Sometimes I agree with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and other times I disagree. The business lobbying group is always active in legislative affairs and its voice carries some impact down the halls in Jefferson City.
The Missouri General Assembly returns to work tomorrow and, by most accounts, the upcoming session may best be described as lackluster. Like it or not, it's an election year and that traditionally means the General Assembly is very careful to avoid treading on thin ice. Few lawmakers are willing to tackle controversial issues during an election cycle for obvious reason. I suspect this year will be no exception.
The Missouri Chamber is parading its normal laundry list of legislation - workers' comp reform, etc., and has chided the Legislature for their usual election year inaction. But as has been said so often, Missourians are sometimes better off when the General Assembly remains quiet. More legislation does not always equate to improvement for many Missourians.
But I part company with the Chamber concerning their stance on illegal immigration legislation. The Chamber warns that though legislation to address illegal immigration is popular during an election year, the issue is a federal concern and should not be addressed by states.
Though the Chamber is absolutely correct - immigration is indeed a federal issue - what are states to do when the federal government declines to address the issue? I spoke with several legislators last week and they unanimously agreed that illegal immigration control is the job of the federal government. But they each agreed that when the feds ignore the issue and it impacts the state, then someone has to address the problem.
I don't see any sweeping reform on illegal immigration coming out of this upcoming General Assembly session nor does anyone else. But the issue grows more problematic each day and without some federal intervention, states are forced to take action. Yes, it's a popular election year issue to get tough on illegal immigration. But election years aside, it's still the right thing to do.
I spoke with several legislators and tried to gauge the climate for Right to Work legislation during this session. To no one's surprise, that issue has no support and will most certainly not be a point of discussion. For those in our region who lose jobs to Right to Work states, it's often frustrating that Missouri can't seem to even discuss the issue. But I learned very quickly that Right to Work talks will not be present in this session. You live and learn.
Given the prospects in Jefferson City during this election year, the state could certainly save some time and money by forcing the legislators to quickly approve a state budget - which is required by law - and then adjourning. Funny thing is, I wonder if anyone would miss them?