01/15/19 -- HR7 -- Rules of the 100th General Assembly
House Resolution 7 (HR7) provides a list of rules that govern operations of the MO House of Representatives. The vote on HR7 was "as amended", and was a final vote to adopt the rule package.
During the amendment process, a variety of issues were discussed and voted on. I'd previously spoken about 0026h0225h, which was a roll call vote. But the other amendments were voted on via voice votes. I'd like to touch on some of the more notable ones here:
Representative Mike Moon (Republican, District 157) presented three amendments to HR7, all of which failed to be adopted. While those votes were conducted by voice vote and not recorded, I believe it is important for me to explain why I did not support these measures. I respect Representative Moon's efforts to protect constitutional principles in Missouri, as well as his attempts to reform House procedure. Unfortunately, his amendments had some critical flaws that I could not support. His amendments were as follows:
- 0026H02.02H -- This amendment would have required the Speaker of the House to appoint members to committees based on their preference, rather than give authority for the choice to the Speaker. I would generally support that provision on its own, however this amendment also contained a provision that would have the members of each committee vote to elect their own chairperson, rather than the chair being appointed by the Speaker. This is problematic for many reasons. Most notably, it would result in a months long election and lobbying process, where each member wishing to become a chairperson would have to visit with and gain support from around a dozen of their fellow Representatives. Given the number of standing committees and Representatives, this would be a logistical nightmare for any member wishing to make an actual informed selection. Moreover, it would require that this process starts right after the November election, with committee assignments being made before Thanksgiving. As well intentioned as this provision is, it simply wouldn't work in practice.
- 0026H02.03H -- This amendment would have required the Speaker to refer bills to committee immediately after their second reading, removing the power of the Speaker to refer bills on the last day of session. While the Missouri Constitution requires the Speaker to refer all bills to committee, it does not require it be done on any particular schedule. So it is common practice for the Speaker to kill bills he or she finds objectionable by waiting to refer them until the last day of session, where it is impossible for them to progress to passage in the remaining time available. This amendment would remove that power, and instead leave the decision up to a majority vote of the committee the bill was referred to. While the committee chair would still have the ability to kill a bill by denying it a hearing, this change would make it substantially easier for legislation to make it to the floor for debate, due to the fact that committee chairs have a much greater incentive to capitulate to their fellow members than does the Speaker. While I recognize that such a change would be a good thing in many instances, in my view the risks outweigh the rewards. There are many, many more bad bills that are killed by the Speaker than good ones that fail to advance but should. I cannot support a change that would make it harder to stop bad legislation. As a general rule, I would much rather we slow down the process of government, not speed it up.
- 0026H02.21H -- This amendment would have eliminated the Rules committee. Under current procedure, if a bill makes it out of committee, it is automatically referred to the Rules committee, where it must get through prior to being made available to be brought up on the floor for debate. The Rules committee provides another hurdle for a bill to overcome, and while it is probably the obstacle I find the least compelling, it is nonetheless another barrier to bad legislation being adopted. Of Representative Moon's three amendments, this one I was most tempted to support, but ultimately I had to side with my standby position that passing legislation should be difficult, not easy.
Another notable amendment that failed to pass that I did not support was offered by Representative Greg Razer (Democrat, District 25):
- 0026H02.14H -- This amendment would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of prohibitions on discrimination when it comes to the House of Representative's internal hiring and firing practices. While I do not condone such discrimination, I do not believe it is wise to prohibit such practices by rule, as doing so creates a substantial risk of frivolous litigation and possibly personal liability for those responsible for hiring or firing decisions.
There were a few other amendments offered by various parties, but there's only one other that I think merits a full explanation. It was offered while I was in the hallway speaking to a constituent. As a result, I was unable to vote on it. It did not pass, however had I been on the floor at the time I would have voted in favor of its adoption. That amendment was:
- 0026H02.27H -- This amendment was offered by Representative Doug Clemens (Democrat, District 72). It would have required the House to livestream any committee hearing that takes place in a meeting room that is already equipped with the technology needed to do so. Currently, several (but not all) of the hearing rooms have this capacity, yet only Budget committee hearings are livestreamed. While there would be a minor increase in bandwidth costs to stream more meetings, this cost is negligible compared to the utility provided to constituents. This rule change would not have required the recordings to be archived (though I would support that as well), so it would not have substantially burdened the IT staff with additional server storage demands. While I do recognize the utility in having some "privacy" during hearings (people are certainly more willing to speak their mind if they are not being watched by a large audience), those hearings are already open to the public and are not at all private affairs. Accordingly, I feel in the interest of transparency and facilitating access to government proceedings, this was a good amendment. While it failed on a voice vote by a wide margin, I am still disappointed that I was unavailable to vote for this.
Overall, while HR7 was not perfect, as amended it was generally acceptable to me, and so I voted "yes" in favor of its passage.