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Our Opinion: Secrecy sad, but authority issue clarified

Our Opinion: Secrecy sad, but authority issue clarified

May 16th, 2012 in News

The induction of Rush Limbaugh into the Hall of Famous Missourians proved the exception to the rule.

As a rule, induction ceremonies are public celebrations.

Monday's induction of Limbaugh, a conservative radio commentator, was not. It was stealthy and secretive.

The timing of the ceremony was not revealed until shortly before it started, and notification was limited to Republican lawmakers, invited guests and the media. Conspicuously absent were Democratic legislators, who have criticized the addition of Limbaugh to the gallery.

The controversy, in our view, is not about Limbaugh, personally.

A contentious selection was inevitable, given that it is the sole prerogative of a partisan officer-holder, the speaker of the House of Representatives. The office now is held by Rep. Steve Tilley, R-Perryville.

Tilley's decision to cloak the induction ceremony in secrecy is disappointing and timid.

His Democratic colleague - House Minority Leader Mike Talboy of Kansas City - said: "The secrecy and exclusion of the public demonstrates that even Republicans are embarrassed ..."

An upside of this episode is it has raised the more important issue of who or what controls the space in the third-floor Capitol Rotunda where the Hall of Famous Missourians is located.

We believe, and Gov. Jay Nixon agrees, that authority is vested in the Missouri State Capitol Commission, an 11-member panel that includes lawmakers from both political parties and citizens with an interest in history.

The governor's office has released a three-page memo detailing a review of applicable laws and policies. Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said: "Based on the findings of the Office of Administration review, the governor looks forward to working with the Board of Public Buildings and the State Capitol Commission to review the purpose and governance of the Hall of Famous Missourians and to develop a comprehensive strategy regarding where all busts, statues and other monuments are displayed in the Capitol."

The commission, ultimately, is empowered to determine whether Limbaugh's bust joins others in the Hall of Famous Missourians.

And future House speakers would be wise to consult the panel to determine whether nominees are eligible to be enshrined.