Tuesday, March 13, 2007
The Welfare of the People Shall be the Supreme Law
If the Republicans had allowed us to speak tonight, I was going to start my debate with the following speech. I may still use the speech if we go back to MOHELA, but I want to share it with my constituents, so you can get a feel for my position on the this issue.
In just over two months I have come to cherish the Missouri Senate.
The Senate provides the place and time for legislators to pause in the face of swirling controversy. This historic chamber affords us the ability to regain focus on fundamental values and keeps legislation on the right track.
It is in this chamber where we can take the time to live up to our state’s motto: “The Welfare of the People Shall be the Supreme Law."
As we have debated this controversial proposal I keep repeating to myself: “the welfare of the people.” I have tested every version of this proposal against this measure.
Over the past several months, many people have come to me to explain the benefits of the Governor’s proposal. These are people I know and respect.
I listened carefully to the list of benefits of the MOHELA plan. I considered what those benefits could mean to all potential stakeholders. I assure you that I listened and carefully considered all positions presented to me.
And yet, I know in my heart, that the welfare of the people is something separate and apart from benefits to individuals, organizations and institutions.
Being a senator affords me the opportunity to think about the difference between individual benefits and the public welfare. I would not be living up to the high standards of a Missouri State Senator if I did not accept this awesome responsibility and leverage it to the benefit of all Missourians.
For example, I may want to support the grand promises of cash and prizes made to UMKC, but as a member of this chamber, I am bound to serve the interest of education as a whole.
I look at the proposal before us and I see benefits for a few and restrictions on the whole. I see a sale that may result in speculative profits, while low cost loans for deserving students are subjected to risk.
I see the promise of - but not the appropriation for - research facilities in strategically placed locations across our state. Yet this bill is punctuated with limitations on the research we can perform. Instead of the original promise of economic development and potential for life-saving cures, I see enormous risks and liability.
Accepting this proposal is a dangerous precedent and sets us on a path we do not want to take. Slowly but surely we are letting the beliefs of a few erode the rights given to us all. What's next?
Like so many of my fellow senators, I went door-to-door in my district to ask my neighbors for this job. I promised my constituents that I would live up to our state’s motto. In response to that commitment, made on doorstep after doorstep, my neighbors extended to me their trust. I take that public trust very seriously.
We are once again at a moment where the senate has the opportunity to fulfill its institutional purpose.
I am prepared to deliberate on this bill, in this historic chamber, until the public welfare is served.