This week I sat through two very long and loud debates over HB 681 (“Vacancies in Public Office”). During Thursday’s debate, it occured to me that not one female legislator had spoken either during “Perfection” (purely a euphemism when it comes to politics in Missouri) or “Third Reading.”
I went to the microphone after a series of “inquiries” in which Democratic men and Republican men stood and waved their arms and talked loudly over the top of each other. I did the usual thing reps do to be allowed to speak (waving a piece of paper over my head) and waited to be recognized by Speaker Richard. Unfortunately Majority Floor Leader Tilley called the Previous Question at that moment, and the GOP had the votes to sustain it, of course. Debate ended, and the bill was Third Read and Passed on a mainly party line vote.
If I had been allowed to speak on the bill, here is what I was going to say:
Mr. Speaker, we have sat through two long debates over HB 681, and at times it has reminded me of the old Marlin Perkins’ “Call of the Wild” show that I watched when I was a child. The gentlemen from both sides of the aisle have reminded me of mountain goats, slamming their curved antlers and foreheads into each other. It has been really gamey, in here, Mr. Speaker.
During all that time, I do not recall seeing one woman from either side of the aisle go to the microphone. This led me to ask myself why. We are not usually so shy about speaking up as everyone has noticed, no doubt. So why have none of us women representatives cared to speak about a bill that would limit the powers that the governor of the State of Missouri has traditionally exercised, Mr. Speaker?
The only answer I have come up with so far is that we women have trouble identifying with this bill because in Missouri’s almost 200 year history, not one of us has been governor. No woman has had this gubernatorial power to appoint persons to fill vacancies. And I think that’s a shame, Mr. Speaker.
I for one am going to work to see that more women get elected at all levels of government, including eventually occupying the Governor’s Mansion of the State of Missouri – and as Governor, not as First Lady – although we’ve had some wonderful First Ladies I really admire, including the current one. Maybe then, women will feel invested in this issue of how to fill vacancies.
And maybe having a woman governor and more women in this chamber will change what we debate on the House floor and how we debate it. I look forward to a civil discussion of access to healthcare, affordable housing, living wage jobs, childcare that is safe and high quality, and so many other issues that seldom see floor time currently.
In the meantime, the current system doesn’t appear to be broken and in need of fixing, Mr. Speaker. No system can perfectly protect us from immoral people who do immoral things, but I don’t see a problem with current law. An honest and accountable governor will appoint qualified people who share that honesty and accountability. I urge my colleagues to vote no on HB 681.