Gov. Eric Greitens
On Monday, it was my great honor to watch Gov. Eric Greitens inauguration on the Capitol steps. I’m not much one for pomp and circumstance, but was awed by the ceremonial peaceful transition of civil authority – and the theater that came with it. Against the backdrop of two of the largest flags I’ve ever seen and with a B2 bomber flying overhead, Gov. Greitens took the oath to uphold and defend our federal and state constitutions and to demean himself faithfully in office.
“Missourians don’t much value big talk,” Gov. Greitens told us. “Our state’s great history reminds us that Missourians have always understood that big achievements demand hard work. “Show me” doesn’t mean “Give me.” It means “prove it can be done, and we will do it.” Gov. Eric Greitens.
It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
Gov. Jay Nixon
For the past six years, I have been one of Gov. Nixon’s fiercest critics in the General Assembly. Occasionally I’d use this column for praise., but my criticisms were often harsh – sometimes too harsh. When Gov. Nixon walked off the public stage Monday, so did my criticisms. The slings and arrows of public service can be rough. If you’re going to be around for a while, you must develop alligator skin.
It is popular to deride “career politicians” but the fact is that Jay Nixon spent 28 consecutive years in government service. At any point in time over the last 20 years, he could have said, “Enough. I can make four to five times more money in the private sector and won’t have to deal with harsh critics in the newspaper (or the legislature).” Gov. Nixon chose service. For that, he has mine and deserves every Missourian’s deep appreciation.
Ethics Reform – Gift Ban
This session marks the third in a row in which I am dedicated to improving our state’s ethics laws. In the first go-round, I filed five ethics bills. The most important would have closed the revolving door from legislator to lobbyist, limit gifts from lobbyists to legislators, and prohibited members of the General Assembly from serving as paid political consultants for other legislators. Every bill died in the Senate.
In year two, we passed the first substantive ethics reform in modern Missouri history – requiring a cooling off period before a legislator can become a lobbyist, prohibiting legislators from moonlighting as political consultants, and banning the use of campaign funds as exotic investment accounts. Unfortunately, the gift ban bill died again. When it did, Speaker Todd Richardson pledged that it would be the first bill we passed this year.
In the first week of session, we took the steps necessary to fulfill Speaker Richardson’s promise.
On Thursday, we “perfected” House Bill 60, sponsored by Rep. Justin Alfermann by a vote of 142 to six. Rep. Alfermann’s bill enacts a total ban on lobbyist gifts. On Monday of this week, I expect that the House will formally send the bill to the Senate for consideration.
On Monday, thanks to quick action by the City Council, hundreds of Uber drivers were here to provide rides to those attending the inauguration. For one day, it was free (leading my wife to consider testing the limits – could she request an Uber with car seats to ferry our four children around the city all day?). It was also popular – as it is throughout the country.
Unfortunately, many local governments in Missouri have prohibited Uber and other ride-sharing companies from operating in our state. Under the guise of public safety, they have allowed entrenched business interests to stifle competition. The situation is at its worst in St. Louis, where the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission governed by and for taxi-cab companies, set all of the rules and regulations for its own industry – from who gets to compete down to the details of the color schemes their cabs employ and uniforms their drivers wear.
It is a regulatory scheme reminiscent of a bygone era when the government attempted to control certain sectors of the economy down to the very smallest detail. For example, the Interstate Commerce Commission was an agency created in 1887 to regulate railroad, trucking, bus, and telephone rates. It was necessary at the time because of monopoly power enjoyed by railroads. And it was rightfully repealed in 1995.
Missouri should encourage innovation, not squash it. Rather than allow local governments and taxi-cab companies to shut out competition, we should pass broadly applicable safety rules that allow for new technologies. Our laws should be updated to keep pass with technology and a modern economy.
Last year, the Missouri House passed legislation to create a statewide regulatory structure that would allow Uber to operate here under reasonable rules and regulations. It died in the Senate. Much like the gift ban legislation, it is back again this year, and moving quickly. It passed through the General Laws Committee Tuesday by a vote of 12 to one.