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Welcome to Capital Perspectives. This will be a weekly column exploring the historical background for some of the major public policy issues facing Missouri.
It will not be an opinion column. Rather, it will seek only to give you a bit of historical context and background on the issues, activities and problems facing our state.
Many of the issues before Missouri government today are, frankly, not new. In fact, I cannot think of a current major issue before Missouri that my news team will be covering for you that does not have decades of history.
Legislative term limits, adopted in 1992, will be a dominating theme for some of these columns because it has had a pervasive and a major impact on Missouri government. And some of those effects were unforeseen by both the critics and supporters of term limits.
The evolving and more intense political climate in government will be another dominate theme. The concept of a "perpetual campaign," a phrase attributed to political consultant Pat Caddell in 1976 in a memo to president-elect Jimmy Carter, has become a near reality in Missouri government.
Partisan bickering and gamesmanship has become an increasing factor in Missouri's legislature. To a degree, politics always has been an integral component of the Missouri legislative process in ways quite different from a few decades ago.
We'll take a look at some of the problems facing the state that have not been resolved for decades and I'll explore some of the reasons these issues have been so difficult for your government leaders. Missouri's highway infrastructure clearly is at the top of that list. Other long-term, unresolved problems include a stable revenue base for government operations, education consolidation and school funding.
As I write this, I fear I may be coming across as a grumpy old curmudgeon who thinks everything was better in the old days. Not true. There are some major improvements in Missouri government I'll write about. The state has a much more rational budgeting process than when I first started as a reporter. Internet and Missouri's integration of digital technology provides for Missouri citizens a degree of instant access to government that was unimaginable just a few decades ago. Gender equality and respect in this building has undergone a near transformation.
I should close this first column with a description of my own background and qualifications to undertake this effort. I have been covering Missouri state government for a variety of news outlets since 1970, going back to the income tax filibuster of Earl Blackwell. It's because of that history that some of my colleagues have been urging me to undertake this effort.
When I started, I was lucky to have some true Missouri government lions who took me under their wing to help me understand how government and politics really works. If I am able to provide for you a unique understanding of Missouri government, it partially is a credit to the backgrounding I got as a cub reporter from leaders like Warren Hearnes, George Lehr, Don Manford, Norman Merrill, Pat Patterson, Brice Ratchford, Dick Webster, Clifford Jones and so many others.
Currently, I am the director of the State Government Reporting Program for the Missouri School of Journalism. Although a member of the faculty supervising students covering Missouri's statehouse, I continue to serve as the statehouse correspondent at KMOX Radio in St. Louis.
Writing a weekly column will be a new undertaking for me. So, your advice, thoughts and suggestions will be helpful -- as well as comments you would like me to include. I've established a separate email account for our conversations -- email@example.com.
[Phill Brooks has been a Missouri statehouse reporter since 1970, making him dean of the statehouse press corps. He is the statehouse correspondent for KMOX Radio, director of MDN and an emeritus faculty member of the Missouri School of Journalism. He has covered every governor since the late Warren Hearnes.]