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Speaker's Powers Challanged

By Jason Callicoat
State Capital Bureau

January 11, 1995

JEFFERSON CITY _ Although House Democrats got the one vote necessary to break the 81-81 vote deadlock and re-elect Bob Griffin as Speaker, representatives are still locked up in a fight over the rules defining the powers that come with that position.

And that fight has stopped all committee action on bills since the start of the session.

The suggestions Republicans have made include:

@|Place committee recommendations on the calendar in the order they are approved by committee rather than the current process which gives the committee chairman power to decide which bills approved by the committee get reported to the full chamber.

@|Impose a time limit on the length of time the voting board can be left open. Such a time limit would have prevented Sec. of State Rebecca Cook from keeping the board open for three hours while Democrats sought the votes they needed to assure Democratic control of the leadership.

@|Grant the minority party the power to appoint its own committee members and the power to require a committee vote on proposed bills.

``The majority of the Republican changes are aimed at taking power away from the majority party,'' said Rep. Wayne Crump, D-Potosi, assistant majority floor leader.

But Rep. Don Lograsso, minority whip, said the changes are aimed at decentralizing power in the House and redistributing it to individual representatives.

``A common thread to these changes is taking power from the speaker, the majority floor leader and the committee chairs and giving it back to individual representatives,'' said Lograsso, R-Blue Springs. ``This will open up the process so individual members can get hearings on bills, get committees to vote on bills, and get legislation debated on the floor.''

The House can operate indefinitely under the temporary rules now in place, but the two parties still are trying to iron out their differences on the rules.

Democrats are looking at the Republicans' proposed rule changes, ``to see if there are any we can live with,'' Crump said. Republicans are expecting them to give their response to the rules within the next couple of days.

In the meantime, Democrats are moving ahead with committee appointments, and Griffin said the Republican effort to change the rules under which the House operates has not caused gridlock _ despite the House inaction since last Thursday.

``I expect committee appointments by this week,'' he said.

Republicans agree that the rules debate has not bogged down the session.

``The rules are definitely on the front burner at this point, but there are many other things moving forward,'' said House Republican Leader Mark Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff. The rules discussion ``is not holding the entire process in suspense.''

Allowing new rules to slow down the legislative process once they are in place, however, might not be counterproductive, Lograsso said.

``If allowing all the elected representatives to fully participate causes the process to become more deliberative, maybe that's what the founding fathers had in mind with this system of government,'' he said.

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