state ownership of all land, money, infrastructure and means of production. No one technically has personal property. We would not even be close to that under a majority Green/Socialist party government (which has practically zero chance of happening).

Come on, guys. Hyperbole gets no one anywhere.

DK

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith May 27, 2011 | 7:29 a.m.

Mark Foecking, agreed. Communism as actually practiced in the former Soviet Union only approximated classical Communism.

Mark Yount. I think you may have been overly hard on poor George Kennedy. Kennedy is suffering from a well-known ocular disease, which first struck the university in the 19th Century - the year 1870, to be exact - and has been rampant on the Columbia campus since then. Those stricken with the malady are unable to see beyond the borders of the Columbia campus (amazingly, their vision within those borders is 20/20). There are some indications that incidence of the disease has increased since 1963 (formation of UM System).

There appears to be no cure for this disease, although rumors persist that it's psychosomatic and NOT physical.

(Report Comment)
frank christian May 27, 2011 | 9:37 a.m.

Mark Foecking - "We would not even be close to that under a majority Green/Socialist party government (which has practically zero chance of happening)."

Does your research show that those living under Communism now and in the past, Voted for it? Maybe you can find the instance of an action by the Democrat legislators in our country which was an attempt to distance us from control of a Green/Socialist party. Our Constitution has prevented the advance of Communism, here, so far, but, our Democrat President refers to it as an "obstruction" to all the wonderful changes to our lives, that he is wont to foist upon us.

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks May 27, 2011 | 10:03 a.m.

DK "It means full state ownership of all land, money, infrastructure and means of production"

Sounds pretty much how things are now. A person can skimp and save and buy a home with a loan or outright with cash and what do they do they charge you property tax. In the US a person can NEVER actually own anything do to the fact that you will ALWAY be charged for it. Sometimes you get charged for it even when you do not own it anymore. Like when you sell your house or car in Feb and have to pay for the whole year in DEC.
Kind of depressing when one things about it. Sometimes it makes you wonder who the fool is. The person paying 600 a month in rent or the person paying 800 a month in mortgage.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking May 28, 2011 | 2:35 a.m.

frank christian wrote:

"Does your research show that those living under Communism now and in the past, Voted for it?"

Typically countries that have communist systems of government have never had free and fair elections. However, many other countries with governments that are far more socialist than ours (Europe's, for example) are true democracies and their voters choose to live under these systems.

The Europeans I've worked with felt the quality of life in their countries was every bit as good or better than here, and none of them wanted to stay here. Other than the lower prices for most goods here, they were very pleased to get back to their former lives.

"Our Constitution has prevented the advance of Communism"

The Constitution says nothing about our economic system. It gives citizens basic broad rights, but says nothing about how the economy should be run. It prevents the advance of dictatorship and abridgement of basic rights like free speech and assembly, but that's a different issue.

Corey Parks wrote:

"Sounds pretty much how things are now. A person can skimp and save and buy a home with a loan or outright with cash and what do they do they charge you property tax."

Paying taxes on goods you own isn't really diminishing your ownership of those goods. You're still free to sell the property, to profit from it, and no one can use it, legally, without your permission. You're really just paying for government services that relate to your property, like roads. It is questionable why schools should be paid for out of property taxes (a lot of property owners don't use the school system), but as long as they have to be paid for, I'm OK with that source of funding. They have to get it from somewhere.

DK

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith May 28, 2011 | 6:49 a.m.

As the definitive definition of Communism I submit the definition given by a former U. S. Army POW, who upon repatriation from a Korean POW camp was asked what he thought of Communism, being as he was a black American (from West Des Moines, Iowa) and having been worked over pretty thoroughly as a potential defector during his incarceration.

"Communism," he said, "is a system where people who have nothing want to share it with the rest of the world."

[How do you like that definition, Frank?]

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith May 28, 2011 | 7:01 a.m.

In my post, 5th from the top, I may have inadvertently confused some readers. George Kennedy has not to our knowledge been around since 1870. While we aren't certain of George's exact appearance on the scene it would almost certainly have been sometime after the 1890s, possibly even during the early 20th century. :)

(Report Comment)
frank christian May 28, 2011 | 8:11 a.m.

Mark F. - The European countries you refer to are living with the system we (USA) installed for those against us, after WW2 and those freed from USSR control chose the system most relative to ours. Margaret Thatcher changed the path of the UK for the better and my belief is that the socialism you lovingly refer to has "crept" into their gov'ts as it has into ours.

"Other than the lower prices for most goods here, they were very pleased to get back to their former lives." "Home" is the best place for most of us. I feel that if FDR and Meyer Lansky, while building the casinos and resorts in Cuba had only provided the campesinos something to eat there never would have been an F. Castro. I feel the ones you refer to, long for home because of the capitalism they have lived with, not the socialism.

"Our Constitution has prevented the advance of Communism"
"It prevents the advance of dictatorship and abridgement of basic rights like free speech and assembly, but that's a different issue. What's different? Our Constitution stands in G. Soro's way of providing us with his Open Society. He has stated that the Bill of Rights should not be inalienable. "We should be able to change them". You obviously believe the changes Soros, Obama,etc. want for us would be for the better. I do not.

(Report Comment)
frank christian May 28, 2011 | 8:21 a.m.

Ellis S. - "[How do you like that definition, Frank?]"

Not bad. Much better than your reference to "classical Communism." in a previous post.

I like, I believe, Jerry Falwell, the best. "Communism is a system of shared poverty."

(Report Comment)

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