State of the state tonight

Tonight is the Governor’s State of the State address.
It’s required by Article 4, Section 9 of the Missouri Constitution:
The governor shall, at the commencement of each session of the general assembly, at the close of his term of office, and at such other times as he may deem necessary, give to the general assembly information as to the state of the government, and shall recommend to its consideration such measures as he shall deem necessary and expedient. On extraordinary occasions he may convene the general assembly by proclamation, wherein he shall state specifically each matter on which action is deemed necessary.
We’ll go through that exercise tonight. For whatever it is worth.
Governors do not have to deliver the message in person. The constitution says only that he will “give…information” and “shall recommend” things he would like the legislature to do.
For many years, the speech was done in the morning. But a few administrations ago, the value of prime time television exposure led to delivering a speech at night. And a few administrations ago it dawned on the other political party that it should designate someone to make a speech advocating that party’s platform for the session. The person chosen for the response has usually been somebody with their eyes on a bigger political prize. It has been Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder several times when he had gubernatorial ambitions. Tonight it will be House Speaker Tim Jones, who thinks his name would be look just dandy on the doors of the Attorney General’s office after the 2016 elections. He will not share the response with any other Republican who also is seeking the office, specifically State Senator Kurt Schaefer of Columbia. But, hey, the speech is given in the House chamber, where Jones is the boss most of the time. So he gets the headlines the next morning.
The think about the response speeches is that they don’t need to respond in any way to what the Governor has said. And although the response-givers can usually figure out some of the main points of the Governor’s remarks ahead of time, the responses most often are far more partisan in nature than they are in philosophical musings about ways the two parties can work together to benefit the state.
The Missourinet will have the Governor’s speech on tonight. Once again we’re working with our friends at KMIZ/KQFX in Columbia to do video on the site.
Governors used to do two speeches. One was the State of the State message. The other was a budget message. The two were combined a long time ago, thank goodness.
There will be built-in pauses for applause. It will come only from the Democratic side of the House except when Nixon introduces somebody in the audience. That’s a technique that seemed to come along when Ronald Reagan was the President and started introducing people in the House galleries in Washington who were examples of the things he was talking about. So now we have State of the State speeches that probably last forty percent longer than they should because the Governor’s party will applaud after every second sentence if not more often and because the Governor can no longer just tell lawmakers why he wants legislation, he has to do a show and tell of some kind
About an hour before the speech, the state budget office will have a briefing for reporters to explain what the Governor wants the legislature to spend money on during the fiscal year starting July 1. A lot of the discussion is pretty arcane but it helps us understand why and how much and who benefits and who doesn’t and why, which we hope elevates our stories above recitations of numbers.
Things are different this year, though. Normally the legislature and the Governor’s people agree on how much tax money will be available to spend in the next budget. This year, though, the House and Senate have agreed on a revenue estimate but the Governor wants more. We are left with a situation that verifies the adage:
The Governor proposes. The legislature disposes.
Thus it is that the governor will propose a lot of stuff tonight and the legislature dominated by the opposing party will give him back something likely much different in mid-May. Both sides have pretty well staked-out differing positions on a number of issues.
Tonight’s speech is just part of a process, not only for the legislative session but also for the campaigns ahead. Both sides, both parties, will use tonight’s events to look good to their bases. But by May, chances are there won’t be much that we’ll remember about either the speech or the response tonight.
Check with us at tonight and share the process.

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