WHAT OTHERS SAY: Less is not always better when it comes to Missouri General Assembly

Thursday, February 16, 2012 | 9:47 a.m. CST

A shorter legislative session may sound like a clever way to force lawmakers to get down to work, but it isn't the answer to gridlock in the Missouri General Assembly.

The Springfield News-Leader’s Josh Nelson reported that first-term state Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, has sponsored a bill that would cut the number of days the General Assembly is in session by more than a third. The reason, Lamping said, is that the lawmakers appear to him to leave their work until the mid-May adjournment day is looming. The more than $400,000 savings predicted from the change doesn’t hurt, either.

We agree that lawmakers need to utilize their time in Jefferson City in the most efficient way, and any way to save the state’s money is worth considering, but this is not the best way to do either.

Moving from 73 days to 48 days will simply compress the schedule, stifle debate and result in even more power being consolidated in the hands of legislative leaders, staff and lobbyists, who work year-round on their issues.

Lamping’s office has pointed out that Texas still meets every other year – but we might note that Texas legislators meet about the same number of days in that span and that the political structure in Texas, which limits the power of the governor, gives the state legislature a wide latitude.

Until 1970, Missouri legislators, like in many states, also met every other year, but the realities of ever-changing needs and a strong governor’s office that works year-round convinced voters to change the state’s constitution to send their lawmakers back to Jefferson City every year.

If all that legislators did was sponsor and vote on bills, the work could likely get done in 48 days, but the business of the people requires debate, study and sometimes responding to immediate concerns of constituents.

Lawmakers should definitely use all 73 days of the session to handle that business.

Copyright Springfield News-Leader. Reprinted with permission.

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