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Capitol Perspectives: Rural Dominance in MO’s Legislature

One 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

Continue reading Capitol Perspectives: Rural Dominance in MO’s Legislature

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

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Capitol Perspectives: The Aircraft of Missouri’s Governors

by Phill Brooks

What is it about planes and travel that make Missouri governors willing to risk so much to get out of the governor’s office?

Our state has a long history of governors getting themselves in trouble because of planes and travel — even for the travel expenses of their food. The latest controversy

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Capitol Perspectives: The Quitters

by Phill Brooks

Every January after a general election, I’m fascinated by those who will be leaving office after years, sometimes decades, of service. Some finish with a flurry of work. Some just fade away. And a few just give up and effectively quit before their terms expire.

The only Missouri state official leaving office

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Capitol Perspectives: Memorable Inaugurations

by Phill Brooks

If you wander by Missouri’s Capitol in December and notice workmen mowing the dormant lawn, you know the state is preparing for its inauguration.

It’s among the steps in weeks of work for the day-long ceremony. Despite all the preparation, there usually is not much of major public-policy significance that will happen

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Capitol Perspectives: How governors win over the legislature

As Missouri’s governor enters the holiday season before his second term, Jay Nixon might want to take a look at how past governors have won legislative support for major policy initiatives like his proposal for a major expansion of Medicaid.

So far, Missouri’s governor has suffered some major defeats for his top legislative policy initiatives.

Continue reading Capitol Perspectives: How governors win over the legislature

Capitol Perspectives: Don’t believe the politicians

One of the most colorful and powerful characters I’ve covered in Missouri’s statehouse was Richard Webster. He was a longtime senator from the southwest Missouri town of Carthage, serving from 1963 until his death in 1990.

Webster tried to teach me to not believe everything he or any other politician says.

One of my reporters

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Capitol Perspectives: Election consequences for Missouri

by Phill Brooks

Missouri’s Senate may be on the verge of an historic change. And if so, it likely can be attributed to one of the softest-spoken legislative leaders I’ve covered in all my decades watching over the Missouri General Assembly.

It is easy to underestimate Ron Richard. The Joplin Republican Senator is a man

Continue reading Capitol Perspectives: Election consequences for Missouri

Capitol Perspectives: The decline of parties

The year’s campaign season has provided a clear demonstration of the declining role of political parties.

For years, political scientists have noted the growing number of voters who identify themselves as independent. As a result, a candidate from the party with the highest identification no longer can count on getting elected just by getting the

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Capitol Perspectives: The pain of loss

Every election night, I think back to the losers of past elections. I remember how some have been magnanimous in defeat, while others have been bitter. It is difficult, I think, to realize the emotional pain a candidate must feel at being rejected in such a public fashion.

It was expressed in 2010 when U.S.

Continue reading Capitol Perspectives: The pain of loss

Capitol Perspectives: Repair, neglect at our Capitol

If you were to have approached the state Capitol from the northwest this summer or fall, you might first think that Missouri’s statehouse was being rebuilt. It’s not a total rebuild, but a major repair and replacement of outside stone stairs, railings and a walkway on side of the building.

Behind this latest statehouse repair

Continue reading Capitol Perspectives: Repair, neglect at our Capitol

Capitol Perspectives: The influence of money

One of my reporters, after reading the first draft of this column, warned me that the subject of campaign finances “is not exactly an exciting topic.”

I fear he has a point. Too often campaign finance stories do seem to be limited to numbing numbers with little relationship to the issues that actually effect or

Continue reading Capitol Perspectives: The influence of money

Capitol Perspectives: Government gag orders

A statehouse colleague of mine recently wrote about being blocked from access to a tax expert in the state Revenue Department for a story she was pursuing.

Virginia Young, the statehouse bureau chief for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, wrote about how she could not get access to a department expert to explain a tax issue

Continue reading Capitol Perspectives: Government gag orders

Capitol Perspectives: Overcoming political catastrophes

In the aftermath of the Todd Akin controversy, one of my reporters asked me if I could remember a Missouri politician who had recovered from a similar catastrophic setback.

I could not immediately think of one Missouri candidate who has been able to reverse a catastrophic setback.

Instead, what I recall is a long history

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Capitol Perspectives: Sad time in Missouri’s legislature

This year’s veto session was a sad time for me. It always is in even-numbered years. That’s because it was the last time I’ll see some of the legislators I’ve covered for years.

For nearly one-quarter century, I’ve covered Democratic Sen. Tim Green. I’ve watched the St. Louis County electrician grow to become a leading

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Capitol Perspectives: Campaign rhetoric vs issues

Nearly every election season, I am surprised at the disconnect between what politicians are debating versus the real issues that have been at the center of attention for government leaders. Even issues that had dominated the legislative session just a few months earlier usually appear forgotten when the campaign season begins.

In this column, I’ve

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Capitol Perspective: The costs of candor

The Todd Akin controversy has reminded me of other times that Missouri politicians have gotten into trouble for misspeaking — or, maybe, for saying what they truly believed, but subsequently claimed were mistakes in their language.

As journalists, we appreciate those sources who speak to us with unrestrained candor. But we sometimes extract a heavy

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Capitol Perspectives: Campaign 2012: Advertising or Policy

I have a confession as I resume Capitol Perspectives this fall for you: I am not looking forward to the fall campaign season.

For someone who has spent almost his entire adult life covering politics and government, you’d think I’d be looking forward to what promises to be a hot political season. But, instead, I’m

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Capitol Perspectives: Term Limits

If you had to pick one factor to explain the difficulties encountered during the 2012 session of Missouri’s legislature, it would have to be term limits. That’s the consensus from almost every senior lobbyist and former legislator with whom I’ve discussed the session.

Missouri’s General Assembly of today is a very different institution from what

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Capitol Perspectives: The responsibility for education

This past week, another chapter was written in the history of a decades-long debate about Missouri’s responsibility for the education of its children.

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Capitol Perspectives: Budget war stories

With the past week’s budget filibuster in Missouri’s Senate, I thought some
of the war stories of past years would be of interest.

Continue reading Capitol Perspectives: Budget war stories




Capitol Perspectives: The criminals I have known

Of the politicians and state officials who have faced criminal charges in the decades I’ve covered this place, Roger Wilson seemed one of the least likely candidates for a criminal record.

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Capitol Perspectives: What’s to become of Missouri’s Senate?

This past week, the future of Missouri’s Senate became a topic of discussion in the statehouse.

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Capitol Perspectives: White hats

This past week, Missouri lost one of its White Hats.

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Capitol Perspectives: Wedge issues

In the past few weeks, wedge issues have consumed a significant portion of the Missouri General Assembly’s time.

Continue reading Capitol Perspectives: Wedge issues