In this space a couple of days ago we suggested that Speaker of the House Tim Jones was “screwing up the Capitol.” The comments and their circulation on the editorial page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and by television colleague Micheal Mahoney at KMBC-TV in Kansas City in his blog and through various other outlets seem to have struck one of Speaker Jones’ nerves. He issued a statement this morning defending his actions and indicating that his mind is unchanged. So is ours, but this is his turn to speak and we appreciate him doing so.
“Beginning in 2013, the Missouri House will provide expanded access to the members of the news media who cover the House by providing additional seating designated for media on the third floor side gallery. While access to the fourth floor press gallery will continue, a portion of the 881 square foot space will be better utilized to provide additional office space for legislative personnel in order to meet operational needs of the House that have been long neglected. Additionally, as a student of history and as a public servant who has strongly defended and strived hard to restore and protect our beautiful Capitol, any and all improvements will be undertaken and completed in a fashion that respects, protects and honors the treasure that is the people’s House.
I am confident the members of the capitol press corps recognize the use of the gallery space has declined in recent years. On many occasions during the 2012 session it was evident that very few capitol press corps members routinely utilized this space at any given time. The reduction in daily use coupled with growing needs of legislators to make institutional changes that better utilize the limited space at our disposal has led to this decision. In addition to much of the 4th floor press gallery still being fully open to media access, accommodations similar to those available in the Senate will also be made on the third floor side gallery to assist the media in their House coverage.
Even with these changes, it is important to note this proposal stops far short of previous legislative proposals to eliminate taxpayer-funded office space and/or parking spots for members of the media. The House has now dedicated more space to the media than anywhere else in the Capitol. For the past six years as a legislator, I have enjoyed an excellent professional working relationship with members of the media across the state and specifically with the Missouri Press Association, having even carried several legislative proposals very important to them during several legislative sessions. It is my intent to support the continuation of the media amenities mentioned above, which will now include dedicated space in the House on the first, third and fourth floors, as recognition of the important role and function that an open and unbiased media holds as a fundamental cornerstone of our democratic-republic.”