California, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania, move over.
There’s a new full-time state legislature coming down the road. Missouri appears poised to join their ranks, whether citizens support never-ending lawmaking or not.
Judging by his actions, Gov. Eric Greitens is transforming the General Assembly before our eyes. Instead of a part-time gathering of farmers, ranchers, small business owners and countryside lawyers, Greitens is giving every indication that he wants a year-round affair with full-time, better-paid professional lawmakers, full-time assistants and full-time secretaries.
The proof? Just look at Greitens’ insistence that lawmakers return to the Capitol week after week for special sessions. The first this year, costing taxpayers more than $66,000, dealt with a Bootheel steel mill.
Greitens has indicated that he may call lawmakers into special sessions several more times. He hasn’t disclosed the topics, except to say he’s aiming to pass more of his priorities.
Think of the possibilities. Lawmakers could meet again to discuss ethics reform, which Greitens promised to bring to Jefferson City. He could bring them back to deal with the state’s out-of-control tax credit programs or to establish a badly needed prescription-drug monitoring program. Missouri is the only state in the nation that lacks one.
The list is long. The proposals are endless. The cost is great.
The price of a week of legislating for the 163-member House runs an estimated $50,000 to $100,000. The 33-member Senate? About $28,000.
Greitens is ignoring complaints from lawmakers about all the special sessions. Never mind that lawmakers have jobs and families, and the constant legislating is getting in the way of their real lives.
“This is a part-time job,” Rep. Rocky Miller, an Osage Beach Republican, told Missourinet. “I do run an engineering company, so anytime they’ve got me up here working on this, I’m not working for my family or producing in my hometown.”
State Sen. Jason Holsman, a Kansas City Democrat, went so far as to file a resolution this month calling for a year-round General Assembly. His proposal was seen more as a criticism of Greitens than a serious plan.
“The governor’s inability to work with the supermajority of his fellow Republicans to get things done on time has thrown our state into an unpredictable environment,” Holsman said.
Clearly, the governor is dissatisfied with our part-time lawmakers. He has called them “corrupt, career politicians.” He has referred to them as third-graders who can’t get the job done. Perhaps he’s thinking that full-time pros would do better work.
Of course, much of this is about the governor burnishing his political credentials for higher office. That first special session branded him as a job creator. The second sets him straight with the anti-abortion crowd, which has been suspicious of this governor.
Let’s be clear: No one in Missouri but the governor is interested in a full-time legislature. Voters would reject such a proposition by overwhelming margins. But it’s getting to the point where Greitens needs to ask them. He’s sure acting like full-time is the way to go.