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This Week in Missouri Politics Column: A few observations from the first weeks of session

With the State of the State speech — well, kinda the State of the State speech — delivered, I reckoned that your ol’ hillbilly pal would sit down here at the farm and give you a few observations on the first few days of session. 

Today’s State of the State screw up can pretty much be summed up as the speaker is quite triggered by several perceived slights and disrespect the Governor’s Office has somehow shown him. 

To be fair, he is quite sensitive, takes any slight very personally, and has no issues using his government office to try and push back at those slights. I can personally attest to that. 

Last week the fight over “respect” was over having a COVID-19 testing clinic in the Capitol. 

The COVID issue continued into this week, as the long-scheduled State of the State speech was set to be given in the House chamber — as it has been for decades. 

Around 10 this morning, the Speaker’s Office notified the Governor’s Office that there was going to be a problem with the governor giving his address at 3 that afternoon. 

According to several staff members, this decision was made without direct sign-off from the speaker pro tem or floor leader. 

This sparked an entire series of negotiations which ultimately fell to the person that pretty much every complicated situation in state government ultimately falls to: Sen. Caleb Rowden. 

After a lengthy back and forth, the speaker dug his heels in on a final offer: The governor can come in the chamber and speak, but only alone. As in no House members, no senators, none of his Cabinet. 

Now keep in mind as he was sending this message, the House chamber was full of representatives, and they were voting on bills. 

Finally, the Senate got tired of the drama and just offered its chamber for an address — but not a State of the State address as that has to be given to a joint session. 

What might be impactful going forward is that Sen. Caleb Rowden, Sen. Dave Schatz, Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann, and Rep. Dean Plocher all agreed to sign off on what was a completely illogical statement but accomplished a goal of a form of a State of the State speech while not embarrassing the speaker too badly.

The statement literally went COVID-19 on why they were moving the speech from the much larger House chamber to the smaller Senate chamber to make it easier to social distance. By then, I think everyone knew what was going on: They were just trying to compensate for a problem. In what could be a sign of things to come, the reasonable people were working around the paranoia. 

Of course, Rowden, Schatz, Wiemann, and Plocher were all in the chamber for the speech, along with House Minority Leader Crystal Quade. 

The speech went off fine. The governor looked at home in that Senate dais. He logged more hours at that dais than maybe any lieutenant governor I’d previously seen. Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe has continued the trend of staying in the chair and presiding. He spoke about his love for Missourah and listed some common sense ideas to improve the state.

It was a pretty typical State of the State — just given in a unique setting and after a wild paranoia-filled morning. I think it’s pretty safe to say that next year the senior members of the House have agreed to step in if necessary and not let this happen again. 

A couple other observations

Look I don’t pretend to know what all was alleged in the Ethics Complaint against Rep. Wiley Price, but after 91 House members voted to amend the committee’s recommendation, it might be time to look at how that committee is set up and run. 

Further, after six years of the committee’s changes, the only two legislators who have been negatively impacted were two African-American male Democrats. I do not believe anyone on that committee was acting in a racist manner. In fact, I think the partisan divide is more telling about the outcomes. However, from all of the sex that happens in Jefferson City to think that the only sex worthy of admonishment is from those two African-American male Democrats is hard to convince this hillbilly of. 

It might be time to do a review of that committee and how it operates. 

Lastly, my buddy T. Wayne, who is a logger from West Butler County, made a COVID-19 prediction. Now, T. Wayne ain’t a doctor, but he predicted that folks would stop locking folks down about the time that President Joe Biden got his sock drawer situated in the White House. 

Well, it’s possible that T. Wayne has been secretly studying epidemiology the past few years unbeknownst to me, but I think maybe more likely he thought some of the lockdowns were a little more based on politics than science. 

Either way, T. Wayne wasn’t wrong. 

This week on the show, we will have the 57th Governor of the State of Missouri, Mike Parson, and on Show Me Missourah, we are going to Phelps County.