I spoke this morning with Representative Rachel Storch (D-64) in her office before the start of the day’s activities on the House floor. Our discussion touched on the legislative session, term limits, health care and economic development. And a final question about the Secretary of State’s office.
Representative Rachel Storch in her office in the state capitol building.
Show Me Progress: …Is it just more insane now?
Representative Rachel Storch: Well, it’s not so much that it’s crazier. It’s just that with the term limits we have of these people that don’t understand the issues and they don’t understand the process, and what’s worse, they don’t care.
SMP: I’ve heard this before, people talk about institutional memory. And, is there much institutional memory? Or where does the institutional memory come from if there is any?
Representative Storch: Well, we have one legislator who was here for twelve years before he ran this time, that’s Chris Kelly. But, he’s the only who’s here that has, you know, that extent of knowledge of the process. And, you know, I’ll tell you even though people like to make fun of the legislature, make fun of the legislative process, something like the budget is really complicated. And it simply takes time to get your arms around it to understand how that process, to understand what the issues are, to understand the needs of the different state agencies and the different programs around the state. So, you know, I think at the end of the day, the people of Missouri really suffer because the quality of the policy making is not as good…
…SMP: Do you think that repeal of term limits is part of the solution for that?
Representative Storch: Well, you know, I don’t know that some term limit is inappropriate, but I think that eight years is too short.You know somebody was telling me that in, in the olden days, before term limits, freshman legislators didn’t even speak because it was just assumed that, you know, it would take some time to learn the process. So those first two years were, that was when you had your training wheels on. And you wouldn’t dream of asking for a spot on the Budget Committee until you had been around for a few terms. But now we have freshman legislators, and no, I, I’m not pointing fingers at anyone, I actually think a lot of our freshman are just doing a terrific job of coming forward, aggressively, you know, speaking on issues. But the reality is, there’s just less of a knowledge base.
SMP: What do you think are the, the biggest disappointments of this legislative session.
Representative Storch: Well, you know, we still have three and a half days left of session. And things can happen quickly at the end. So it would be a little too premature, it would be a little premature to put the nail in the coffin in terms of the assessment of the session. I need to wait and see what happens before Friday at six.
That said, we really haven’t seen any headway on reestablishment of health care. We have between seven and eight hundred thousand people in Missouri with no health insurance, including a hundred fifty thousand kids. And we had an opportunity this year, using no general revenue dollars, no state taxpayer dollars, to cover thirty-five thousand low income people. The Hospital Association came forward and put this plan together and came to the governor. And had the support of Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats and the House Republicans said they wouldn’t do it. And they just wouldn’t go there. So, I, I don’t know that in the next few days that ideology will change. It’s, it’s, since it’s not a money issue, it’s clearly ideology. And there’s just no real will to put health care in place for those who need it most.
SMP: But, but doesn’t that, I mean, doesn’t the problem of access to health care? That, that’s not a, a geographic, you know, isolated problem or one of ideology, either. I mean, some of these representatives that voted against this have…
Representative Storch: Some of them represent very poor districts. There’s less health care in the boot heel than anywhere else in the state. So to see, you know, a legislator from that area vote against a program like this means, you think, that they’re voting directly against the, the quality of life for their own citizens in their districts, for their constituents. But, you know, we’ll see.
We also have not yet passed a real economic development bill. And with the economy in the state it’s in you’d think that would be a number one priority. It certainly was for the governor and actually, it was for the Speaker of the House, but some of the infighting between House and Senate Republicans has obstructed that legislation as well.
SMP: On a different note…I’ve seen a little bit of speculation that, if the Secretary of State’s office opens, is that something that you’re interested in? If that opportunity arises?
Representative Storch:…I am very interested. It would be an appointment by the governor, of course. So it’s a different situation, you know, from one where I would be lining up enough support for a statewide campaign. But I’m certainly interested. When I worked in the United States Senate I did elections issues, so I, you know, have some knowledge, the Help America Vote Act and I’ve done election protection work during different campaign cycles. And I think some of theses issues go to the most fundamental rights as citizens. And I would love to follow in Robin’s shoes. But, it will be the governor’s choice at the end of the day.
…And I, I love doing what I’m doing now. I would be very happy staying in this position and I also think that there are many ways to do wonderful public service without being in elective office. So, my commitment, first and foremost, is to public service. And I know that the opportunity will be there, in some form, to do it.
SMP: All right. Well, thank you very much.
Representative Storch: Oh, sure.