The 96th Missouri General Assembly

Tribune Watch – a regular feature

The front page of the May 19th, 2012 edition of the Columbia Daily Tribune summarizes the achievements of the 96th General Assembly with this headline: “No ‘big idea’ measures emerge.” The subhead reports: “Lawmakers are left frustrated.”

We think the subhead would be more accurate if it read: “Left lawmakers are frustrated.” The Tribune’s second page, by the same reporter, reveals that the local Boone County delegation thought the legislative session was successful. So who was frustrated?   The front-page story states that “Rank-and-file lawmakers expressed disappointment in the session” and then quoted Tribune favorite liberal Democrat Representative Stephen Webber complaining that there was no ‘big idea’ in the last 24 hours of the session. (Webber features prominently in both Tribune stories, with a photo to boot.) This explains the ‘big idea’ of the headline – a Webber quotation -, but not the negative tone of the reporting. Overplaying his hand, the reporter tries to suggest that the House was frustrated, stating that House Majority Leader, Tim Jones (R), blamed the Senate for the lack of more “big things.” He could instead have quoted Jones saying he was proud of the House’s  accomplishments: “We could always do more; I am a little surprised with what we were able to accomplish.” Senates are always a problem, but not as much of a problem as a governor of the opposite party. (The Tribune omits his party affiliation.) We note that of the twenty proposals in the Republican Blueprint for Missouri, eight have been passed and sent to the governor for his signature. Not bad for a split government in an election year.

We have mixed feelings about Webber’s ‘big ideas,’ given government proclivities for expansion and power grabs. However, some of the big ideas we would favor include reforming or replacing the state income tax and making Missouri a right-to-work state, both blocked by the governor. The Tribune echoes leftwing talking points by mentioning the manufactured controversy about inducting Rush Limbaugh into the Missouri Hall of Fame and the jokes of late-night television (and leftist) comedians. We would have preferred highlighting why the legislature chose not to censure a former Missouri Governor pleading guilty to money laundering and theft on behalf of the Missouri Democrat party, an abuse of a position he held solely on the basis of political connections.

We also want to give a salute of some kind to Rep. Stephem Webber, he of the ‘big ideas,’ for his accomplishment in initiating an amendment to a higher-ed bill prohibiting a specialty Missouri license plate for graduates of the University of Kansas. Note that a specialty plate for Pittsburg State University Gorillas (Pittsburg, Kansas) had already been approved. Blocking the hated Jayhawks will be popular among undergraduates at the University of Missouri, where Rep. Webber is a student in the law school. But it strikes us as beyond frivolous,indeed immature. Friendly sports rivalries are very good things, like the Cardinals and the Cubs. Taking them outside the sports area into legislation is mean-spirited and – let us be frank – stupid. We believe that having a Jayhawk on Missouri license plates would contribute to many good new jokes and, we hope, lead to a continued rivalry with our friends to the west. Perhaps we could join them in becoming a right-to-work state, like six of our eight bordering states adept at taking our jobs.

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