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GOP Views on the 1996 legislative session.

May 18, 1996
By: Dana Coleman
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - During the 1996 legislative session, the two Republican Chamber leaders clearly exhibited different styles of leadership.

During the struggle to pass tax cut legislation, which failed just seconds before the session ended, the two leaders appeared to be polar opposites.

Immediately following a press conference, held by Democratic leaders of both chambers and the governor, House Floor Minority Leader, Mark Richardson held a formal press conference in which he blamed Democrats for killing the idea of a tax cut.

"Tax Man Carnahan and the Democrat leaders want you to thank them for getting an early start in getting you back you tax dollars which they have taken...Tax Man Carnahan never wanted anything more than to give you back what he absolutely had to, by law," Richardson said in a press release.

Richardson's method of reaching the public, holding media briefing with bright lights and cameras, while he told them about Speaker Steve Gaw "Griffinesque" habits, referring to former Speaker Bob Griffin's reputation for shutting out Republicans and shutting off debate.

The Senate GOP leadership, Franc Flotron, R-St. Louis County, did not attend Richardson's press conference. Instead he relaxed office, with the door open to visitors for reporters to drop by at any time.

For a while, Flotron even had the Senate's top Democrat with him, Senate President Pro Tem Jim Mathewson.

Whereas Richardson was quick to place blame on Democrats for the failures of the session, Flotron focused on positive bi-partisan accomplishments.

Florton did not point fingers when reflecting on the death of the tax cut legislation. "I am not going to start throwing stones at anyone," he said. "The issue developed to late for us to develop a consensus."

"Sometimes you pass things by pushing them through quickly, other times, when they are long, complicated issues, you just have to thrash for a long time. And I just don't think we thrashed long enough," Flotron said.

Throughout the session, Richardson struck out against Democrats, blaming them for the delay on passing a tax cut. While Flotron worked side by side with Democratic President Pro Tem Mathewson.

The different GOP approaches to the post-session evaluations were a reflection of differences between the two chambers as much as reflection of differences in style between the two GOP leaders.

Senators often brag that they have a bi-partisan chamber, where partisanship is less intense than in the House.