Celebrating TAFP

It has taken only 20 or 25 years or so to realize something was missing from Missouri Senate procedures this year. It’s a motion to “Truly Agree to and Finally Pass” a bill. The House does it. The reason the phrase is not heard in the Senate, says Senate Secretary Terry Spieler, is that the Senate just doesn’t do it, which explains why I hadn’t been hearing it. For a mere quarter-century, give or take a few years since moving over from coverage of the House to the Senate , the person sitting in the Missourinet chair at the Senate press table had not noticed the absence of that phrase. (Slap forehead and utter a Homersimpsonesque sound here).

But why not? Terry probably knows that, too. She knows everything about how the Senate is supposed to operate. She’s been in the job since 1982, longer than any legislative officer in state history. Truthfully, if it wasn’t for her, the Senate wouldn’t know how to run itself. In these term-limited times, presiding officers often don’t know how to preside. But that goes with the general standard in the Senate because most members too often show little mastery of the the basic art of making a motion unless they’re led through it by the presiding officer who in turn is led through it by Ms. Spieler.

Getting back to the point—

When a bill is passed by the House and works its way through the process and is approved by the Senate and sent to the Governor for signature or veto, the Senator makes motion to “third read and pass” the bill. It sounds so routine, so pedestrian, so—-so un-triumphant. But in the House, to send a bill to the Governor is to “Truly Agree and Finally Pass” that sucker. Nothing ho-hum about it.

Understand that getting a bill through the legislature is no small feat. Members of the House and the Senate introduced 1,517 bills, 64 joint resolutions and God only knows how many concurrent resolutions (many of them telling the federal government how to run itself, of course) and just plain chamber resolutions. The Senate passed 101 of its 484 bills and two of its two dozen joint resolutions. Only 195 of the 1,033 bills and only eight of 40 joint resolutions introduced in the House made it to the Senate.

Total: 296 of 1,517 bills and ten of 64 joint resolutions got through. Some of the bills and resolutions were duplicates or were amended onto bills that passed, so those numbers are a little soft. Nonetheless, getting a bill passed is a significant achievement. House members have a motion that celebrates that achievement–Truly Agreed to and Finally Passed. It’s so important that House summaries of actions on bills print the abbreviation in capital letters: TAFP. Maybe it should even have an exclamation point after it. TAFP!

In the Senate, where dignity and decorum prevail–at least in comparison to relative chaos in the House–the members don’t have that celebratory motion. They just third read the bill. No capital letters. No exclamation point. Nothing that recognizes the accomplishment. No exclamation point for Senators. Just another day in the office.

Every legislative session leaves dessicating husks of legislation along its arduous road to adjournment. “Third read and passed” says “well, okay, we’re done with that one.” TAFP is a celebration

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