The idea was that longer terms for senators along with statewide districts would lead to a more deliberative process than in the House. It would cool down the heat to pass things.
Although Washington's quote is cited in the U.S. Senate's official website, it has been disputed. In fact, two pages in the Senate's website have conflicting accounts of Washington's statement.
Yet the quote accurately reflects our Founding Fathers' vision that the smaller upper chamber would be the place where the rush to pass something was slowed down for more thoughtful consideration by legislators who were less vulnerable to local political pressures.
But in 2013, Missouri's Senate acted on some issues more like a glass with no saucer at all.
Some of the session's biggest issues were rushed through the Senate with limited debate -- or, at least, far less debate than similar issues would have triggered in the years before legislative term limits.
One of the biggest tax cuts in recent generations cleared the Senate with just one day's debate and, as I've written earlier, less than one-half hour of consideration by the Senate's budget-control committee.
With similar speed, the Senate dealt with a major package of tax breaks for business to stimulate economic growth.
The governor's Medicaid expansion proposal, the centerpiece of Jay Nixon's legislative agenda, never got to the Senate. Instead, the bill was killed in the House without even a chamber debate after the Senate's GOP leader declared the idea dead.
But what really surprised me was the speed at which the Senate signed onto the $88 million in projects to expand and improve office space for legislators and other government officials in Jefferson City.
It was a deal put together with the governor's office and rushed through the legislature in just a bit more than one week. The spending plan got less than one hour of debate in the Senate.
There was no extended discussion about holding off until next year to give more thought about the state's budget needs.
There was limited debate about other funding priorities and no mention of the financial shortfall of more than $400 million for the school-funding formula that the legislature itself had established to assure equity in education for Missouri kids.
On the other hand, there were times that the Senate remained the slow, plodding body -- behaving like Washington's saucer. Filibusters still occurred, killing bills. Late-night sessions had to be scheduled to get work done.
On Monday of the last week, a night-long filibuster stalled action on a bill easing prevailing wage rate requirements for government contracts. The next day, a night-long filibuster blocked a vote on a tax increase for highways.
Throughout the year until the last day of the session, the Senate maintained its demand for the House to approve reducing tax breaks to real estate developers as a condition for tax breaks for other types of businesses.
That was a surprise to me -- that the Senate retained to the closing days of the session its fiscal-hawk stance about tax credits.
I had expected the Senate to behave more like the House this year in support of real estate development tax credits.
After all, more than half of the Senate -- including more than half of the GOP members -- had been in the House less than three years earlier.
Just three years ago, the Senate's current GOP leader, Ron Richard, had been House speaker. And in that role, Richard had been a forceful voice against major cuts in tax credits for real estate developers
He called it a key to local economic development through tax breaks for construction of low income housing and renovation of historic buildings.
The Senate's continued stance for significant cuts in those tax credits would suggest that term limits have not completely converted the Senate into a mini-House as many long-time traditionalists have feared.
Maybe there is something to that concept about how the structure of a Senate, independent of its actual members, makes it a different body from the House.
With members serving larger districts, maybe it promotes more of a statewide rather than local perspective. And with senators serving longer terms, four years rather than two, maybe there's less political pressure.
If so, that's exactly what our Founding Fathers had in mind.
So, remember whenever you get frustrated by the seemingly endless Senate debate that sometimes dragged on past midnight, your Missouri Senate was doing exactly what the creators of our governmental system intended.
With adjournment of the 2013 legislative session, Capitol Perspectives will take a summer break. I'll be back next fall providing you with an historical perspective to the issues and events of Missouri's state government.
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