It was a week of disappointment, broken promises, and surreal activities in Jefferson City:

– The House passed about 70 “consent bills” this week. Consent bills are pieces of legislation which do not cost the state anything in terms of income or expenditures and that are not believed to be of a controversial nature. Speaker of the House Rod Jetton had promised that 40% of the consent bill slots would be allotted to Democrat-sponsored bills (since we make up just over 40% of the House). The amount we really received was closer to 10%. Many of the consent bills were not true consent bills in that they did contain controversial matter. Among the last to be passed in a late night session that lasted until almost 1 a.m. Thursday morning were naming the morel as Missouri’s Official State Mushroom (House Bill 1416) and naming the ice cream cone as Missouri’s Official State Dessert (House Bill 1824). While these bills are not particularly controversial (unless you love chanterelles or cobbler), they seem a waste of time to many.

– Ben Stein (of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off fame) was at the Capitol this week to show his movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The movie argues that scientists and teachers who believe in “intelligent design” are being persecuted by Darwinists. (Intelligent design seems to be a phrase that has replaced “creationism.”) Stein was also featured at a press conference with Rep. Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield) and received a courtesy resolution on the floor of the House on Thursday honoring him for his support of “intellectual diversity.”

See the trailer for the movie at: http://www.expelledthemovie.com/. Read about intelligent design at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I…

Given that Rep. Cunningham and other GOP leaders are calling for “intellectual diversity” and a sharing of multiple viewpoints, it’s interesting that they are so willing to shut off debate without allowing Democratic voices and amendments to be heard. That’s what happened with Cunningham’s House Joint Resolution 41 which seeks to amend the Missouri Constitution in the November election to prevent Missouri courts from doing something they have never done – ordering a tax increase. (Read about it at http://www.kansascity.com/115/…  The Missouri Constitution is already quite clear about the duties of each branch of government, and Cunningham’s language is drafted so poorly that it may hamper citizens who need to sue a government entity for damages done to their property.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Tony Messenger writes about the irony of this in a April 3 blog which also includes an e-mail that I sent out to reporters after Cunningham’s bill was Third Read and passed narrowly:

http://www.stltoday.com/blogzo…

– The late night debate on consent bills (lasting until nearly 1 a.m. Thursday morning) devolved into a bad frat boy party that Rep. Sara Lampe and I have termed “Legislators Gone Wild.” This included Speaker Jetton announcing that he was suspending Rule 94 so that legislators could remove their jackets because “it’s hot in here” (perhaps quoting the song by St. Louis rapper Nelly?). The Speaker, by House Rules, cannot simply pronounce a rule suspended; members of the House must vote on it. (See the Rules of the House at http://www.house.mo.gov/conten…

Shortly after this, Jetton handed off the Speaker role and went to the back of the room. He was then recognized to speak, but instead breathed into the mike, making a Darth Vader-like sound, and then used a small hand-held device to play a recording of the Vader musical theme into the microphone. At that point Rep. Shannon Cooper (R-Clinton) stomped down the center aisle in a black overcoat and eyepatch. He ascended the dais, shoved the person who had been chairing floor action out of the way, and pounded the gavel loudly, barking “Mr. Clerk, please read the record. Did we vote on suspending Rule 94?!” The stunned clerk stared up at him. Cooper repeated his demand: “Mr. Clerk, please read the record. Did we vote on suspending Rule 94?!!” The clerk quietly admitted that there had been no vote. Cooper then demanded that everyone put jackets back on and ordered the Sergeant at Arms to escort any member out of the Chamber who did not have a jacket on within three minutes.

I’m not sure if Cooper was imitating Captain Ahab or what – I couldn’t quite get it to match Jetton’s Darth Vader/Star Wars theme, but maybe I missed one of the films in that series. In any case, Cooper continued to run a very tight ship for perhaps 20-minutes, as well as spinning a tale about how the need for the eyepatch arose from a rubberband shooting incident in one of his committees earlier in the day. He moved the eyepatch from his left eye to his right eye later in the “skit” or whatever we might call it.

At 11:45 p.m., Rep. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) attempted to organize a “flash mob” (meet-and-greet) in the center aisle for the heck of it, but very few legislators accepted his invitation. Schaaf stood with his hands extended at his sides in a “What gives with you people?” motion. What gives with these people indeed? Please, Missourians, help Democrats Take Back the House in November, because it’s time that adults were in charge of the House of Representatives!

Sadly there were two fourth-graders in the gallery with their parents watching these shenanigans. Yes, it was far past their bedtime (and ours!), but they were staying to watch the vote on the Ice Cream as Missouri’s Official Dessert bill (described earlier) because they had brought the idea to their representative as part of class project on the workings of government.  What they must think of us…..

Also sadly, the media had abandoned the building since it was so late. I think some media coverage of “Legislators Gone Wild” would have been appropriate. Surely this is not how Missourians expect their elected officials to behave during official floor action. Yes, a moment of levity is fine here and there. I always enjoy the annual gag when the Speaker catches a member using a cell phone on the floor (also against the Rules) and has the cell phone brought forward so it can be smashed Gallagher-like beneath the gavel.  But mercy! The evening of April 2 and just after midnight on April 3 was clearly over-the-top.