As a former state senator, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon knows something about the legislative process.
But that hasn’t stopped Republican lawmakers from lodging a consistent complaint against the two-term Democratic governor. Nixon, GOPers say, engages them too late in the legislative process, and that’s hindered progress for Missouri.
On Wednesday, the first day of the 2015 General Assembly, Nixon signaled that his legendary aloofness (which he’s long disputed, by the way) may be on the way out.
While insisting that lawmakers are a separate branch of government and need space to operate without interference, Nixon told reporters that “you may see a little more activity this year.
“I want to respect the Legislature’s proper role, but if I can be helpful, I certainly know where the third floor is, I know how to get there, and I may be up there a little more this year.”
The third floor is where the House and Senate chambers are.
Last year, Republican lawmakers — and some Democrats — hammered Nixon unmercifully for being AWOL too much of the time. The criticism ramped up at one point in connect with a massive rewrite of the state’s criminal code.
“He doesn’t weigh in until too late and then he weighs in clumsily,” then-Rep. Chris Kelly, a Columbia Democrat, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The increasing tension between the legislative branch and the governor resulted in numerous Nixon vetoes of General Assembly bills and numerous overrides of those vetoes.
Legislative leaders say Nixon’s new approach is already having an impact on bills dealing with farm issues and student transfers from unaccredited school districts.
“He is going to find more success for his ideas and his point of view by taking that course of action,” Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey told Rudi Keller at the Columbia Daily Tribune. “I think that is good, healthy, and I am happy to hear that.”
Can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Who said so? Give Nixon credit for attempting some adjustments to a tried-and-true governing routine in year seven of his tenure.