Jetton to push for minority voice if elected speaker of House

Friday, October 15, 2004

LAKE OZARK, Mo. -- If he becomes the next speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives, state Rep. Rod Jetton plans to push for procedural changes that will allow the minority party to have a greater say on legislation.

Jetton, R-Marble Hill, said he often felt shut out of the process as a minority caucus member during his first term. Following the Republican takeover of the House in 2003, Jetton said many Democrats expressed the same frustration.

During comments Thursday at a conference sponsored by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jetton said he would advocate more inclusiveness in House deliberations, while still protecting the majority's ability to set the agenda.

"I would like to look at some rule changes that would allow the minority [members] to voice their position and offer alternatives but not hamper the majority from making the trains run on time," Jetton said.

Republicans currently hold a 90-73 advantage over Democrats in the House. Jetton, who currently holds the No. 2 post of speaker pro tem, is in line for the chamber's top job should the GOP maintain its majority following the Nov. 2 elections.

Jetton must also win re-election to his legislative seat. Democrat John Howser, a retired teacher from Fredericktown, is challenging him.

Citing the leadership style he learned in the Marine Corps, Jetton said he would delegate more responsibility to other Republican lawmakers and be less detail-oriented than his predecessor, House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, R-Warson Woods.

"I don't have to do everything myself; I don't want to do everything myself," Jetton said. "I want to find someone on my team who is better at something than me and let them go."

Because term limits have swept the House of veterans who have extensive experience on a variety of issues, Jetton said lawmakers need to become more specialized. He proposes increasing the power of House committees and their chairmen, allowing the experts on a particular issue more influence on the shape of related legislation.

"Term limits have changed everything," Jetton said. "Representatives don't have all of the knowledge they used to have."

With the last group of longtime senators being term-limited out this year, Jetton said that will alter interactions between the House and Senate.

"The old days of the House caving to the Senate to get a piece of legislation are over," Jetton said. "I'm not going to play that game."

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