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Capitol Perspectives: We Won’t Pay for It

by Phill Brooks

As the ballot-issue petition process gets underway to submit a transportation sales tax to Missouri voters, I’ve wondered what my European friends would think. While southern Europe is criticized for refusing to pay for the government services Europeans enjoy, that would not seem to be the case about highway systems.

Europe’s highways are superb. There’s a quality of convenience, pavement, construction and maintenance that far exceeds anything

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Capitol Perspectives: Spokespersons Who Will Not Speak

by Phill Brooks

Earlier this month, Missouri experienced an extraordinary series of government spokespersons who refused to speak.

The week of Oct. 11 was an unusually busy news cycle. The Corrections Department issued a release that it was returning to the European manufacturer a drug used for executions. A few days later, Gov. Jay Nixon suspended a scheduled execution. Nixon’s office announced the immediate replacement of the Agriculture Department director.

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Capitol Perspectives: Powers and Problems for House Speakers

by Phill Brooks

There is a fascinating common element to what’s happening in Washington and Missouri’s House. The common element involves the problems facing House speakers. And the troubles facing both men can best be described by phrases that start with the letter “T.”

For U.S. House Speaker John Boehner the phrase is “Tea Party,” whose supporters are imposing demands that have restricted negotiating a compromise on the budget. For

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Capitol Perspectives: State Budget Withholding

by Phill Brooks

The Missouri Supreme Court’s latest decision upholding Jay Nixon’s budget powers has handed future Missouri’s governors a powerful new tool to control state spending. Even before the court’s decision, our state’s governor had significant controls over state spending plans passed by the legislature.

Unlike the U.S. president, Missouri’s governor can use his veto authority to reduce or completely eliminate one or more separate funding lines in the

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Capitol Perspectives: Missouri Political Comebacks

by Phill Brooks

Former House Speaker Catherine Hanaway’s statement that she’s considering running for Missouri governor reminds me of other major Missouri politicians who sought to return to elective office after years of absence. Like some skeptics I’ve heard in the statehouse, I too first thought that Hanaway’s nearly nine-year absence from political office would be a liability. But on further thought, I realized history might be encouraging for the

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Capitol Perspectives: Sloppy Legislation

by Phill Brooks

Sloppy wording was one of the defining elements in the legislature’s recent veto session, as well as a growing problem that is starting to get legislative attention.

Some legislative supporters concede that mistakes in the wording of the two biggest vetoed bills cost them the chance to override one if not both measures — giving Gov. Jay Nixon nationally reported victories.

Both the Senate’s president pro tem

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Capitol Perspectives: Political Courage

by Phill Brooks

Political courage. That’s the phrase that came to my mind as I watched the Senate’s top GOP leaders cast the deciding votes that killed the gun-rights bill. It was an act of courage I have rarely seen in my decades covering Missouri’s General Assembly.

Realize how politically dangerous it is for a Republican to vote against what is promoted as a gun-rights measure. It can be a

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Capitol Perspectives: The Loss of an Education Leader

by Phill Brooks

This summer, Missouri lost one of its most effective education leaders, Alex Bartlett. He did not hold public office. Never did, as best I know. In fact, he was not even a government staffer. Instead, he was a mild-mannered, quiet-spoken Jefferson City attorney.

In all of the times I met him, I cannot remember him without a smile on his face — and always eager to help

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Capitol Perspectives: Veto Session Adventures

by Phill Brooks

Veto sessions of Missouri’s General Assembly have struck me more as grand political theater rather than substantive public policy debates on complicated state issues.

The first successful veto override I covered was Gov. Kit Bond’s veto of a bill involving licensing of nurses. In his 1976 veto message, Bond cited a provision expanding the power of the nurses’ licensing board to hold closed meetings.

When the bill

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