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Speaker addresses reforms in House

January 23, 1996
By: ELIZABETH MCKINLEY
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - If Speaker Steve Gaw has his way, the Missouri House of Representatives will soon be seeing reforms.

In his opening address, given to the House Tuesday morning, Gaw made several proposals, including making legislators more accountable for their actions.

"The groundwork has been laid," Gaw said. "I'm going to work with both sides of the aisle to see good legislation come about."

One way Missouri legislators will be more accountable for Missouri tax dollars is through a new travel committee -- one that will ensure "our funds are spent wisely and appropriately," Gaw said.

This committee, which Gaw said would be appointed in the next ten days, will evaluate all out-of-state travel requests. Gaw said this type of request has been the main area of concern.

"The travel committee is necessary. The public has the perception of abuse," said Rep. Carl Hendrickson, R-St. Louis County. "There has to be something done to change this perception."

The travel committee is designed to make legislators prudent with their expenditures, the speaker said.

Rep. Tony Ribaudo, D-St. Louis, said the travel committee would provide guidance for legislators.

And in adding accountability to Missouri's legislators, Gaw proposed creating a new ethics committee that would deal solely with ethics complaints filed against House members.

"It tells people we believe ethics are at the forefront," Gaw said.

This ethics committee is different than the current committee concerned with house ethics because the committee would not have legislative duties, Gaw said.

Gaw said there was no specific ethical situation that prompted the proposed creation of the ethics committee.

Minority Floor leader Mark Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff said he agreed with the separate, ethics stand-alone committee.

But Richardson issued a formal release attacking Gaw's speech for what was not included - specifically rules changes that Republicans have been demanding which they say would make the process more open.

"He has not put forth one reform today which would ensure every citizen inclusion in the House process," Richardson said in his statement.

Gaw's speech also addressed school violence and alternative schools, issues the governor said were important in his state of the state address last week. Gaw, though, also talked about the lack of preventative health care for Missouri's children.

The speaker said the House will work to make getting information to the public, through access to cable and the Internet.

"(The Internet site) will improve the public's access to information about the House and the legislation we are considering," he said.

But beyond these reforms, Richardson said he would like to see more that would affect the entire legislative process.

"We need a speaker that manages, not one that controls the Missouri House of Representatives," Richardson said. "We need rules that allow bills to move to the house floor based on their merits rather than their sponsorship."