On Thursday, after the House finished its business for the day, I spoke with Representative Beth Low (D-39) in her second floor capitol building office.
Representative Beth Low in Jefferson City, May 14, 2009.
Show Me Progress: A lot of people have been describing this as a “very interesting” session. What has been, what’s been your view of this legislative session? In general terms.
Representative Beth Low: This legislative session has been remarkable for the unpredictability that we’ve experienced. There generally are goals stated by the majority party, and of course, the Governor had his goals also. And generally you know within the first month or so of the session what the priorities for the legislative cycle are. And we didn’t ever, I think, get that this year.
Further complicating the matter was that the Senate and the House, [Republican] majority parties, have been deeply divided over how to handle what where apparently the priorities that were never explicitly stated. One example of that would be 46, House Bill 46, which was the coercion, abortion coercion bill. Every year there’s an omnibus abortion bill. That was this year’s. The House passed it in reasonably short order. It was one of the first ten bills that we dealt with this session. And…
…SMP: And, and so, that was, that was fairly early on in the House. And what took it so long to get back here?
Representative Low: Right. Which is, I mean, that’s the interesting question. Because the vast majority of the legislature in both chambers is pro life, self identified pro life. And generally those bills move without too much difficulty. And, what I believe happened was that the first major bill we dealt with was, was the jobs creation bill – the Governor had stated was one of his top priorities – is largely a tax credit bill. House passed it. Easily. It went to the Senate and it immediately met with a filibuster from the far right of the Republican Party in the Senate. And that filibuster continues. It still hasn’t finished. There hasn’t been, there hasn’t been a cloture vote. Which is very strange. Because, again, you would think that there would be, there would be an easy vote there.
SMP: But in a lot of the action I’ve been seeing in the past week here it appears that the Senate is the reasonable body right now. And, and so that’s, that in and of itself might indicate there’s no reasonable body in the General Assembly right now.
Representative Low: Yeah. Well, of course as a member of the minority I would argue that, I would argue in favor of that, that conclusion regardless, but certainly the evidence seems to back it up.
I mean, the interesting thing about that jobs creation bill is that it actually had opposition in the House from a number of Democrats who opposed giving further tax credits for, for supposed jobs creation that didn’t have any requirements that companies receiving the tax credits actually create jobs. Or come back to the state and prove that they had created even one job. So they, we had companies who were potentially going to be receiving tens of millions of dollars in tax credits and they weren’t required to actually create a job with it, which was the stated point. which bothers those of us who believe in, in responsible government and responsible use of taxpayer dollars on the left. Because we feel that moving very close to a corporate run government, corporations. Of course we want great economic development, we want jobs creation. But we want results. I don’t, I don’t care for spending money, sending good money after bad. And…[crosstalk]
SMP: And, and some people would call that a very “conservative” point of view. [crosstalk]
Representative Low: Right.
SMP: But what it is, it’s really, it’s kind of a rational point of view.
Representative Low: Right. And then, on, in the Senate it has met with opposition from some senators, progressive senators, but is also, the biggest portion of opposition in the Senate has actually come from the far right of the Republican Party which believe that our entire tax system is improper, that we shouldn’t have to do tax credits because we shouldn’t be tax, we shouldn’t be taxing corporations on their profits, that we shouldn’t have personal income taxes, that all of it’s bunk. And so they want to eliminate all of those tax systems. And so they’re opposing it for a very different reasons but we’re coming to the conclusion that. Politics makes for very odd bedfellows. I don’t have a lot in common in terms of political positions with Jason Crowell from southeast, southeast Missouri, but on this one we agree for different reasons that this is not the right way to spend taxpayer dollars.
So the House is, the House I think has done a number of unreasonable things, but among, and, and generally, historically, the Senate has been the more, here as in other states, the more contemplative body that considers legislation in a more moderate and slower process. And I don’t think that that is necessarily what has occurred with the economic, with this jobs creation bill, for example, but the result has been that they have moved much slower on it. It’s not that they’re contemplating it. It’s you’re getting this sort of reactionary position out of the far right wing of the party. But whatever the reasons for it, they’re still not acting.
And then, and that, of course, has created great animosity between the leadership in the House and the leadership in the Senate. And, and has meant that a great number of bills which normally, in, in a normal session, would be easily passed, such as the abortion bill, become very contentious ones about power between the two bodies.
SMP: All, all of that being said, and, you know, about the session, have there, have there been any successes?
Representative Low: I, as a member of the minority party – this is my fifth year in office, I, you have, you experience far more defeats than victories. And so I always try and find just one or two things that are victories that I can look to as, as accomplishments. Positive accomplishments. very few, if any people, run for political office because they simply want to stop other people’s agendas. It’s, you actually do have a positive agenda you’d like to move forward with. You know, I think, trying to think what the victories are this session, it’s, it’s been a very difficult session to find victories for me.
I think that the Senate choosing to try and reinstate thirty-five thousand adults who had lost access, lost their coverage, their Medicaid coverage due to the cuts in two thousand and five, and working in conjunction with Missouri Hospital Association and Governor Nixon in order to accomplish that goal without spending a dollar of taxes was commendable. And I think although that, that, that effort appears now to have failed in the end, it was heartening to see the Senate move to a more moderate position than the House chose to.
And it was, it was heartening for me to see that, at least in the Senate, the Republicans seemed to be true to their words in 2005. When we were as a body considering those cuts to eligibility I can’t tell you how many Republicans in both the House and the Senate said that they didn’t want to make them. That it hurt them. That they know that, they knew it was going to be a difficult thing for many people. It was going to create difficult in their lives…[interruption]
…I can’t tell you how many Republicans stood up on the House and Senate floor and said that they didn’t want to make the cuts, that we had to balance the budget. It was their, it was their, they were, their hand was being forced. And that if we had the money they would be happy to restore the cuts. Well, we have, we have the mon
ey. We had this way of doing it that wasn’t going to cost the state a penny. And the Republicans in the House changed their tune and said, well, it’s not about the money. It’s about, it’s about basic fundamental opposition to growing government. And we don’t care what the consequences are. We don’t care about the results of that policy decision are. The ideology of small government is more important than the consequences of people who don’t have access to health care.
It was heartening for me to see that the Senate Republicans stood true to their word. And when given the opportunity to re-expand eligibility without cost to taxpayers, stood up and made an effort to do so….