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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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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: Fiscal discipline in state government

CapitolPerspectives_WPThe legislature’s recent approval of a major tax cut for businesses and income tax payers has caused me to think about the history of fiscal discipline in Missouri.

In its laws, as well as legislative practices, Missouri has a far stronger system for controlling government’s spending appetites than does the federal government. Unlike the federal government that can print as many dollar bills as needed, Missouri’s Constitution prohibits deficit spending

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