Rural Missouri Magazine

Our New Legislature

Frank Stork
by Frank Stork

When the 92nd Missouri General Assembly convenes in Jefferson City on Jan. 8, it will have a whole new look.

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 don’t 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.

Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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