JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Rep. Caleb Jones, R-California, had a busy summer, to say the least.
You could say the most eventful day was when the Republican caucus chose between Jones and John Diehl, R-Town and Country, who would be Speaker of the House in Missouri for the 98th general assembly beginning in 2015.
But actually, it came about five weeks before, when Caleb and his wife, Lindsey, welcomed Maxwell Jones, their first child, into the world. Jones says having a child really rearranges priorities.
“I want to serve my district and my state, but obviously, everything about your life changes when you have that first child,” Jones tells The Missouri Times.
Jones, who has been embroiled in politics for most of his adult life, both as a staffer and an elected official, says he was optimistic about the next legislative session and says he is already working on some legislative projects for 2014.
“There’s a couple of projects I’m working on right now you’ll probably hear about in the next few weeks,” Jones says. “But I’m not totally ready yet, you’ll just have to be patient, but it’s just some things I think can help our state out.”
But there is also plenty of unfinished business from last session, and Jones offers his own thoughts on the future of three issues: tax credit reform, highway funding and bonding.
“The only way we’ll pass any relevant bill on those issues is with some outside the box thinking,” Jones says. “The road we’re currently going down right now, I don’t see those being successful. We need to be thinking about new approaches.”
Speaking to the issue of tax cuts, which dominated the news throughout Missouri after Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of House Bill 253, Jones looks to a newer, better bill.
“I think we have to be working on a better tax [cut] bill,” Jones says. “Any time we can cut taxes we should and we should continue to try to. I think we’ll spend a large portion of our time this year discussing tax policy and how it impacts state and local government. I think we’ll put together another bill.”
And while the Republican caucus suffered some internal divisions after 15 members voted with Democrats to sustain Nixon’s veto of HB 253, Jones foresees his caucus being more, not less, cohesive. Furthermore, he says the HB 253 process spurred more wide-ranging discussions in the caucus about good tax policy, discussions that would likely result in a new bill.
“I don’t think the caucus is fractured at all, even after this Speaker’s race, I think it’s stronger,” Jones says. “I look forward to working more effectively as a caucus and working with John [Diehl].”
When addressing Medicaid, Jones takes a tone echoed by some in his party showing a softening of resistance to expanding the program under the Affordable Care Act. Like most in his party, Jones qualifies his support for Medicaid expansion with the stipulation that “substantial” reforms are put in place to keep the program solvent.
“If representatives and senators see a substantial change in how Medicaid operates and a change that helps taxpayers, I don’t think they’d have a problem expanding it,” he says.
Jones won’t predict his own future in public service, saying that while he loves the work, it won’t be his legacy.
“My family is my legacy,” Jones says.
And does he still enjoy the work, especially after a rough veto session and a protracted speakers race?
“My wife actually noticed it, she told me she knows whenever I’m about to go argue a big case or if I’m about to do something important here in the Capitol,” Jones adds. “She knows because on those days, I sing in the shower. Not everybody understands it, but I really, really love what I do.”
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.