WHAT OTHERS SAY: Missouri lawmakers should work now; not in final frenzy

Friday, April 20, 2012 | 2:23 p.m. CDT

We’d like to see Missouri’s lawmakers working a bit harder.

Now, we don’t doubt the legislators put in some long, busy days. And their attention is being diverted to this constituent, then that lobbyist or a staff meeting and, of course, other solons wanting their input or support.

But we’d like to see more focus on priorities and productivity before the General Assembly enters frenzy week — those final days of the session. Legislators are now less than a month from their May 11 deadline to finish the budget and the May 18 end of this session.

Now is the time for the lawmakers to cull out the bills that don’t realistically have a chance of reaching the governor’s desk this year.

For instance, if a proposal for state reimbursement for jail inmates to be restored to $37.50 a day from its present less than $20 — a much-needed increase for the Greene County jail — simply cannot be accomplished, then no lawmaker from our county should be using up his or her time on it.

Now is also the time for leadership. House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, and President Pro Tem of the Senate Robert N. Mayer, R-Dexter, need to get some members past the all-or-nothing attitude. We need considered compromises. We need the caucus leaders and party whips to bring lawmakers together to resolve differences. They need to work harder; especially after the 2011 regular and special sessions that failed to deal with job proposals.

Generally, we’d like to see some of that hard work by legislators going to protect funding for all levels of education as well as public health testing such as water quality. And senators should find a way to approve a tax amnesty proposal that was key to the budget approved in the House.

Our delegation should focus on a change allowing Missouri State University to lease property at the Jordan Valley Innovation Center. There is no cost and this should be doable. Also, a bill allowing the county to retain more money from traffic fines and more funding of circuit court commissioners needs a unified backing. Projects at the Springfield-Branson National Airport have benefited from an aviation fuel fund that expires this year. Renewal of the fund needs to land safely on the governor’s desk.

And let’s not forget Gov. Jay Nixon. The Democratic governor needs to work with the Republican legislative leadership by giving guidance on bills he simply will not sign.

Finally, we have a pie-in-the-sky wish that the rush of last minute deals and amendments should be held to a minimum. As former Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield, said in 2007 when commenting on the frenzy and the infamous village law that was passed and then later repealed:

“Everybody just has to do the best they can. Bottom line is if someone wants to put something through that no one knows anything about, there are ways of doing that.”

Lawmakers should work harder to avoid that outcome.

Copyright Springfield News-Leader. Reprinted with permission.

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