Our New Legislature
When the 92nd Missouri General
Assembly convenes in Jefferson City on Jan. 8, it will have a whole new
The 163-member House of Representatives
will seat 90 first-term legislators. The 34-member Senate will welcome
12 new members. For the first time in 54 years, both the Senate and House
will have a Republican majority. For the first time ever, our constitution
will allow those who fill an unexpired term to serve an additional eight
years. And, for longer than anyone cares to remember, our state legislators
will be facing a budget deficit that may reach $500 million!
The just-concluded three-week
orientation session for new legislators has been described by some as
taking a drink of water from a fire hose. With an average
of 1,500 bills introduced each session, legislators will face an overwhelming
number of issues.
The job our legislators take
on is a challenging one. To us non office holders, the many issues they
face each year may sound simple. If we had to attend hearings on the bills
containing simple issues, we would soon find that they become
complicated and difficult to resolve.
The seasoned lobbyists and
staffers who work with our General Assembly seem perplexed by this nearly
new legislature. They are asking each other how these sweeping changes
will affect the way they do their work.
Their pre-session consensus
is that they just dont know. With trepidation, they
accept the conclusion that only time will tell. Given a little
time, we expect our General Assembly will settle into a cohesive unit.
We perennially find legislators to be good people willing to work long
hours to accomplish their difficult tasks.
Because of the now mandated
turnover of state legislators, we voters may be taking on even more responsibility
in our republic in which supreme power rests in those entitled to vote.
Through our collective voting power, we ask legislators to represent us
and give them the authority to vote in our interest. As their constituency,
we have an obligation to help them. Our help comes as we frequently and
clearly communicate with them.
A senator recently told me,
The most difficult decisions legislators make are the votes we cast
on issues without constituent input. This particular senator encouraged
and welcomed input from the electorate to help him do his job better.
As our legislators convene
the 92nd Missouri General Assembly in Jefferson City on Jan. 8, let us
think about the very important responsibility we entitled voters
have in our form of government. Our republic, today and always, will require
us to communicate with those we elect to help them as they do their important
and difficult work.
Stork was executive
vice president of the Association of Missouri
Electric Cooperatives and a member of Three Rivers Electric Co-op.