Editorials

Shorter legislative sessions could mean less time for trouble in Jefferson City

The Missouri General Assembly would work better by moving the celebratory end-of-session paper toss up a few weeks on the calendar.
The Missouri General Assembly would work better by moving the celebratory end-of-session paper toss up a few weeks on the calendar. The Associated Press

Would a shorter session for the Missouri General Assembly lead to better behavior in Jefferson City?

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon raised that intriguing idea Wednesday during an editorial board visit with The Star. He had been asked about recent news reports that detailed harassment and inappropriate overtures toward young women on the part of some lawmakers and lobbyists.

None of the allegations involved Nixon’s office or departments under his jurisdiction. And as he pointed out, the governor doesn’t set rules for the legislature or control what its members do.

But, Nixon said of the inappropriate behavior, “It’s something that when you’re chief executive of the state it bothers you and you want to see it stopped.”

Currently the legislature is in session from early January through mid-May. During that time most lawmakers spend part of each week separated by some distance from their families and have plenty of opportunities for after-hours activities on lobbyists’ tabs.

Nixon noted accurately that most legislation is moved in the second half of the session. A shorter session, he said, would mean “that when you’re down there, you’re down there to work.”

It’s not a complete solution. Legislative leaders also must set strict policies for interactions between lawmakers and college interns and others who work at the Capitol.

But a shorter session would be healthy for Missouri. Every year the legislature, especially the House, spends too much time discussing and sometimes passing some truly nonsensical measures.

Rolling back the calendar would lend more focus and might, indeed, reduce the amount of time lawmakers have to get into trouble.

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