Missouri lawmakers want you to know that they are virtuous, hard-working public servants.
They are not to be confused with those 10,000 or so citizens who “could work” but choose to live off of other people’s tax dollars, as GOP senator, Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph, this week described the ranks of long-term unemployed who for weeks have lived with the threat of having their jobless benefits cut off.
Not our legislators. As some of them inform constituents in their regular newsletters, they often work far into the night. Thank heavens for those many interest groups willing to provide buffet dinners to keep the troops fueled up.
So many bills, so little time.
I visited the state Capitol this week, and wandered into a Senate debate on a resolution that seeks to ask voters to pass a constitutional amendment reinforcing Missouri’s constitutional sovereignty.
Among other things — many other things — this bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Brian Nieves of Washington, would relieve Missouri from having to recognize federal actions that restrict the right to bear arms, or legalize abortions, or recognize same-sex marriage, or designate a crime as a hate crime.
Oh, and the state would also be required to “interpret the U.S. Constitution based on its language and the original intent of the signers of the Constitution.”
I thought interpreting the Constitution was the U.S. Supreme Court’s job, but never mind. Though it’s unlikely to go anywhere, this resolution is just one of many examples of how conscientiously our legislators work.
After Nieves’ resolution was set aside, I moved over to the House, where lawmakers were busy approving a spate of bills. One of them authorizes the Department of Motor Vehicles to create a special license plate that features a coiled rattlesnake and says, “Don’t tread on me.” This emblem was designed back in Revolutionary times by a general named Christopher Gadsden.
“Who would buy a license plate like that?” asked Rep. Mary Still, a Columbia Democrat. About half of those in the chamber raised their hands.
Earlier in the day, freshman Sen. Will Kraus, a Republican from Lee’s Summit, argued earnestly for a measure that, after voter approval, would require the state attorney general to “compel the federal government to enforce federal immigration laws.”
As you can see, our senators are asserting themselves. If Nieves and Kraus have their way, Missouri will be soon be able to boss the federal government around, but the U.S. Congress won’t be able to lay a hand on us. That’s a bit different from the way the U.S. Constitution is generally interpreted, but it is another demonstration of our legislators hard at work.
A lot of the work that’s gone on in Jefferson City this year has been because of efforts by Kraus, Schaaf, Nieves and Sen. Jim Lembke to prevent Missouri from accepting $105 million in federal money to help people who have been out of work between 79 and 99 weeks.
The Senate’s four horsemen see an apocalypse coming if the U.S. continues to rack up debt and owe money to China. They have chosen to take a stand, right now, right here in Missouri, even though their actions will have no effect whatsoever on the federal debt or deficit. This has forced the rest of the senators, who want to accept the money, to grimly sit for hours listening to the foursome babble on. Now that, people, is work.
To be sure, most of Missouri’s lawmakers are devoted public servants. They are attentive to constituents and they wade through complex issues. They put their hours in.
To be doubly sure, a lot of the trouble in the Capitol this year can fairly be blamed on Lembke, Kraus, Schaaf and Nieves. I wouldn’t wish long-term joblessness on anybody, but voters should definitely show these four what a forced layoff looks like when their terms come up.
Caveats aside, it seems as though somewhere along the line too many of our virtuous, hard-working lawmakers have confused nonsense with effort. Wasting time is not the same as a job well done.