JEFFERSON CITY - Bells rang, cannons blasted and helicopters rumbled over the sky of Missouri's capital city Monday after Democrat Jay Nixon was sworn in for his second term
After he finished taking the oath from a St. Louis circuit judge on a frigid morning, Nixon stepped to a podium to address the state that he has led for the past four years. But Nixon didn't use the speech as opportunity to lay out general policy proposals on the state's key issues -- from its unaccredited school districts to crumbling interstate highways. Instead he gave a sweeping overview of the state's history in a seeming effort to urge greater cooperation between Republicans and Democrats for the coming legislative session.
"[S]ome pundits like to say that politics in the Show-Me State has never been more partisan, more difficult than it is today," Nixon said. "But as history tells us, that's simply not true."
Some political leaders, such as Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, were somewhat complimentary of the governor's words, saying they wouldn't expect concrete policy proposals until Nixon's State of the State address later this month.
But even before Nixon had finished speaking, at least one Republican lawmaker took to Twitter to blast the governor's remarks.
State Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, deemed the remarks a "[s]ay nothing speech from a do nothing Governor."
Also sworn in Monday were Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, Democratic treasurer Clint Zweifel and Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander. Kinder and Zweifel are incumbents like Nixon, entering their second and third terms, respectively. Republican Auditor Tom Schweich was present at Monday's ceremony, but was not administered an oath as he was sworn into office in 2010.
Kander is the only newly elected statewide official, replacing Democrat Robin Carnahan. Kander said in an interview that state lawmakers should bring back limits on campaign contributions and should change the state's absentee voting laws to shorten polling place lines on Election Day.
Missouri's limits were previously repealed by the Republican-led legislature. Kander said contributions should be capped, but he didn't specify a dollar amount. He said other changes could be made to reform the state's electoral process.
"There's a lot of things we can do in this state, whether it be banning those gifts from lobbyists to legislators or getting rid of the money laundering process that exists in state politics by political action committees being able to wash money back and forth," Kander said.
Kander also said he wants the state to change its absentee voting laws to allow for "no excuse" absentee voting. The current absentee system requires that voters give one of five reasons when they vote by absentee ballot. He said allowing people to vote absentee for any reason -- or no reason at all -- could shorten lines on Election Day and make it easier to cast a ballot.
Kander said his office would actively push those proposals with the legislature. That would mark a stark contrast with governmental officials within the Nixon administration, who often decline to take a position on pending policy proposals even when testifying before lawmakers.
Proposals for new caps on contributions and for expanded voting have both been floated by Democratic lawmakers in the past, but have met stiff resistance from Republicans, who now hold veto-proof majorities in both the state House and Senate.
In addition to the swearing in of statewide officials, there was also a redo of the oath of office for state House members. When they were sworn in last week, House members swore to uphold the state "government," rather than its "Constitution." After the second oath was administered, House Speaker Pro Tem Jason Smith said the difference was significant enough to warrant a second attempt.
"When you swear to government it's bureaucracy and all of the different laws," Smith, R-Salem, said. "The Constitution is what the people made, and what founded our country and founded our state."