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First day for some

January 13, 1997
By: Andy Kravetz
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - It was a day of firsts for Boone County politics.

Two representatives and one senator took the oath of office for the first time and one of those, Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, became the first person in a wheelchair to serve in the House.

At about 12:10 p.m. on a gray and cold Wednesday, the House of Representatives was called to order and by 1 p.m., Graham and Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, had been sworn in along with the other 161 representatives.

On the other side of the Capitol, Sen. Ken Jacob, well-acquainted with the House where he served for 14 years, was being presented to Lt. Gov. Roger Wilson, as Boone County's new senator.

Jacob replaces Joe Moseley who chose not to seek reelection.

Normally, the first day of the legislature has more hoopla than actual business and this year was no different. Senators and representatives threw parties, heaped accolades upon each other and basically, had a pretty good time.

Graham, however, said the first day was a "humbling" experience.

"When you have the secretary of state speak of only 6,600 or so people in the history of the state serving in this body and you look up and see the words, virtue, justice, charity, written in stone, you realize your responsibility," he said. "It is quite humbling."

Wilson said she was excited about her first day, but tried to keep it in perspective.

"It is so easy to get caught up in the pomp and circumstance and all the goings on," she said. "It is necessary to take everything here seriously except ourselves.

"Being in the chamber really reminds me how important my obligation to the citizens is," Wilson said.

Jacob refused to grant an interview with the Missourian to discuss his first day as a senator.

While Graham may be the first representative in a wheelchair, his physical disability wasn't a problem. He said only minor changes were made to his office in order to make it wheelchair-accessible.

Steve Gaw's re-election as House Speaker went smoothly, a sharp contrast to the political boxing match two years ago that resulted in former Speaker Bob Griffin's ouster and the selection of Gaw, D-Moberly, as a compromise.

That was Rep. Tim Harlan's first day in Jefferson City as a politician and the Columbia Democrat said Wednesday that he just "relieved" the election was over quickly.

While others were enjoying their first day, Harlan was already at work. Gaw appointed him to the House Rules Committee. The Rules Committee sets all the rules by which the House is governed.

That committee met at 3 p.m. Wednesday and Harlan said he was in the final stages of presenting a bill on managed health care reform. Harlan co-chaired a legislative committee last fall that dealt with increase of managed care in Missouri.

Wilson and Graham both say they have their priority issues they want to focus on.

For Wilson, those include managed health care and higher education. Jacob used to sit on the Higher Education Committee and is a staunch supporter of the university. Wilson said she hopes to get that committee assignment.

Graham said he would focus on giving state and county prosecutors more power to collect money from white-collar criminals. Current state law gives the court five years to collect money. Graham said he wants that time period increased so more victims will be paid back.