Monday, April 21, 2014

Jay Nixon's impeachment hearing is Nick Marshall's crowning achievement in the Missouri Legislature

Posted By on Mon, Apr 21, 2014 at 12:10 PM

click to enlarge Missouri state Rep. Nick Marshall
  • Missouri state Rep. Nick Marshall
A good rule of thumb when following state government holds that if some piece of legislative action from a low-profile lawmaker seems like a publicity stunt, it probably is.

That hypothesis has proven out a number of times this year, starting with Kansas state Rep. Charles Macheers' truncated effort at passing pro-discrimination legislation in Kansas to Missouri state Sen. Wayne Wallingford's attempt to do largely the same on his side of the state line.

Missouri state Rep. Nick Marshall didn't miss his opportunity to get his name in headlines this legislative session by moving to impeach Gov. Jay Nixon. Marshall was unhappy with Nixon's executive order earlier in the year to make the Missouri Department of Revenue accept joint tax returns from same-sex couples whose marriages are recognized in other states.

Marshall seems worried that Nixon's order violates the state's constitution that holds marriage is only between a man and a woman. The Missouri Constitution is silent about the status of same-sex joint tax returns.

Nonetheless, Marshall will get his day in the Jefferson City sunlight on Wednesday when a House committee is expected to take up Marshall's articles of impeachment, along with those of two other lawmakers, in a hearing that will probably get a few TV cameras but no real support among more distinguished lawmakers.

Here's what Marshall had to say about the hearing in a column by The Kansas City Star's Steve Kraske: "Not only do I want a hearing, I think it's important that it be a candid hearing, an open hearing and a hearing that is free from any interference."

Such a reception would be more than any of Marshall's other attempts at legislative achievement have received this year.

A review of legislative progress on any of the 10 bills that Marshall has sponsored this year shows that none of them have come up for a vote. All of them get introduced, get a reading and then get shuffled off to some committee where to date nothing has happened. 

Some of Marshall's bills are odd ideas. One is to let people in professions that require licensure - barbers, interior designers, boxers, massage therapists, to name a few - to do those jobs without a license so long as they don't advertise themselves as having one.

Another would require video and audio surveillance at the entryways to the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor, House speaker and Senate president. The surveillance would be broadcast live and archived for 75 years. The same bill would require lobbyists to only enter and leave through those entrances captured on camera, ostensibly so people can know who's trying to influence top officeholders. The spirit of Marshall's bill is nice, but the method has a creepy feel to it.

Those two ideas, along with eight of his other bills, sit in committee without a scheduled hearing.

Which brings us to another good rule of thumb: If a lawmaker resorts to publicity-seeking legislative action, it's usually because they haven't done much else with their time in office.

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