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Our Opinion: Proposed alterations to government face long odds

News Tribune editorial

Alterations to the underpinnings of state government are among proposals pre-filed for the upcoming legislative session.

One bill would modify elections to executive branch offices; another would abbreviate the legislative session. Both proposed constitutional amendments were among dozens of measures pre-filed Thursday in the House and Senate.

Like most proposals to change the status quo, file both bills in the category for long-shots.

When lawmakers convene on Jan. 4, a Senate measure awaiting them is a proposal for the governor and lieutenant governor to be elected jointly by voters, beginning in 2016.

The change would team the state’s top elected officials, similar to national elections to choose the president and vice--president.

Governing by a chief executive and lieutenant representing rival political parties is not atypical in Missouri.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder have served in those capacities since 2009.

Their relationship has been comparatively less contentious than those of some predecessors — including Democratic Gov. Joseph Teasdale and Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Phelps; and Republican Gov. John Ashcroft and Democratic Lt. Gov. Mel Carnahan.

Past relationships have prompted some chief executives to curtail outof-state travel for fear of how their lieutenants might act in their absence. Those fears largely have been put to rest by a state Supreme Court ruling that modern communications permit governors to remain in charge when traveling outside the state.

A separate proposal would shorten the legislative session by six weeks.

The session now spans from early January until mid-May. Under a proposal by freshman Sen. John Lamping, R-St. Louis County, the session would adjourn in late March, beginning in 2015.

“If we reduce the legislative session by six week, it will not only save taxpayers money by lessening the per diem amount that is paid to legislators, but hopefully doing so will also encourage other individuals interested in state government to run for office and serve the public,” Lamping said.

Predictions prior to the session about which proposals will pass are, at best, hazardous.

That said, we would be surprised if lawmakers advance either proposed constitutional amendment to a vote of the people.

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