WHAT OTHERS SAY: Legislators should keep hands off 'Hall of Famous Missourians'

Saturday, May 12, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

A proposal allowing lawmakers to commandeer the Hall of Famous Missourians is an unnecessary and duplicative power grab.

We believe an existing bipartisan commission that includes historians as well as partisan politicians is better equipped to provide appropriate oversight.

As the session nears its May 18 adjournment, the House on Wednesday advanced a bill giving the Legislature authority over the third-floor Rotunda area between the House and Senate chambers, which includes the gallery honoring famous Missouri residents.

Additions to the Hall of Famous Missourians traditionally have been made exclusively by the Speaker of the House.

That unilateral authority was challenged earlier this year after Republican House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, announced plans to elevate conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh to the gallery.

Democrats responded in March with a proposal to require additions to be endorsed by three of the top four legislative leaders.

Under the House proposal advanced Wednesday to the Senate, lawmakers would control the entire area, and visiting groups would need written permission for displays or usage. Another provision would add the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore to the state board of public buildings.

A proponent of the measure, House Majority Leader Tim Jones, R-Eureka, who is expected to be House speaker next year, said: “It would be the most common sense for them (lawmakers) to have control over everything in that Rotunda.”

We respectfully disagree. We believe lawmakers must be more involved in making policy and less involved in micro-managing building space.

An existing commission, the Missouri State Capitol Commission, already is established to oversee our Capitol.

According to the Missouri State Manual, the purpose of the commission “is to assure the future preservation and integrity of the Capitol and to preserve its historical significance. The commission evaluates and recommends courses of action on the restoration and preservation of the Capitol and the history of the Capitol, as well as evaluates and recommends courses of action to ensure accessibility to the Capitol.”

The 11-member commission, under the state Office of Administration, includes majority and minority members of the House and Senate, as well as residents who “have knowledge and background regarding the history of the state, (and) of the seat of state government and the Capitol.”

Legislators are elected to enact laws, not to moonlight as interior designers.

Let’s entrust our Capitol environs to an established group with an interest in history, preservation and public accommodation.

Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

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