One of Missouri’s native sons—the most famous, perhaps—once said, “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.” Besides giving us some of the greatest written works of all time, Mark Twain certainly had an ability to put a humorous twist on a government and a bureaucracy that has often been downright foolish in some of its operations for well over a century.
And there is little doubt in my mind that Mr. Twain’s would have no problem applying his thoughts on the inner workings of government to a bill I filed at the beginning of the year, HB 1182. HB 1182 is a simple-enough bill. It provides an income tax deduction for nonpartisan election judges for the income they would earn serving as such, if they are unemployed for more than a total of seven months in that tax year. Additionally, and more importantly, the work and the income conducted on behalf of serving democracy—no more than 14 hours on one day of the year—would not be considered when determining the person’s eligibility for unemployment benefits.
So far, so good. It seems to me to be a fairly common-sense proposition to say that a person should not be putting their unemployment benefits at risk by spending one day helping our citizens exercise perhaps their most important constitutional right. Those who are helping us out are not risking losing their benefits, and Missouri’s loss of income tax is virtually non-existent.
But there is a point in the lawmaking process where common-sense proposals run up against an immovable and unrelenting bureaucracy, and HB 1182 has recently reached that point. Due to provisions contained within federal statutes and regulations, we recently found out that passage of HB 1182 as it currently stands would cost the state approximately $69 million in federal funding for unemployment programs, and cost Missouri workers another $868 million in unemployment benefits. Do the math—that is nearly a billion dollars, removed from the state of Missouri, because of a bill which would ensure that unemployed Missourians would not lose their benefits for working only one day as an election judge.
And why would this occur? Because Missouri—by allowing temporary election judges to not have their unemployment benefits affected by working an election poll—would no longer be in perfect conformity with the federal government’s rules and regulations.
Over the coming days, I will be sitting down with individuals from the Missouri Department of Revenue and Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to see exactly where we need to change HB 1182 to allow it to be a common-sense piece of legislation that doesn’t cost the state of Missouri nearly $1,000,000,000.00 in federal funds. My intention is definitely not that—my only intention is to make sure Missourians who have been hard-hit by the economy are not inadvertently hit harder by helping the state conduct their elections.
Unfortunately though, situations like this are what occurs when we put too many burdensome rules and regulations on our government and our citizenry. You see this every day, with the small businessman who has to fire the teenager who is more than happy to work part-time for $6.00 an hour, because he can no longer afford the $7.25 an hour that the government mandates and that both the employer and the employee agree is not necessary for both of them to be happy. You see it with the farmer who has to hire a lawyer and navigate an alphabet soup of agencies so that he can sell his products at the local grocery store. And you see it with the retired couple who has to go through reams of paper to satisfy zoning requirements so that they can build a deck on the back of their house for relaxation and comfort. As a result of the mess of bureaucracies in our government—at all levels, mind you—common sense is no longer common, and our nation is the worse for wear.
Is the possible death of HB 1182 the end-all be-all of our state? Of course not. HB 1182 doesn’t affect a huge amount of people, and it’s not the end of the world to continue taxing election judges and allowing it to affect their unemployment benefits. But this story is merely but one symptom of what happens when government runs amok and allows itself to become detached from those who they wish to govern. Every Capitol report I send to you ends with the reminder that I remain in your service, and that I am working for you. Some might consider it boilerplate, but I consider it the absolute truth. Those of us here in Jefferson City derive our power from the consent of our fellow citizens, and we must always remember that the only reason we sit in this body is because the people sent us here for a reason. When we lose sight of that, there is no longer any reason for us to continue on in office. As I first promised you in 2008, and have ever since, I remain committed to ensuring that the title I hold is true in every sense of the word—representative.
I welcome and look forward to hearing your opinions on the issues of the day. Please feel free to contact me by phone or by email to share your thoughts with me. And, as stated above and as always, I remain in your service.
Working for you,