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Senator Ken Jacob takes centerstage

May 14, 1999
By: Clayton Bellamy
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A self-described "flaming liberal," or as fellow Senator Anita Yeckel called him, a "communist," Columbia Senator Ken Jacob managed to get himself in the middle of the two biggest battles in this year's legislative session--and emerged as one of the major players in the state Senate.

"I have been in the eye of the storm for sixteen years here," Jacob boasted. That boast was never as true as this year.

An occurence during the Democrats' post-legislative press conference demonstrated Jacob's rise. Senate Majority Leader Ronnie DePasco rose from his carefully placed seat and waved Jacob in to his chair next to the Senate President Pro Tem.

Jacob sponsored the Senate version of the governor's $200 million tax-cut plan. That bill died in partisan bickering in February.

He was also the chief babbler in the longest filibuster in recent Senate history, talking for 40 hours against the partial-birth abortion ban.

"Jacob didn't draft the tax cut bill," Klarich said. "It was drafted by the governor. The Senate has become more and more controlled by the [governor's office]."

Though he lost the initial battle, he would not lose the war.

In May, Jacob was the Senate handler for the House version of Carnahan's tax cuts. Republicans again threw amendment after amendment onto the bill each looking to create more and deeper tax cuts.

Jacob said in February Democratic leaders sought to kill each amendment the Republicans proposed, but in May, their approach was the opposite.

"We took almost every amendment thinking we could get them off in conference," he said.

After the onslaught of amendments, the tax cut package was estimated by some to be over $4 billion. The governor had threatened to veto a tax cut that was much over his initial request.

Jacob chaired the Senate side in the confernce committee that wittled the package down to about $220 million. The governor said he will sign the bill.

During the final night of the partial-birth abortion filibuster, Jacob was standing on the Senate floor looking tired and rambling about his wardrobe.

Later that night, Jacob and cohort Sen. Joe Maxwell, D-Mexico, gave up the fight and allowed the body to vote on the bill, which passed overwhelmingly.

"Senators Jacob's and Maxwell's intention was to kill the infant protection act, but it actually had the opposite effect," said Rep. Bill Leutkenhaus, D-Lincoln County, who sponsored the ban. "Their filibuster gave me five extra days to clarify the bill and build a coalition of support for the legislation."

Jacob and Maxwell fought for a health exemption for mothers to be attached to the ban. They lost that fight as well.

"I really thought Maxwell was trying to craft a better bill," said Yeckel, a St. Louis County Republican. When asked what Jacob was doing, she said, "Carrying the governor's water."

Gov. Mel Carnahan has said he will veto the ban.

Jacob is up for re-election in 2004. Despite having said he would easily defeat Rep. Kenny Hulshof, he denied plans that he would seek Hulshof's seat in the U.S. Congress

"I'll retire in 2004," he said, "and get my big pension."

Under the newly passed legislator's pension increase, Jacob's pension will be $13,339 per year.