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Capitol Perspectives: A Session Marked by Scandal, Filibusters

by Phill Brooks

There are some fascinating historical perspectives to the two factors that helped define the 2015 legislative session – the intern scandal that drove a House speaker out of office and filibusters that blocked Senate work in the final week.

The story of text-messaging impropriety by House Speaker John Diehl with a college intern reminded me of earlier years when the Missouri legislature had major problems with the

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Capitol Perspectives: Legislative Leaders and Term Limits

by Phill Brooks

One of the trends in Missouri’s legislature from term limits has been the growing power of legislative leaders. It’s the exact opposite that had been suggested by some term-limit supporters — that kicking out long-time legislators also would remove leaders who had held dominating power for years. But the resulting large blocks of lawmakers with limited understanding of government history or the legislative process has virtually necessitated

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Capitol Perspectives: Challenging the Legislature

by Phill Brooks

Missouri’s Republican legislature has laid the groundwork for a classic confrontation with the Democratic governor.

This year, the GOP-dominating legislature sent Gov. Jay Nixon bills he normally would veto including unemployment compensation cuts, welfare cuts and restrictions to his budget powers.

They sent the entire operating budget to Nixon early enough that they can take their veto override votes before the session ends rather than waiting until

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Capitol Perspectives: Macks Creek and Hidden Taxes

by Phill Brooks

The Supreme Court’s recent hearing on the legislature’s efforts to deal with the Macks Creek issue reminded me of the complicated history of the legislature’s approach to hidden taxes and budgets. Macks Creek no longer exists, but it has left a legacy that has lasted for decades.

Running through the Camden County town was U.S. 54 that carries heavy traffic of tourists driving to the restaurants and

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Capitol Perspectives: A Passing Era at the Auditor’s Office

by Phill Brooks

The two deaths in the state auditor’s office mark, I fear, the passing of an era for Missouri statehouse reporters.

State Auditor Tom Schweich and his spokesperson, Spence Jackson, were among the most helpful, open, candid and friendly major state figures I have covered in recent years. They displayed a deep respect for journalism and went out of their way to help reporters.

Schweich often dropped by

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Capitol Perspectives: The Need for Audacity

by Phill Brooks

Missouri’s legislature left for its spring break with little progress on some of the state’s biggest issues — Ferguson, highway budget shortfalls and school-funding equity. While the Republican-dominated legislature has made substantial progress on GOP agenda items such as restricting welfare, right to work and limiting liability lawsuit awards, the more difficult issues have languished.

Neither chamber has passed anything to address a funding shortfall for Missouri

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Capitol Perspectives: About Schweich’s Eulogy

by Phill Brooks

John Danforth’s eulogy for Missouri’s late auditor Tom Schweich reminded me of the inspiration I gained from Danforth as a young reporter covering him as state attorney general.

Danforth once was called the father of the modern Missouri Republican Party. He later became a leading critic of the current political process.

As an Episcopalian minister, ethics is at the core of John Danforth. I learned that from

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Capitol Perspectives: Thinking on Tom Schweich

by Phill Brooks

News that Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot has caused me to wonder about the tough and unforgiving environment that I cover. I worry that what I enjoy covering were factors in his death.

This is a man I will remember fondly. I will miss our conversations.

He was eager to talk with reporters about government issues. He regularly wandered the statehouse

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Capitol Perspectives: A Salary Squabble in the Senate Family

by Phill Brooks

A drama unfolded in Missouri’s Senate the likes of which have not been seen in more than four decades. It involved a fight over pay raises for legislators and other elected state officials.

The pay hikes, recommended by the Compensation Commission, automatically take effect unless rejected by a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate. The House overwhelmingly had voted down the raises. But when the issue

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