Legislative Column for Jan. 24, 2014
Assessing Government

“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine,  whether Americans are to be, Freemen or Slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their Houses, and Farms, are to be pillaged and destroyed, and they consigned to a State of Wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn Millions will now depend, under God, on the Courage and conduct of this army-Our cruel and unrelenting Enemy leaves us only the choice but a brave resistance, or the most abject submission; this is all we can expect-We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die.”
– George Washington, address
to the Continental Army before the Battle of Long Island, July 2, 1776

The governor’s State of the State address and the Supreme Court Chief Justice’s State of the Judiciary address were presented to joint sessions of the Legislature this week. The contrast of tone between the two addresses was dramatic, but both confirmed the imperative to not just “trust, but verify” - an extension of the aphorism “let the buyer beware.”

Chief Justice Mary Russell began her remarks by vigorously confirming the duty of state officials to protect the federal and state constitutions - that is our oath. I hope the Missouri Supreme Court and lesser courts conform to Judge Russell’s remarks. An examination of court decisions, however, may reveal inconsistencies with a constitutional perspective. As citizens, it is our duty to verify that court opinions clearly support our constitutions. As a state senator, my power to hold judges accountable to their oath and to the constitution was completely removed by Missouri’s 1945 constitutional convention. That convention moved impeachment trials from the state Senate to the Supreme Court, even though roughly 80 percent of impeachments in Missouri have been of judges. The balance of the Judiciary report explained steps the courts have been taking to increase access and transparency using modern technology.

The governor’s remarks were much different and confrontational. Given the large legislative majorities in the opposing political party, I found that surprising. Some of the remarks seemed incomplete, ill-informed, or misleading. For example, he claims that Missouri must expand Medicaid or other states would get our tax dollars. Anyone who knows how federal Medicaid moneys are allocated would know that is untrue. If the governor did not know, his staff should have informed him.

The governor bragged about Missouri’s unemployment rate of 6.1 percent and claimed Missouri was doing better than all surrounding states in private sector job creation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), however, reports with a longer term view. According to BLS, since 2009, Missouri has lost a total of 23,963 jobs, while neighboring states Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Tennessee have gained 62,000, 40,000, and 111,000, respectively. Missouri’s unemployment number of 6.1 percent does not compare well to Oklahoma’s 5.4 percent, Kansas’s 5.1 percent, Iowa’s 4.4 percent, and Nebraska’s 3.7 percent. Over that period, Missouri’s labor force declined by approximately 100,000 workers. That went unnoticed in the governor’s remarks. Without context, numbers can be deceiving. Trust but verify. In the interest of full disclosure, all the above states have the advantage of being “right to work” states, which may account for their going unmentioned.

The governor promised millions of dollars to kindergarten through 12th grade public education, preschool, and higher education. A colleague turned to me after the speech and facetiously suggested we pass the governor’s budget as is to see his reaction. As tempting as that is, our obligation is to our oath and to the people and supersedes the temptation to call his bluff.

In summary, the liberal theme of cradle-to-grave government was woven throughout the address. From expanding preschool, to coercing students into government preferred professions, to the culmination of central planning in the governor’s challenge to “look out for [Missouri] families as if they were our families” – sounds very altruistic. Nevertheless, I hope many of you agree with me; I do not want government looking out for my family like it was theirs. I want to teach my family the truth about God and creation, about marriage and gender, about individual liberty and economic freedom, about the history of communism and socialism, about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, about the difference between independence and dependency, about the difference between a government of laws and one of men, about the threat to their liberty government represents if not restrained by the people and their constitution.

The governor’s speech promoted his plan for expanding government and curtailing liberty, for less self-reliance and more government dependence, and it was presented to a chamber filled with many who still love liberty and are bound by their oath to protect it. Maybe that’s why it seemed so confrontational.

I appreciate you reading this legislative report, and please don’t hesitate to contact my office at (573) 751-2108 if you have any questions. Thank you and God bless.