JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Following a long night in the Missouri Senate as the body debated the contentious circuit breaker tax break for hours on end, Sen. Bob Dixon joined the crew of the #MoLeg Podcast to share his thoughts on a number of topics. Though he covered a variety of topics during the conversation, all led back to one common theme: the culture of the Senate, and the shifts and changes taking place in the state’s upper chamber.
Breaking down the previous night’s session, Dixon described the internal behavior inside the Senate as many legislators attempted to decipher where to move forward with the circuit breaker tax credit.
“We’ve been down this road several times this year in the Senate,” Dixon said. “Part of it is just getting used to one another, this is a new Legislature. So [we’re] getting comfortable with what each other’s red lines are, but we have to be able to function. And we’re past that point, in my opinion.”
Addressing the conflicts that negatively affect current state politics, Dixon mentioned that this is the second time in recent memory where a game of wills has taken place during session. According to Dixon, it was apparent to him that it was a game that no one on either side of the argument was going to win.
Dixon said it’s important to know that this division is not a partisan conflict but rather specified that members of their own caucus were at an impasse. When it came to casting his vote for the decision, Dixon notes that previous history in the Senate has shown him that the disagreement taking place would not allow him to.
“When you have members saying ‘we’re not going to allow anything to come to a vote,’ you pretty well know that nothing will,” Dixon explained.
Dixon admits that he does not regret his decision, saying that he would have come in if there was a vote. He also explained that it’s important to not entertain or reward that kind of behavior, citing the need to be able to function as a legislative body.
He admitted that were a lot of things culminating in the creation of this kind of dispute, and that what was being said in the Senate was relevant to the topic at hand to disagreements over the prescription drug monitoring bill passed on Thursday.
“In the Senate, you don’t have to be germane, your discussion doesn’t have to be germane,” Dixon said. “I think we have to function; we also have to be cognizant that there is a world outside of this body.”
Although the Senate is a body of consensus, Dixon says, at the end of the day whoever is in the minority opinion has to realize that there isn’t a way to win. Dixon instead stressed that there is a way to compromise and make the legislation better.
When the Senate comes to these “stalemates” of sorts, it often leaves people wondering whether the senators will seek to use the “nuclear option,” also known as the previous question or PQ to end the debate. Dixon argued that in a functional Senate it’s not ever needed because of the amount of respect given to the parties involved, but acknowledged that when a filibuster devolves from a debate on how to best improve a bill to “reading something out of Dr. Seuss,” it might be best to simply vote ‘no’ on the option.
When asked about the feuds between legislators over their seniority in certain matters, Dixon said that in the era of term limits, they’re all freshmen and that they’re all on an equal playing field.
Dixon then spoke of his regrets for voting in favor of term limits, saying that because of those time restraints, many legislators are not able to learn how to navigate through their position and work with others, in essence creating an inexperienced class in state government.
“I think the Senate would certainly function better if it was longer because people would be forced, as they used to be, to respect their colleagues because they’re going to have to work with them for awhile,” he said.