9:05 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011. Missourinet Capitol studio — The fractious special legislative session came within an ace of shutting down today. But Senate leader Rob Mayer wants to give it one last chance to produce what once was a much-ballyhooed jobs bill.
Don’t bet the homestead that it will.
You know things are bad when a member of the legislature asks you if “cluster” is spelled with a “c” or a “k.”
This thing started out weak and has declined from the opening prayer to the point that it is, as Mayer put it a few minutes ago, on life support. Unless a a diplomat shows up in the capitol or unless a whole bunch of people decide to become diplomats, the plug is likely to be pulled on Friday.
Fifteen days ago, Msgr Robert Kurwicki, the House Chaplain, started the session in that chamber asking God to “Keep our hearts clean, our spirits courageous, and our minds clear as we face the tasks of this day. Lead us and all people to that realm where goodwill shall reign.”
In the Senate, the Rev. Carl Gauk was heard to say, “We are mindful of those who suffer from want and anxiety from lack of work and pray we might find ways to encourage and help job development throughout the state.”
The messages appear to still be in God’s voice mail.
This situation began when House and Senate leaders and the Governor reached a deal and flew all over the state announcing it in July. The problem was that they had not consulted other legislators about it and other legislators were not interested in getting into this wagon.
By the time the session started, the wheels on the wagon were wobbling. The Senate passed a bill but chopped the China Hub out of it to get consensus within an otherwise divided majority. The House leadership looked at it the way George Busch looked at broccoli. It didn’t want that stuff on its plate.
The clod fell into the churn when Rep. Ann Zerr held a six-hours-plus committee hearing Monday and decided the committee would not vote on the bill on Tuesday. Steam began to rise in the senate yesterday and when word came that the House leaders after meeting with the governor had cooked up a new “compromise” that it wanted the senate to pass without any compromise discussions, the senate was apoplectic.
Zerr says she had talked to senators about the bill. Mayer says whoever she talked to, it wasn’t him. And he’s the sponsor of the senate version of the bill. Mayer is usually a pretty easy going guy, at least in public. But this afternoon he was in a serious state of urinary agitation. Serious.
Republicans caucused. Mayer held the first of what he intended to be two informational meetings to discuss the senate version of the bill. It was hoped members of the House would join the meeting. Only two members of the House asked any questions. Many House members were disguised as empty chairs in the Senate Lounge.
Mayer was hoping for a meeting with the governor and house leaders. Nope. Not today.
About 6 p.m. he got a copy of the “compromise” bill from the House. He spent some time reviewing it. The Senate came in shortly before 9 p.m. and promptly adjourned until 2 p.m. Friday so senators could evaluate the bill.
After the three-minute meeting of the senate, Mayer told us this session that is becoming special for the wrong reasons is likely to be put out of its misery Friday. The Facebook Fix bill might get passed. But there was only a small part of an ounce of optimism about the jobs bill in his voice. Pretty clearly he resents the idea that the House leadership and the governor worked out this “compromise” without involving any senators, especially him. After all, Governor Nixon had issued a statement last week saying the senate jobs bill looked good to him. That was before the House leaders reduced it to broccoli.
The attitude among several lawmakers we’ve talked to is that there are no wheels left on this wagon. We’ll see Friday if this session is so lost that it’s time to unhook the horses, let them go home, and leave the wagon to the elements.
Sometimes failure IS an option.