Travelin’ Man Jay

Governor Nixon is going to save the state a bunch of money by restricting state employees from traveling out of state except for special circumstances. OUT of state.

But as the bill-signing season moves toward its peak, the Governor will show that traveling IN the state is definitely more than okay.

Why, just Thursday, the governor went to the St. Louis area, to Springfield, and to Columbia to simulate the signing of the autism insurance bill. If he had driven, he would have traveled about 500 miles. And on Friday, the 11th, he’ll be out and about simulating more signings of the same bill. More miles.

It’s too easy to make some kind of rhetorical point about this travel. After all, he’s not REALLY signing the REAL bill during the Governor’s Road Show. He is signing a lot of copies of the bill using official bill signing pens which, if they are like official bill-signing pens of his predecessors, have a genuine simulated Jay Nixon replica signatures engraved or at least printed on them. Then he gives them away to deserving people with a copy of the signed copy of the bill.

The Governor seldom holds a bill-signing in the Capitol. Capitol bill signing ceremonies have been disappearing for several years because Governors (we think) would rather get a lot of positive face time among the folks than have various legislators and lobbyists and a few other attendees come to the Capitol, get their souvenir official bill-signing pen with the genuine imitation Jay Nixon replica signature on them and get their picture taken while standing behind the Governor who is seated at the great 1917 original office furniture table.

He also doesn’t have to answer all kinds of miscellaneous questions from reporters more knowledgeable about the issues in state government than he will usually get from reporters far away from the nerve center of Missouri politics although it can be dangerous to underestimate reporters away from the Capitol.

To be truthful, if not at risk of overstating an issue, the Capitol press corps does have a certain proprietary feeling about the Governor. After all, he does work in our building, one floor up. What harm would there be in starting his day by having a public signing of the real bill in his real office and taking a few of those out-of-left field questions from the Capitol Press Corps before he hits the road or takes to the air? Governor Holden, then Governor Blunt and now, especially Governor Nixon has put us—or left us– in our place. While he goes to a lot of places. In the state.

But, look, folks, it’s really not all that bad and we shouldn’t throw mudballs at the Governor’s airplane as it flies away without us, loaded with copies of a bill already signed and boxes of official bill signing pens with the genuine simulated… well, you know.

There’s no reason the Governor should cloister himself in his beautiful office and have a few friends and the press corps in for a bill signing, as was done for decades, particularly when he is taking action on a bill as important as the autism insurance bill.

This is a critically important bill for thousands of Missouri families. It is a bill that has been difficult to pass in the face of some very powerful industry opposition. It’s a bill that offers many families some hope that they will be able to get therapy for their children or get it without pushing the family to bankruptcy. Those legislators who worked hard to get it passed deserve some spotlight time, too. And the local spotlight does not shine very brightly on the Capitol from 100 or 150 miles away. So governors take to the road so the local legislators and local citizens who were passionate about the issue can get the attention from the local media. Of course the local media will have the governor’s face and voice on the air and in print most of the time because he’s The Governor and he’s in their town. Outside the Capitol, the Governor is special. Real special.

But going to where the involved lawmakers live to highlight their importance in the bill-passage process, or going to where the institutions provide the services the bill allows to be provided is valuable.

So it’s okay and it’s important for several reasons that are not altogether self-serving for the governor to be the star of the Jay Nixon Road Show. But it also would be nice if he and his information ministry were to say to the folks in the press room in Jefferson City who spent many hours watching the legislative sausage made that became the bill, “Hey, I’m going to sign the real bill, with my real signature, using my real pen before I hit the road. Come on up to the office for a few minutes at 7:30.”

Tell ya what, Gov., you start doing that and I’ll bring some reasonably-recent doughnuts for everybody.

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