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Capitol Perspectives: The Senate Saucer

by Phill Brooks

George Washington once described the purpose of the Senate as being like a saucer in which you pour coffee or tea to cool it. “We pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it,” he is quoted as telling Thomas Jefferson. The idea was that longer terms for senators along with statewide districts would lead to a more deliberative process than in the House. It would cool

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Capitol Perspectives: Results of Legislative Investigations

by Phill Brooks

I’ve been pondering these days whatever happened to Missouri’s consumer protection movement.

Once a vibrant force in Missouri government and politics just a few decades ago, it has become a faint shadow, a phantasm of a once very public cause for leaders from both political parties.

What’s triggered my memories has been the response to reports of a hacker getting credit card information about potentially millions of

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Capitol Perspectives: The Senate Drains

by Phill Brooks

I suspect few, if any, of the current members of the Missouri Senate understand why their chamber desktops have what look like brass drains you would find in a kitchen or bathroom sink.

They actually are sink drains, and they are part of a fascinating story about a multi-year and somewhat behind-the-scenes scheme by one of the chamber’s more conservative members to drag the Senate into the

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Capitol Perspectives: Budget Wars

by Phill Brooks

Missouri’s budget process sure has gotten tame since legislative term limits took effect. It’s become downright boring compared to my earlier years as a statehouse reporter. Before term limits, the budget was at the center of some of the greatest and most entertaining legislative battles that I have seen.

The budget-writing committees were composed of the General Assembly’s most senior members. They had years, even decades, of

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Capitol Perspectives: Press Facilities in the Statehouse

CapitolPerspectives_WPOne of the issues that has generated discussion within the press corps this legislative session is a bill to take away the offices and parking spaces at Missouri’s Capitol that are assigned to reporters who cover state government.

The bill sponsor told a committee he wanted to get more parking around the statehouse for people with disabilities. Just before this year’s session began, House staff proposed taking over part of

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Capitol Perspectives: Legislative ‘Joke’ Bills

by Phill Brooks

The recent bill filed to make it a felony crime for a legislator to propose a firearms restriction measure has given me a trip down memory lane about seemingly frivolous bills. It’s reminded me of the thousands of bills I’ve seen your legislators file with no apparent intention or hope to make them into law. Every year there seems to be a wave of futility, lost causes,

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Capitol Perspectives: The History of Booze in MO’s Legislature

The recent story about a Missouri House member complaining that someone was stealing liquor from his legislative office reminded me of the old days when liquor played a much greater role in Missouri’s statehouse.

Back decades ago, some legislative offices seemed more like public bars than places for crafting laws. A legislator from that era would not have complained about the loss of a liquor bottle, because it quickly would

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Capitol Perspectives: Rural Dominance in MO’s Legislature

CapitolPerspectives_WPOne of the more fascinating legislative patterns I’ve watched over the decades has been the dominance of rural Missouri in the state’s General Assembly — particularly in the Senate.

Back four decades ago, rural legislators firmly were in control. They were a pretty conservative lot, more interested in limiting government than expanding it.

Highways were the one exception. An adequate highway system in rural Missouri was almost sacred. Those rural

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Capitol Perspectives: Second Term Governors

by Phill Brooks

Listening to Gov. Jay Nixon’s State of the State address, I was reminded of a conversation I had with Gov. Mel Carnahan shortly after he began his second term as governor.

There have been just five two-term governors in Missouri history. Prior to the election of Warren Hearnes in 1968, Missouri’s Constitution limited governors to a single term — effectively making them lame duck the day they

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