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Our Opinion: Address jobs bills on merits

“Jobs are Job No. 1” could be a new slogan for government — both federal and state.

President Obama signaled his emphasis when he selected the ultimate stage — a nationally televised address to a joint session of Congress — to unveil and promote his $450 billion jobs plan.

Meanwhile, at Missouri’s Capitol, senators were dismissed for the weekend with instructions to read a 268-page jobs bill before debating the proposal next week.

The assignment was given by Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter. He is handling the massive bill that purports to reflect the results of negotiations and consensus that prompted Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon to call the special session now under way.

Reading proposed legislation before discussing, debating and voting has become an anachronism in the Capitol. The last senator/comprehensive bill reader may have been the late A. Clifford Jones, who retired in 1988.

We encourage lawmakers to complete their weekend assignment, for a number of reasons:

• The proposal, in Mayer’s words, is “a lengthy bill — there’s a lot of complicated measures in the bill.”

• The anticipated consensus has fractured. Not only has opposition been voiced by a number of lawmakers, a threatened Senate filibuster looms.

• Special sessions are expensive. Knowledge negates wasting time because lawmakers are prepared to articulate concerns, understand opposing arguments and craft sensible solutions.

Reading legislation is a task of much magnitude. Although it often is delegated to staff members, we encourage state lawmakers — and members of Congress, as well — to read and familiarize themselves with the respective jobs proposals.

Both Democrats and Republicans agree unemployment, job creation and economic development issues must be addressed.

A temptation will be to address them based on ideological or political ramifications.

We urge them to resist that temptation. The jobs bills not only must be scrutinized, they must be addressed on their merits.

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