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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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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.┬áBefore 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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