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After the opening of the legislative session on Wednesday the House republican leadership (along with members of their caucus) held a press conference in the House Lounge in the capitol.

Previous coverage:

The Missouri General Assembly opens the 2010 legislative session

The Missouri General Assembly opens the 2010 legislative session, part 2

With sincere apologies to Atrios.

Speaker Ron Richard: Good afternoon. As, uh, outlined in our speech, uh, a few minutes ago we, uh, started the Special Standing Committee on Government Accountability and Ethics Reform. Uh, Representative LeVota and I again appointed, uh, Representative Bruns, Lipke, Day, Nolte, Brandom, Burnette, Witte, Morris, Wallace, and Curls. Kevin Wilson and, uh, were chair, and, uh Sally Faith vice chair. Um, we’ll pass no tax increases, that’s, I think I said that twice. I think I’ve said that a couple times every year and that is final. Um, we will practice fiscal discipline in the, in our budget process and balance the budget. It’s not that tough. It’s, uh, what we’re supposed to do with the Constitution. So we will do what we are charged with. And course we will have a economic development package second to none. That’s what we do and we’ll try to get the other side in a timely basis. Hopefully we can get it passed before the last day, as we did last year. Steve Hobbs will be chair of Insurance, replacing Representative Yates who went on to greener pastures. Representative Charlie Denison will chair Special Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Transportation, replacing Steve Hobbs. Questions….

From left to right (foreground), Representative Steve Tilley (r), Speaker Ron Richard (r), Representative Bryan Pratt (r).

….Question: Speaker Richard, uh, why start, uh, your speech and, and emphasis this ethics committee.

Speaker Richard: It has been the topic of conversation among many members. It’s been a topic of press stories and I thought we’d get to the bottom of it and get working on this issue. And, um, show the people of Missouri that we can, uh, fix perceived problems. And I went to, uh, Representative LeVota and I have got an outstanding group of Democrats and Republicans. I think we can come up with a, uh, solution and I look forward to that. And, uh, bills will be sent to that committee real quick.

Question: What are you hoping a special standing committee can do as opposed to funneling it through, uh, one of the regular house committees.

Speaker Richard: I want to focus the issue on the special committee and I want to make sure that you all and the State of Missouri is watching the progress. And I think that’ll help us focus the issue. The leadership team has agreed. And, um, the other committees have plenty of work. And, uh, uh, Elections Committee, you know, they’ll be working on voter ID and early voting, some other issues we think is important, So, uh, we, we think this committee’s important, [inaudible] have an issue and we look for a solution that is bipartisan and, uh, we’ll see.

Question: Why wouldn’t you use the existing, uh, Ethics Committee to take on [crosstalk] this legislation?

Speaker Richard: It, it, it only takes, uh, Representative Tilley, it only takes complaints, it doesn’t do much [crosstalk] legislation…

Representative Steve Tilley: Tra, traditionally it’s only been used for people [voice: “Okay.”] that file ethics complaints. It’s the one committee in the House that has an even split. And so, we wanted to, I think the Speaker wanted to treat it like, uh, any other bill and refer it to a committee that is designed to deal with those kind of issues.

Question: You just in your, you, just referred to perceived problems, uh, in ethics. Do you think that there are real problems out there that need to be addressed or is it a problem of perception?

Speaker Richard: I’ll let the committee decide. Anyone else.

Question:  This [inaudible] the former Speaker today due to appear in court and one of your colleagues [inaudible].

Speaker Richard: Ethics is like elections, is like economic development, is like, uh, [inaudible] is tweaked and adjusted and hearings to make sure that we’re current. And, uh, that’s what we’re doing.

Question:  Mister Speaker, uh, several people…[crosstalk]

Speaker Richard: Congratulations on you moving.

Question:  Thank you very much [inaudible][laughter]. Uh, you and several other people in the House leadership are term limited and thinking ahead possibly of [inaudible] state senate. How is that going to affect decision making ebb and flow in the House and Senate.

Speaker Richard: It makes no decision. We will do the right thing as we always do in the House. And we will work bipartisan when we can. And when we can’t we’ll still do what we think’s the best interest of Missouri on the budget priorities, fiscal discipline, tax issues. But we’re open to a lot of solutions and, uh, Representative LeVota and I have an open dialog and we, we talk from time to time. We started this morning with a breakfast with leadership, uh, of both sides of the aisle and we had conversations that we hope to work together on a lot of issues.

Question:  Well, you don’t, your predecessor really lost a lot of interest midway through his last year. Do you plan on avoiding that, and if so, how?

Speaker Richard: I will do what is in my gut to do the right thing. And I, it’s not right in my heart and my gut I will not [inaudible].

Question:  Senator Shields has proposed a ban on contributions from lobbyists during the session. Is that something that you would support?

Speaker Richard: I will support whatever comes out of our bipartisan committee. Whatever comes out.

Question:  What is the advantage [inaudible] the ethics proposals [inaudible]?

Speaker Richard: Uh, I want to make sure that both sides have the ability to, uh, have a dialog. And we go to the House, the floor, for [inaudible], you know as well as I do there’ll be several hundred amendments from all different sizes and shapes. Um, but I think that dialog is necessary and we’ll have an open dialog and, uh, we’ll get something to the Senate, uh, in a prompt basis.

Question:  Mister Speaker, I noticed you didn’t talk about the autism bill in your opening speech.

Speaker Richard: I’ve already gave ’em my word to Missourians it’s our first bill out. And will be, that will be sent to committee Thursday.

Question:  Okay, uh.

Question:  Which committee?

Speaker Richard: Kevin Wilson’s committee.

Question:  Economic development. What do you think is a, is something that could, that is a reasonable proposal you think you can get out, can get out of both chambers this year? Given the budget. [crosstalk]

Speaker Richard: We will have an energetic forward thinking program. We’re gonna have a conversation with the Governor. And, um, uh, Tim Flook and Representative Komo, uh, are making presentations to me and we will, uh, we’ll be aggressive I’m sure.

Question:  Governor wants to give tax incentives, tax credits to existing Missouri businesses [inaudible]…

Speaker Richard: I support whatever it takes to get Missouri through this tough time, um, you know, we have an issue with the other side of the building on tax credits. We’ll have to resolve that, some level. We’re open to all issues, it’s, uh, it’s a little early to start throwing down a line in the sand what we will or will not do. But, uh, the House has always been aggressive and, uh, Representative Flook will be aggressive.

Question:  Do you think the, the debate on tax credits is gonna create the same obstacles it did a year ago?

Speaker Richard: It will not create any obstacles in the House.

Question:  I, I mean, but [inaudible] you mentioned [crosstalk]…

Speaker Richard: I don’t, I don’t know, I don’t think so. We’ll see, uh, Representative Tilley and Representative Pratt have, have a dialog with the leadership on the other side of the building. They’ll bring recommendations what both sides can live with, Senator Callahan. So, you know, we’re, we’re gonna talk all and, and, you know, we’re gonna start out the way we always do, the way we did last year, uh, and, uh, we’re still gonna press forward in a energetic and faithful. Missourian’s hurting, we understand it, and we’re gonna do [inaudible].

Question:  Mister Speaker, I understand that at least the Senate is planning on taking up some resolutions to send some messages to D.C. about cap and trade legislation, about the health care legislation. Is that planned in the House as well, early in the session?

Speaker Richard: Um…

Representative Tilley: Yeah, I mean I think it’s something the Speaker is, is and, and Representative {Speaker Richard: “You two (inaudible)”] Pratt have, have, have talked about. I think, uh, a lot of our members have a lot of concern on some of the things that are going on in D.C. And, and for that matter a lot of Missouri citizens have concerns with what’s going on and their overreaching, uh, in D.C. And so I think it’s important as representatives of the citizens of this state that we let D.C. know what our constituents think. And so it’s certainly on the table.

Representative Pratt: Folks don’t feel like their voices are being heard in Washington, D.C. It’s our job to make sure their voices will be heard.

Speaker Richard: Anything else?

Question: So is this in the form of resolutions, uh, [inaudible]?

Speaker Richard: I suspect they will. Anything else? Thank you for your time and feel free to come by any time.

The transcript of the Democratic caucus press conference with Minority Leader Paul LeVota will follow in a subsequent post.