by J Scott Christianson, Columbia Daily Tribune Columnist
The 94th Missouri General Assembly ended its first regular session Friday. I think I speak for all Missourians when I say, “Thank God that’s over.”
And now it is time for me to announce the winners and losers of the Christianson Missouri General Assembly awards, which I commonly refer to as the Generals.
The clear winner of The Most Influential Lobby Award is Missouri Right to Life, or MRTL. Every bill introduced in the General Assembly this year was scrutinized by MRTL and had to receive its blessing to move forward. More important, MRTL was able to introduce amendments to legislation that either put restrictions on funding or limited women’s access to health care and contraceptives. In the waning hours of the session, MRTL almost killed the midwifery bill based on unfounded speculation that midwives might start performing abortions — a scenario that apparently hadn’t occurred to midwives or the bill’s sponsor.
One of MRTL’s cruelest victories this session was passage of legislation that would allow public schools to shirk their responsibilities to educate students about human reproduction by teaching abstinence-only sex education courses. Not surprisingly, abstinence is the form of birth control with the highest failure rate. Encouraging schools to teach faith in one’s ability to abstain will ensure a lot more unplanned pregnancies in this state.
The big losers in this category: Women and families.
Winner of the Cold-Blooded Reptile Award was hard to choose. Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, seemed like a shoo-in and clearly should have won for his use of the “nuclear” option to pass the MOHELA bill, for signing on to SJR 23, which alters the Missouri Constitution to restrict the judicial branch; and for co-sponsoring a host of bad legislation that panders to special interests. Unfortunately, he was disqualified on technical grounds because it is not clear he is oviparous.
So the award goes to the runner-up, the three-toed box turtle, which was named the official state reptile during this session.
The big loser this year: The ornate box turtle.
The Caught Between A Rock And A Hard Place Award goes to our own Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia. As it became clear that any MOHELA money granted to the University of Missouri would come with limits on academic freedom, Graham used…