JEFFERSON CITY – This year’s session of the Missouri General Assembly
seems to be more conservative, more energetic, and more spiritually attuned.
This was the assessment of Kerry Messer, president of Missouri Family Network which represents the interests of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s (MBC) Christian Life Commission in the General Assembly.
“This is probably the most conservative freshman class in a couple of generations,” said Messer, who has lobbied for MBC and other Christian organizations for more than 25 years.
“We have had lots of good people, but to have this many coming who want to do conservative things is significant.”
With a turnover of almost half the House of Representatives’ personnel and more than a third of the Senate’s, Messer senses a change in the Capitol culture. It has moved the Legislature, on the political scale, much further to the right than it has been in the last quarter century.
“We have had good, solid, mature Christians in the past. Now, there are more of them,” he commented.
Speaker of the House Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, in his opening speech, called for “better principles, a change of attitude, and a willingness to challenge the status quo.”
Tilley named committees and their chairpersons as far as a month in advance of the opening day of the 2011 session so that representatives could focus on the issues and get down to business. He named Democrats to chair three important committees.
In his speech, he quoted from the Gospel of Luke when he said, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.”
Tilley challenged his colleagues in the House to pass 75 percent of its priorities in the first 50 days of the session.
Speaker Pro Tem Shane Schoeller, R-Willard and a member of Second Baptist Church, Springfield, also cited Scripture as part of his welcome address and went a step further to give tribute “to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who, without a doubt, has granted me the opportunity to stand here now.”
Schoeller called on his fellow representatives to question well-intentioned programs or laws that fail to create solutions, resist the urge to over regulate, and debate the issues without being swept up in the gridlock of self interest.
Messer explained that legislation moves along at a slower track at first until freshman legislators become more familiar with the process. “Things always move faster the second year,” he said.
“There’s not a glut of bills at this time, but the bills are coming in,” Messer observed. “There is a higher percentage of those coming from a conservative view than those from an expanding government view.
“One of the things I believe we will not see is any expansion of government. The money is not there, and the leadership of the House and Senate are of a strong mindset that government needs to be curtailed. Any expansion requires more money.”
Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, president pro tem and a member of First Baptist Church, Dexter, in his opening address to the Senate emphasized the need to make government smaller and more efficient. He instituted a “Rebooting Government” initiative, asking every Missourian to share ideas on how to cut costs.
Messer has high expectations that there will be no expansion in state government this year, and he has three reasons for believing his expectations will be realized: the state lacks funds, the freshman class is further to the right, and the current leadership embraces smaller government.
A posterboard sign sitting on an easel outside the doorway of Missouri Capitol Room 306 during the first week of the session may have been an indication of things to come. It read as follows:
Welcome to the House Budget Office!
Please ask yourself the following:
1. Am I here to ask the Chairman for more money than last year? (If yes, proceed to Question 2.)
2. Have you lost your mind?