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Rural Missouri Magazine

Gov. Holden Stumbles

by Frank Stork

New chief executives should be allowed to stumble around a bit before we criticize them for not having a firm grip on all the things they have responsibility for. On the other hand, most that occupy the governor's chair are expected to have a firm grasp on some things their first day on the job.

One thing Bob Holden brought to the governor's office was extensive experience in both the legislative and executive branches of state government. He was expected to have a keen knowledge of the legislative process and the special responsibility of a governor's veto.

We were disappointed when Holden fell short of those expectations. He stumbled when he shouldn't have.

One of the bills he vetoed would have allowed fuel cost adjustments by our state's two smallest electric utilities. The purpose of the bill was to maintain the financial viability of these small utilities as they buy fuel through unregulated natural gas markets.

The Legislature, after concerns of consumer protection were raised, wisely reinforced the bill's language calling for oversight by the Public Service Commission before approving the measure. As we watch big companies buying up small electric utilities, our state Legislature is to be commended for addressing the special needs of our small Missouri-based companies. The financial viability and strong community presence of these small private enterprises are a huge benefit to all of us.

Representatives of the two companies involved asked the governor to give them an opportunity to discuss this special legislation. He declined. The reasons his staff gave for his veto were thoroughly discussed and then dismissed during the legislative process. After extensive debate the bill passed with a very strong vote in the House and a 33-0 vote in the Senate. That strong vote was a clear signal that Gov. Holden should take a personal interest in the legislation.

A governor's job is not an easy one. Anyone who holds that position will need to make tough decisions often. When tough decisions are made, those who get the short end of the stick will not be happy. If the governor takes the time to visit with those he may decide against, they will better understand his position. While they may in the end still be disappointed, they will not be bitter.

In politics, the "how" things are done can be a healing salve. For those in high elected office, political acumen is a required attribute. We think our new governor should have been willing to give the legislation a chance to work.

We know legislators and others who worked on the bill would have appreciated an opportunity to explain how it could.

Stork was executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and a member of Three Rivers Electric Co-op.

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