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Special Session's First Day

September 05, 2001
By: Julian Pecquet and Sarah Molina
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - You might not have realized the state legislature had begun its special session Wednesday if you were wandering around the legislative floor of Missouri's statehouse.

Almost nobody from the House showed up. And the Senate was forced to meet in a basement House committee hearing room.

Wednesday was the opening day of the special session called by Gov. Bob Holden to discuss a new prescription drug plan, livestock pricing and a state tax cut on the federal tax rebate.

Saying they wanted to save the taxpayers' money, House leaders decided that the first three days of the special session would be purely technical, and not involve the possibility for proposing amendments, known as a full session.

Furthermore, both the Democrat and the Republican House leaders announced that their members need not come to the technical sessions, since state legislation prohibits voting on bills in the first few days.

As a result, less than a dozen representatives attended Wednesday's opening session which lasted under three minutes.

"There's no use in spending the taxpayers' money," said House Speaker Jim Kreider, D-Nixa. "We'll all be here Monday, ready to go to work."

According to Jim Gardner, chief spokesman for the House, if none of the representatives show up during these three days the State would save $40 000 to $45 000 in attendance fees and transportation costs, a drop of water in the state's deficit which is over $300 million.

Assistant Majority Floor Leader James Foley, D-St. Ann, called this first day a "tactical session", a "mere formality".

"I'm surprised that many people showed up", said Foley.

Foley said that the low attendance did not indicate a criticism of Holden's legacy.

"The support will be there when the bills hit the floor on Monday," he said.

The failure of House members to show up for the opening of the session raised questions in the Missouri Senate -- where almost all of the members showed up for the opening day.

The Senate spent an hour introducing nine different bills relative to the three issues before the special session.

The Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Sen. David Klarich, R-St. Louis County, said the House decision put a legal cloud over anything the special session might pass.

"Where in the world is the House of Representatives?" Klarich asked. "The House is not following proper law making procedures."

Senators said they believed it was the first time in the state's history for such a no-show on an opening day's session.

The House members, however, disagreed with the criticisms.

"All our experts in the House say that we can do that", said Foley. "When the bills come to the floor we will need a quorum and that will come Monday."

Both the House and the Senate meet again this morning for the second reading of the bills.