The best blog post in the universe!

We, the Missourinet staff, have heard…literally heard…our fair share of legislative hyperbole. We listen to so much legislative debate; sift through so much audio to produce our stories, we fight the feeling that we have heard it all before. That is a fatal flaw for any reporter. There is always something new; a state representative bringing a fresh perspective on an old subject or a state senator hammering home a new point.
And, yes, sometimes we hear over-the-top rhetoric. We normally laugh among colleagues and move on. Yet, the statement of House Speaker Pro Tem Bryan Pratt, a Republican from Blue Springs, dubbing the “ethics” legislation Republicans rammed through the House late in the session took on a life of its own.
Prior to the vote, Pratt proclaimed, “We’re going to take a vote today on the most comprehensive and sweeping ethics reform bill in the universe.”

[We interrupt the best blog post in the universe…to make it better! A friend suggested that the blog could be made better by combining the audio cuts into one piece of audio that would be easy to download. So, Brent Martin narrates the remainder of this post…sort of an audio blog if you will. Now, Jessica claims she made that suggestion prior to us making the post, but we must have been so focused on producing the best blog post in the universe that we failed to heed her wise counsel. For the purists among you, you can continue reading and download the cuts individually.]

 Brent Martin narrates the ‘Best blog post in the universe!’ [6:10 MP3]

We used Pratt’s entire floor speech in an earlier blog post. Here it is in context, yet in a bit shorter version. 
It struck a chord immediately, becoming the universal joke of the remainder of the session.

Sen. Charlie Shields, a Republican from St. Joseph, couldn’t resist poking a little fun of Pratt’s statement when reviewing what the House had done to his bill during a speech from the Senate floor.

 Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields makes motion on ethics bill [1:42 MP3]

When the Senate requested the House negotiate a compromise, Rep. John Burnett, a Democrat from Kansas City, couldn’t resist a little kidding in his inquiry of Rep. Tim Jones, a Republican from Eureka.

 Rep. John Burnett questions Rep. Tim Jones on ethics bill [:31 MP3]

Burnett made the comment with full knowledge that Speaker Pro Tem Pratt was presiding. Pratt took it in good humor, gaveled Burnett, laughed then asked him to continue.

It seemed the “universe” jokes would continue forever. Just listen to Sen. Shields explain to the full Senate how the Senate-House conference committee was able to find common ground and reach a consensus on ethics.

Sen. Shields tells Senators they’re going ‘back to the future’ [:41 MP3]

Even the governor couldn’t resist. Governor Nixon opened his post-session news conference with this statement.

Gov. Nixon gets into the act at post-session news conference [:08 MP3]

The butt of the joke, Speaker Pro Tem Pratt, seemed to take it in stride, reconciling himself to a special place in legislative lore. On the last day of the session, when Pratt praised his staff, many in the House chamber believed his praise fell short. To chants of “universe, universe” Pratt amended his remarks.

 Rep. Pratt praises staff [:33 MP3]

Some comments pass like a cool, summer breeze. Some carry great weight. Perhaps the “universe” comment served a purpose no one could foresee when uttered. It became a joke, not a nasty, belittling, degrading joke, but a real source of fun that somehow defused a politically emotional issue that threatened to rip apart the session in its final week.

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