Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Quibbling Keeps House at Standstill `We Aren't Doing Squat'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Quibbling Keeps House at Standstill `We Aren't Doing Squat'

Article excerpt

While Missouri taxpayers foot the $35 per diem for House members, no work is being done because Democrats and Republicans are entangled in a power struggle over rules and committee assignments.

"We aren't doing squat," said Speaker Pro Tem Jim Barnes, D-Raytown.

House members cannot start work on legislation until committees meet. And none of the 42 House committees had met by Wednesday - the fifth day of the session - because House Speaker Bob F. Griffin had not announced who will belong to which committee.

Typically, a week into the session, every committee would have met.

Griffin, D-Cameron, blames the Republicans for not giving him a list of whom they want on each committee.

Republicans, in turn, blame Griffin. They say he keeps changing the number of Republicans who can sit on each committee.

The logjam appeared to be breaking late Wednesday when each side put out its own list.

Leaders from both parties still cannot agree on what rules the House should operate under this session. Democrats, whose majority control slipped to 87-76 this year, want to keep calling the shots; Republicans want more control over how bills are passed.

"Right now it's a stalemate," said Rep. Martin "Bubs" Hohulin, R-Lamar. "Griffin's not willing to give up any power. But if we have to operate under the same dictatorial rules as before, I'd rather not operate at all."

Bitter feelings linger from last week's near coup by Republicans to unseat Griffin as House speaker.

Each day this week, House members have gathered in the chamber for about 20 minutes. They've prayed, voted to approve the brief minutes from the previous day, and a few have stepped to the microphone to introduce a friend or family member in the audience. They then adjourn.

As long as a member is in the chamber to cast a vote, he or she gets the $35 a day in expenses, which is designed to help defray the cost of housing and meals. …

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