Saturday, May 20, 2006


Well, the school year is over and I suppose it’s time for report cards and test scores and other assorted methods of evaluation. My wife and the other teachers in the district are preparing those final end-of-the-year reports, comments, and summer reading lists to send home with the kids. The legislature in Jefferson City has adjourned for the session, and I suppose it’s time to grade their performance as well.

In all fairness, these folks have a tough job to do. We give them less than five months to accomplish a year’s worth of the people’s business. We don’t pay them very much, and we scrutinize their every move, meal and expenditure. Our esteemed elected officials have taken quite a beating in the press this year. Lots of folks criticize them for what they accomplished as well as what they did not accomplish. We have an extremely powerful legislative delegation in St. Charles County with the number two and number three man in the House hailing from St. Charles and the powerful Budget Chairman in the Senate.

The Governor came into town last year in a whirlwind and the accomplishments were dizzying. Worker’s compensation legislation topped the list and the state became business friendly. Coupled with meaningful tort reform, the level of excitement in the business community was palpable. The Republican-controlled legislature worked very well with the newly elected Republican Governor, and they moved the ball forward quite a bit. While some of the decisions made were unpopular, they moved forward together to get Missouri back on the right track. Last year’s session was definitely a candidate for the honor roll. It was a solid A. It’s hard to top such a great year. I think our elected officials in Jeff City discovered that this year. With the GOP occupying both chambers of the legislature and the Governor’s Mansion, there were going to be some disagreements, it’s only natural and to be expected.

All in all, I think that the public and the press have been too harsh on our legislators. Regardless of the few bills that received negative attention, many bills were passed and the people of the State of Missouri will be better for it.

I, for one, am all in favor of any sort of improvement to the vehicle emission testing system is definitely a good thing, and I’d say a B+ is in order for this idea (I only wish they’d scrap the system altogether). I also think that little kids (under 7 to be specific) should ride in booster seats. The legislature deserves an A for recognizing the problem, and it’s a slam dunk when it comes to safety.

The legislature also tackled some more controversial issues. The photo-ID bill received a lot of negative attention, mostly from our liberal brethren. It seems rather basic to me that I should show ID to confirm my identity before I vote. It’s not unreasonable, and it won’t disenfranchise folks. Granted, some of our elderly and poor may be without photo identification, but that is a situation we should rectify as soon as possible. The legislature did well, when they passed this safeguard. I think I’ll reserve judgment on the elimination of straight-ticket voting. I think it will prove helpful to the GOP in St. Louis County, but I am not sure how it will play out closer to home. A vast majority of straight ticket votes in St. Charles County were cast for the good guys in 2004, and I don’t know how such a change will affect the down ticket races. I’d say the photo-ID component is a solid A- (the delay will make it somewhat difficult to make sure everyone has the appropriate identification) and I think I’d give the straight-ticket idea a B (until we know the real implications). The session overall probably deserves a B+. Not too bad at all.

I hope that people aren’t turned off by the goings-on at the state legislature, because St. Charles County is going to experience a significant absence of leadership soon. Arguably the two most powerful members of our legislative delegation will be retiring after this next election. Rep. Bearden and Rep. Dempsey will vacate their seats in the House of Representatives as a result of term limits (a misguided attempt to curb the power of special interest groups.) While it is entirely likely that Bearden or Dempsey will succeed Sen. Gross, certainly both of them can’t succeed Gross, so unfortunately, we will lose the dedication of at least one of them. It remains to be seen who will emerge as a leader in the next generation of our delegation, but my money’s on newly minted Sen. Rupp. He has the skills and the personality to step up and lead the crew. That being said, we will need good people to step up to succeed Bearden and Dempsey. It’s not too early to start thinking about this, and I am sure that Bearden and Dempsey are actively looking for leaders to step up and take this foray into public service. Much will be written and there will be much speculation, especially after this year’s election, so stay tuned.

Overall, our legislators did fine. We had some on who gave an outstanding effort including Bearden and Dempsey. Some who gave a good performance including Gross, Rupp and Schneider. Some who were predictably satisfactory including Faith, Smith and Parker. Well, and then there was Cynthia Davis who tends to go overboard a bit. Some of her ideas are sound, and while I am certainly not a fan of Darwinism, I’m not sure we should mandate how science is taught in the schools. I’m also torn on the issue of sex education, but I think that we need to have some responsibility on the part of parents. I’m not sure she does her constituency a service, but she certainly is dedicated.

In the end, St. Charles County is fairly lucky to have a solid Republican delegation representing our values. I hope that we remember how important that is as we head into Summer Vacation.