It’s all the rage now – you don’t want to do the job the people elected you to do – just flee to another state and stop the people’s business. Wisconsin and Indiana legislators think that’s a great way to govern. Could it happen here in Missouri?
Missouri’s Constitution requires a “constitutional majority” to Third Read or to Third Read and Truly Agree and Finally Pass a bill (send to the governor’s desk). In the Missouri House of Representatives the constitutional majority is 82. In the Missouri Senate it’s 18.
There is no requirement that those numbers include any minority party votes. So the minority could flee and as long as the majority had the requisite votes, the people’s business could still carry on under the vast majority of circumstances. The two main exceptions to the “constitutional majority” requirement is a veto override or use of the s0-called Rainy Day Fund. Both require 2/3’s vote.
When I was a freshman legislator, we were “asked” by the governor to use the Rainy Day Fund to borrow money to fill budget holes. Some cuts had been made but the governor and the majority party was unwilling to make more from a state government budget that had grown to an unsustainable level.
I guess it might have been easier to flee rather than to vote on whether to use the borrowed money. Somehow, that never entered our minds. We knew we were elected to cast votes hard or not and to represent the people who placed us in those positions. Instead, we stayed and refused to use the state’s credit card to prop up a bloated state budget.
Senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar) has sponsored Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 22 which simply says:
13(a). If any senator or representative shall remove himself or herself from this state during a session of the member’s respective body for the purpose of avoiding any official duty or vote, his or her office shall be vacated.
Pretty straightforward. “But wait,” you might be saying, “if you don’t need any minority votes except under certain conditions, then why is this necessary and why just if they leave the state? Why doesn’t it include just fleeing the Capitol?” Good questions.
The fact is that some today are more interested in drawing attention than doing the people’s business. This measure would insure that no publicity stunts would be undertaken by the minority party whether it be Democrat or Republican.
The reason the bill states specifically that “remove himself or herself from this state” is because if an elected official remains in the state, they can be compelled to be present and vote. This would include sending law enforcement officers to secure their presence. Obviously if they flee the state, Missouri law enforcement officials would have no authority to retrieve them. There is no extradition agreements for wayward legislators!
Bottom line, SJR 22 is a good proposal. Hopefully the General Assembly will give We the People the opportunity to vote on this measure so we can send a clear and resounding message to those we “hire” to represent us that we expect them to stay and do their jobs!