Opinion: Their Legacy. Our Opportunity.

  

By Speaker Elijah Haahr

In a few short weeks, the new legislative session will convene. Both returning and newly elected members will share the honor of being part of the historic 100th General Assembly of Missouri.

Before before we turn our gaze to tomorrow, we must steal a glance back at our past. Looking to those who served our state since the 1st Assembly in 1820, reminds us we are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. 

Men and women who traveled from all corners of the state before the luxury of cars and highways, to give voice to the hopes and dreams of Missourians they represented. They came in the name of public service to enhance the endless possibilities Missouri provides. They did this by building a foundation on the American idea of a government that protected the rights of Show Me State citizens so they could work hard, achieve success, and thrive in a free society. 

Public servants like Hamilton Gamble, our state’s 16th Governor, who prior to serving in that office, wrote the dissent in Missouri’s infamous Dred Scott decision. 

Groundbreaking leaders like Annie White Baxter who was elected Jasper county clerk nearly 30 years before women were even allowed to vote in Missouri. 

Visionary statesmen like Emory Melton and Dick Webster who each served over a quarter century in our state senate changing the face of Missouri with their wit, wisdom, and willpower.

Celebrating the past 200 years of history and service does not mean we are celebrating being stuck in old ways that would leave Missouri behind in today’s world. Instead, much like the members did in 1820, members of the 100th General Assembly see a young state, full of the same promise and opportunities. 

Not only is our state young, we are young. I take the reins of Speaker as the youngest in the nation. I am joined by Scott Fitzpatrick, the youngest budget chairman in the country. We will serve with Dirk Deaton, the youngest elected legislator in over a century. Our legislature and leaders are replete with millennials brimming with optimism and energy. We are not afraid to embrace innovative ideas that will benefit the future of our state in ways those before us never dreamt possible.

Just like the giants we follow made history, we too will make history by delivering bold solutions to develop a strong workforce and create jobs, offering Missourians a chance to achieve the American Dream at home in the state we love.

Today our state sits at a crossroads. We have spent years preparing for this moment. We expanded wireless broadband to our rural areas and can more effectively harness the $250 million in federal funds that Senator Roy Blunt announced this year. We streamlined regulations to access public right of ways to facilitate the deployment of 5G. We passed the largest utility grid reform in a generation. We cut our business tax to the second lowest in the nation. We passed the largest income tax cut in history. 

And we did all that last year!

Now we cast our eyes towards the future. How do we prepare for tomorrow’s challenges? Which impediments to economic growth in Missouri can we overcome? What is our blueprint to the successful future that every Missourian desires? From growing families to the greatest generation, from entrepreneurs to empty nesters, our challenge is to be their voice in these decisions. 

There is a line from a book I read to my children. “Once a brave little monster did a monstrous brave deed.” As we sit at this crossroads, we must remember now is not the time to shrink from the light of our bright future. Now is our moment to embrace it. To rise to it. To do our own monstrous brave deeds.

This opinion piece appears in the January 2019 Missouri Times Magazine.