The Madison County Chamber of Commerce held its Annual Awards Banquet, Friday night, at St. Michaels Auditorium.
Chamber Director Sandy Francis and Board President Aimee Kugas recognized retiring and current board members. They also gave a rundown of the Chamber’s 2010 highlights and what is upcoming in 2011. Before the awards were presented (see pages 6-7 of this issue for the honorees), State Representative Shelley Keeney was the evening’s guest speaker.
The following were Keeney’s remarks:
“Thank you, and welcome….I first want to tell you all “Thank You” for your involvement in our community. As I look around at the people in this room I see business owners, employees who make those businesses run smoothly, civic groups and volunteers who offer so much to our youth and people who truly care about making Madison County even better than what it is today. Thank you all and the chamber for being willing to give of your time to be involved.
“It’s quite an honor to have been asked to join you all this evening and even more of an honor to serve as your State Representative. Your confidence, trust, and support made it possible and for that I am grateful.
“WOW!! This year’s legislative session has gotten off to an eventful start, to say the least! The first week is always filled with the pomp and circumstance of the swearing in ceremonies, followed by the legislative ball. And of course this past week, which was just the 4th week, was filled with snow, ice, snow, and more snow!
“We were told that for the first time EVER in Missouri, a blizzard warning had been issued for our state. The Governor issued a State of Emergency and the National Guard was activated. For many of us who have homes away from home in Jefferson City just making the brief trips to our apartments found that the road conditions were really bad plus that combined with the 30 mph winds made seeing the roadway extremely difficult at times. About 100 legislators and key staff actually were forced to spend the night in the capitol because of the weather situation. Those of us were “holed-up” in the Capitol Tuesday evening, spent the time catching up on work and spending some time with our colleagues and trying to make the best of the situation.
“I do want to share an interesting account of our Missouri history that I think you will enjoy. While a blizzard ravaged Jefferson City this week, it was very different exactly 100 years ago.
“February 5, 1911 was a Sunday. Afternoon temperatures hit an historic 70 degrees. A huge thunderstorm had developed in Oklahoma and was moving with great intensity out of the southwest toward the State Capitol. It was one of those eerie days when it felt like something bad might happen. Something bad did happen.
“It was just after 6 p.m.. Across the way at the Governor’s Mansion, the Governor was entertaining Legislators who had just returned to town. As they watched the approaching display of Mother Nature’s power, a huge bolt of lightning hit the Capitol dome. The wooden structure instantly ignited in flames.
“Everyone rushed to the building to try to extinguish the flames. At that time in history, “The City of Jefferson” (as it was called back then) was a tiny community with no fire department. Everyone formed a “bucket line”, but it was futile. The Governor contacted the Mayor of Sedalia (fifty miles to the west), and the entire Sedalia fire department was loaded onto a waiting Missouri Pacific train which raced to the rescue. When they arrived, they dropped their hoses in the Missouri River and began pumping water onto the inferno. They were actually making some progress when a large wall collapsed on to the lines, clamping off the water supply. After that, all hope of saving the building was lost.
“In 1911, ALL FUNCTIONS of Government were housed in the Capitol Building, including all of the invaluable official records and archives. The Secretary of State led the efforts to save what could be saved. A “human conveyor line” was formed, and records, historic documents, photographs, and artwork were passed “hand-to-hand” out of the building to safety. The Secretary led the charge, running in and out of the building carrying valuable items to the waiting line. He placed a large milk pail over his head to protect himself from the falling fireballs. His heroic efforts saved countless irreplaceable items of great historical significance.
“The Governor ordered the nearby prison gates opened, and all but the most dangerous inmates were released to help in the efforts. Many of them acted bravely and at great risk to their own safety. Later, the Governor would commute their sentences and many of them were set free.
“When it was all over, the Capitol lay in ruins. Later that year, Missourians authorized the sale of four million dollars in Bonds to build a new Capitol. That Capitol still stands today.
“Quite a contrast in our weather from this past week and that of this week 100 years ago.
“Tonight I want to give you an idea of how things will be operating in the legislature this year and some of the key things that I believe you will see come out of this year’s session.
“After the November election, the MO House finds itself with one of the largest majorities in the nearly 200 year history of our state. Because of that, it is my belief we now have one of the greatest responsibilities in leading by example.
“Missourians have entrusted us with the power of state government. And Missourians have been very clear; they want…need…and deserve a change in the culture of how we operate.
“I think Missourians want legislative leaders who live by the same rules they do.
“So, I believe we have a great deal of responsibility and as a member of the House, a role in leading by example.
“However, I don’t believe we always have to lead by legislating. As elected officials, our goal shouldn’t always be to create more laws, but institute better principles, a change of attitude, and even a willingness to challenge the status quo.
“Our new Speaker, Dr. Steve Tilley from Perryville, has been extremely instrumental in setting a new tone in the Missouri House, implementing new procedures and being willing to challenge that status quo. To accept the way things have always been done as the way they should always be done is unacceptable.
“One of the first changes that was made was that for the first time EVER our intended Chairmen were named more than a month in advance of the beginning of session. We followed that by assigning committees to all members, both Republican and Democrat, before session even started. The reason for that was so everyone could be focused on the issues and getting down to business for the people of Missouri.
“Second, the Speaker took a historic step in naming 3 Democrats as chairmen to important committees. Under the belief that a chairman should not be chosen because of the party under which they run, but rather the qualities they possess.
“Another example of challenging the status-quo came when we approved the House Rules under which we operate. Within this set of Rules you will see several distinct changes. One of which, removes partisan control of committees and reinstates the power of the minority leader to appoint his chosen members to committees. The expansion of “special committees” was done under Republican control, it limited the minority’s power and now we are striving to fix it, making the process more fair.
“As you all know, the economic situation is still very difficult. We are facing a revenue shortfall of $300-$500 million dollars. By working with our new Budget Chairman and the Appropriations Chairs we will move to require cost containment plans from every state government department. Departments must realize we want to work together on improving efficiency not simply hear requests for more money. The Speaker of the House has even said that he is ready to grant subpoena power to the budget committee to look at the department budgets and try to root out more waste, fraud, and abuse.
“These are just some small changes, but hopefully they show Missourians we are willing to lead by example and are committed to getting beyond the business-as-usual mentality and challenge the status quo.
“However, I am completely aware that it will take more than this to get our state on the right track.
“As a citizen I am convinced government should NOT be the SOLUTION to every problem….but as legislators we should try everything in our power to make sure government is NOT the PROBLEM either.
“The Majority Caucus in the Missouri House has laid out a plan called the Show Me Solutions Initiative.
“The principles of this plan are built on the principles which I believe Missourians expect us to govern – Limited Government, Fiscal Prudence, Individual Freedom, and Personal Responsibility, but it’s also grounded in common sense. These are ideas that are not entirely new, but with a change in focus are completely achievable because when many of us talk with everyday Missourians, their call has often been – Show…Me…the…Solutions.
“There are 5 key component areas under the “Show Me Solutions” I see as vital to our progress.
“The first is a pledge to the voters that we heard them loud and clear. We will force government to live within its means, balance our state budget, and hold the line on taxes, period.
“Second, our top priority must be job creation. We believe that government does not create jobs…. Entrepreneurs, small business owners, and large employers do. Government’s role is not to run the economy, but to facilitate a business climate where the entrepreneurial spirit can thrive.
“To create a better economic environment for all job creators, businesses must have a piece of mind that they will not be hampered with new regulations, fees, taxes, or frivolous lawsuits. If we achieve that, THEY can create new jobs. Therefore, our plan calls for a moratorium on any new regulations, fees, or new taxes for small businesses. The House has actually already passed legislation this session to do this and it has been sent to the Senate.
“We also want to take a significant step in reducing and limiting unfair lawsuits that threaten the viability of good honest businesses.
“We have been meeting with business groups from across the state to hear their thoughts and concerns about what we can be doing to help foster an environment to make it a little easier for people to start and expand their business. Putting legislation into place so people can get back to work is one of our biggest priorities. We will be working with these groups and business owners across the state to “Fix the Six”. There have been 6 ideas compiled from these discussions and legislation has been drafted that would address these concerns.
“Third, we want to bring more accountability to government. For instance, if someone wants a Missouri driver’s license I think they should pass it in our official language – and that is English. And, as law enforcement personnel conduct a citizenship verification, why don’t we cross reference those individuals with the sexual predator list. Finally, we have to acknowledge that human trafficking occurs in our state and that in the worst cases it involves the sexual trafficking of children so we want to send a clear message to these “worst of the worst” that Missouri will NOT tolerate it and that no punishment is too severe.
“In Missouri, I believe we can also reach for greater accountability from the federal government. So, we will work on a federal repeal resolution to band with other states and reject out-of-touch, out-of-control policies outside their authority.
“Fourth, I believe in the fundamental principle that every child deserves a world class education. And it shouldn’t matter if you are a student in Fredericktown, Marquand, Kansas City or Joplin…..Our goal is to focus on what is best for our children’s education.
“Fifth, we want to use responsibility and free market concepts to expand and increase quality healthcare. Missourians are compassionate people and willing to give a hand-up, but that’s a lot different than a handout. I believe Missourians are interested in helping someone out of a bad situation, but have no interest in funding a bad habit.
“That is why we support drug testing on welfare recipients, which I’m pleased to report has already been passed by the House and sent to the Senate for their approval.
“In Congress they believe the first 100 days are essential to establishing progress. However, in the Show Me State we believe our standards should be higher, and so, we are shooting for success in our first 50 days. So, that in the first 50 days of this session the House will have passed 75% of our priorities.
Finally, in closing….It is definitely a tough time in our state and country. Please know that I take my job seriously and will continue to do my best to represent the interests of the people of the 156th district!
“Again, thank you for what you do in our community and thank you for having me here with you tonight.”