JEFFERSON CITY - Changes in Missouri law are being enacted behind closed doors instead of with the typical pomp and circumstance.
Democratic Gov. Bob Holden has already signed about 20 bills into law, but he has broken from tradition by doing so in the secrecy of his office wihtout inviting the sponsors of the legislation.
"We're not here for the recognition, but I think it's a common courtesy for the governor to invite us to our own bill signing," said Rep. Mark Bruns, R-Jefferson City, whose legislation was signed on May 15.
A spokeswoman from the governor's office said bills are being signed in secret because they have never received so many bills during the session.
The state constitution requires the governor to sign bills within 15 days after the legislature signs off on them if they are still in session. But, if the General Assembly waits until after the session is over, the governor has 45 days to review the bills and sign them into law.
"We have typically waited to deliver all teh bills to the governor until the end of session to give him time to review the bills," said Rep. Bill Ransdall, D-Waynesville. "Fifteen days is not enough time to evaluate teh impact of laws and to plan a public ceremony."
During the last week of session, the governor's office sent a letter to all the members informing them that they must request a public bill signing in writing.
"Although we cannot guarantee a public signing ceremony for each bill, an effort will be made to coordinate your request with the schedule of other interested parties and the governor's schedule," the letter signed by the govenor's legislative affairs director read.
All of the bills already signed by the Holden have been Republican-backed plans on everything from technical matters to a reduction in the number of school days required this year because of missed days for snow and flu season.
Some have accused the governor of stealing the Republican's day in the sun to show off what bill they have passed.
"A lot of hard work goes into passing legislation and it would be nice to honor not only the Senators and Representatives who do the work, but also the people who sent us here to work for them," Bruns said.
Sen. Jim Mathewson, D-Sedalia, said he stopped caring about bill signings years ago but noted that its the member's job to get recognition on the bills they have passed, not the governor's.
"If I was proud of a bill that I sponsored, I'd make sure the people were aware of what I had done for them before it ever got to the governor's desk," Mathewson said. "If they aren't smart enough to do it on their own and let the governor take their credit, that's their own fault."
More than 90 members of the General Assembly are new to their posts this year so most of these bills are the first ones the legislators have ever passed.
"Having your first bill signed is a big event in your legislative life and I would have really liked to be there for it," said Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington and the sponsor of the school day reduction bill. "But, that's ok. I can live with it. The important thing is I got it done."
[Missouri Digital News is supported by the Missouri School of Journalism (home of the The Journalist's Creed),
the Missouri Press Association,
KMOX Radio in St. Louis,and
KSMU Radio in Springfield
MDN was designed and is managed by Phill Brooks]