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Our Opinion: A new session - The threshold of possibilities

News Tribune editorial January 11, 2015 at 12:30 p.m. | Updated January 11, 2015 at 12:30 p.m.

Every Missouri legislative session comes with its own dynamic.

The session that began Wednesday includes some similarities to the 2014 installment. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon remains chief executive and Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, was retained by his peers.

But some significant changes have occurred. The House of Representatives has elevated John Diehl, R-Town and Country, to the speaker's post. And veto-proof GOP majorities in both houses may curb Nixon's veto stamp, used in abundance last year.

As the session begins, we encourage our elected officials to:

• Simplify: Diehl said Wednesday he intends to rely on the committee process to scrutinize proposals and will ask panel chairmen to draft single-subject bills for consideration.

We concur. Legislation is known as a "Christmas tree" when it attracts numerous, often unrelated, provisions. A consequence is one contentious provision can kill the tree. A recent example was Nixon's veto of an agriculture bill that contained a controversial provision regarding the Conservation agency's oversight of captive deer.

Christmas is over, and a welcome transition will occur if Dempsey follows through on his intention to act swiftly on an agriculture bill without that provision.

• Communicate: Republican leaders have begun discussions about their priorities, which include freeing businesses from red tape, providing adequate education funding and changing ethics laws. Nixon will unveil his agenda in his State of the State address on Jan. 21. Communications, however, must not be limited to January, which leads to ...

• Remain engaged: Republicans last year accused the governor of not remaining engaged in continuing discussions as legislation moved through the process. Polarization between the executive and legislative branches is easy, but not productive.

We don't expect wholesale compromise, but we encourage the governor and lawmakers to work together. Dempsey has indicated he is willing to work with Nixon on some issues. We see that as a starting point on which to build.

A new session is a time when elected officials resume the difficult - and often thankless - task of governing.

We congratulate the newcomers and welcome the veterans, Democrats and Republicans, as they stand side by side on the threshold of possibilities.


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