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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Lobbyist role may grow in importance

Friday, January 4, 2002

The role of lobbyists in state and federal government is well documented. The high-priced lobbyists use their experience and influence to guide legislation beneficial to their employers. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But the ever-present lobbyists are always around. In many instances if not most, they know more about legislation than those actually casting the votes. But then again, that's their job.

Lobbyists, I believe, play a lesser role in state government than in the federal bureaucracy. But as term limits begin to drain the depth of experience in all levels of government, the role of lobbyists will increase. There's a term called "institutional memory" that lobbyists have where most lawmakers do not. Politicians come and go but the lobbyists are always around. And they remember what works and with whom. That's their job.

Former state Senator John Scott was arguably the most powerful and perhaps popular legislator in the Missouri Senate until he retired in October. With roots in Mississippi County, Scott proved over the years to be extremely effective and immensely powerful. And now Scott will use that experience and "institutional memory" to lobby on behalf of the City of St. Louis. More specifically Scott will lobby for state funding to assist in the construction of a new baseball stadium in St. Louis.

Scott will undoubtedly be effective in this new role. It remains to be seen if he can sway enough out-state votes to secure the state subsidy for the stadium that is requested. But St. Louis couldn't have found a better spokesman.

Regardless of the personalities, it often makes me uneasy when lawmakers turn from politics to lobbying overnight. Scott is most certainly not the first nor will he be the last. And I don't hold great objections to lawmakers-turned-lobbyists but it does make me uneasy. Old friends in Jefferson City may find it awkward to run afoul of Scott. Human nature would almost dictate that some of those old friendships will help smooth the path for Scott and his work on behalf of the urban center.

Maybe lobbyists are a necessary evil in our system of government. Perhaps their efforts help to explain complex legislation when both time and money are in short supply. Given those guidelines, John Scott will be an effective voice for St. Louis. Outstate interests should be so lucky to have someone of his caliber fighting our fights in Jefferson City.

Michael Jensen

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