I entered Missouri Digital News very skeptical. I did not have much writing experience and I figured that'd be an issue. Since then, I've learned a tremendous amount about what it takes to be a professional, policitcal journalist. I've become a lot better at choosing what news-angle is best. At the beginning of the semester, it took my a great amount of time to narrow my story, thus making edits longer, thus making me stay at work longer.
I've learned that writing the news should be written with the audience in mind. Making a boring, not exciting lead is the biggest turnoff for audience listerners.
Now, looking forward to the summer, I've got an internship to put my skills to the test. I will be a sports intern, so that'll be a different ballgame (pun intended) than political reporting. I think political reporting is enlightening and worthwhile, but I feel like sports is where my heart lies. Needless to say, I learned a lot of transferable skills that will help me complete jobs for my internship.
Then, Wednesday brought complete chaos. Governor Jay Nixon went behind everyone's back and signed a bill in secret that repealed some of the major pieces of Proposition-B.
I was in the Missouri Senate for most of the morning/afternoon. It was beyond hectic in the chamber. Senator Munzlinger proposed a bill that was essentially the same thing Nixon signed a few hours earlier. As I was sitting their and senators were voicing their votes, there was a look of concern and confusion on some faces. At the end of the roll-call vote, many senators asked the secretary what he or she had voted and asked for it to be changed because he or she wasn't sure what he or she voted for.
While things settled down, Munzlinger retracted the votes and asked to re-vote so everyone understood. More discussion ensued. Senator Engler brought up a very good point: "We've spent the last 2.5 months talking about the rights of dogs, which I support, don't get me wrong, but meanwhile we have legislation about renewing licenses for malpracticing doctors continuing to practice illegally.
It was interesting to think about how much time lawmakers spend on issues that seem to be insignificant to other issues like doctors or jobs.
On Friday, many areas around St. Louis were torn apart by a vicious tornado. The airport was greatly damaged among many resident's houses. Since weather is uncontrollable, it's very hard to prepare for a random natural disaster. Just flashback to the earthquake in Haiti or Hurricane Katrina. It's the job of our Congress and Missouri government to protect their citizens. However, their jobs are to protect citizens from things they can control like war, taxes, health care.
It's unfair to put every ounce of blame onto our lawmakers when it comes to weather. Yes, they can continue to allot money for weather research, but there's nothing humanly possible lawmakers can directly do to prevent the destruction caused from disasters.
Hopefully within our lifetime, science will provide the answers to predicting and preventing natural disasters that harm our society.
There are probably some Missouri lawmakers who are inherently bias, but aren't we all?
It's sad to say, but there are people out there who discriminate people of different religions, races, sexuality, genders, etc. I think and hope within my lifetime there will be more legislation to promote the equality for everyone. I personally support all basic marriage rights for gay people. I think lawmakers noting that supporters of Muslim Day showed their concern about equality, is a good sign for improvement in the future.
These senators are bargaining with Nixon's proposed spending of stimulus money. According to these senators, there are many projects the money is going to. Lembke and Nieves argue that they could find $300 million from proposed programs that they didn't think were necessary. At their press conference, examples they used were: $22.64 million for simply a study of high-speed rails, $170.13 million for weatherization projects.
Lembke and Nieves gave the governor an ultimatum: either cut some of the stimulus money and they'll stop filibustering, or risk not extending unemployment benefits for Missourians.
One point the senators brought up was the enormous national debt. Nieves said the federal government hasn't been spending within it's means. He says Missouri could cut some of the proposed programs that are not necessary and sent that money back to the federal government to help with the national debt.
Senator Jolie Justus is in favor of extending unemployment benefits, however she said that sending federal stimulus money back will not help the national debt, rather, it'd be allocated back to another state.
The filibustering senators have boiled the issue down to two parts for the governor: cut stimulus money or risk unemployment benefits in Missouri.
Although this experience was many years ago, I remember how curious and amazed I was with the buildings. Since Central Dairy Ice Cream is pretty famous in the Jefferson City-area, it was no surprise that we'd meet paths again while working here.
At the time of my first visit as a grade-school kid, I didn't really think much of Jefferson City as a city. I thought of it more as a place where laws were made and the governor lives with a good ice cream store in town.
Currently, I've been able to explore the city a bit more. The other day, my co-workers and I enjoyed the beautiful weather and walked to get Central Dairy. It was a great experience because all of us got to see more of the actual city. I had a great time seeing what Missouri lawmakers live with while they're in Jefferson City for sessions.
I think Jefferson City isn't the prettiest or most-modern city in the country, but for nice, small, capital city it's not too shabby.
There was a point in the interview where I was not completely convinced about what they were telling me. I was unbiased going into the interview like all journalists do. As our conversation got into more specifics I began to question some of their responses. Previous to this interview phone-call, I had thought that allowing kids to leave failing schools would not help the failing St. Louis Public School system.
In a Senate Education Committee hearing that I attended, Senator Jim Lembke sponsors a bill that would restrict school choice. He mentioned that allowing kids and their families to leave would not help St. Louis, but hurt it. Lembke mentioned that a "mass exodus" would occur and St. Louis would be a "ghost town".
For the last few weeks, I thought Lembke had some very valid points. I didn't understand how allowing numbers of students to leave the district would improve it. I felt that allowing school choice was trying to fix St. Louis education through indirect measures, as opposed to fixing the district from within. I thought people leaving the city is "running away" from the problem.
People in support of school choice, including Gilkey-Bonds and Franklin, brought up the topic of how competition drives up competitors. Franklin used the comparison of cell phone companies to persuade me. She mentioned how if AT&T comes out with a innovative, new phone, then Sprint or any other competitor will try as hard as they can to come put with an even better phone.
When relating this to schools, charter schools are the "new, innovative phone" and St. Louis Public Schools are the competitor which will be forced to upgrade in order to stay in good business. St. Louis Public Schools are already in the process of updating classrooms, reforming teacher requirements.
I was persuaded to understand a confusing issue. Persuasion is used in all facets of life and politics are at the head of the "class".
Today I sat in on a senate session and began to question the way business went on. Certain senators would move to have a bill "perfected". Throughout the process the senator who proposed the bill addresses other senators with questions and concerns.
When all points of clarification are finished, the person residing of the senate session at that time asks the chamber for all who are in favor and those against. The decision is made final based on whether those who said, "aye" or "no" were louder.
This occurred frequently and each time it made me even more puzzled.
Although this style of voice voting is used often, I don't think it is the best or right way to decide things.
I was sitting on one of the sides during the session. When voice votes were used, I could hear specific senators say "aye" or "no" louder than what I suspected to be normal. It occurred to me that this was a not fair or accurate way to decide things. Making decisions, though small in this instance, regardless of importance should be given more consideration than the volume of senator's voices.
I think it would be in everyone's best interests to have senators vote using role call votes; having every senator's vote accounted for. Decisions should not be made based on what someone hears.
Before this school year I was a novice Twitter user. Since learning all the cool things I could do with Twitter, I have become quite the addict. It amazes me how I can be following lives of President Barack Obama, Missouri's United States Senator Claire McCaskill, and even Jersey Shore star Snooki. I have absolutely no personal contact with any of them but I am constantly updated about their lives via Twitter.
Within the past year I've definitely stated that I thought Twitter was dumb and wouldn't last long. Well, now it's one the most successful social medium and still growing.
I think it's remarkable how technology influences us everyday. In politics, I think technology is not just used today, but holds the keys to the future. State lawmakers communicate with their constituents in Mexico...Missouri that is, through Facebook, Twitter, and more. Not only is it fun to use, but people can also use the Internet to see how their respective representation voted on certain legislation.
Earlier this year I covered a story about how three lawmakers had their Facebook accounts hacked and toyed around with. The days of talking about burglaries in neighborhoods, for example, have turned into identity theft and account hackers over the Internet.
Even now, I can sit in my fraternity room in Columbia, Missouri and listen to Missouri's Speaker of the House Steve Tilley speak during a House session.
No one has the precise answer as to what technology will be utilized in politics in the future and how it can affect decisions. My guesses are that everything that is said and voted on in Missouri or the United States for that matter will be more accessible AND transparent for any citizen to see. I think information will be disseminated quicker to have a better, general understanding among the public.
I don't see an apocalyptic/Terminator scenario happening. I think technology will continue to make lives easier and at a much quicker rate.
Last November, Americans voted for new lawmakers throughout the nation. Republicans took over the House, but Democrats barely kept majority in the Senate. Every newscast I watched that discussed the new Congress and what roadblocks would now be in the way.
I didn't really follow national politics passionately until late 2007 when candidates were running for primary elections. I was very interested to see which candidates would win the nomination of their respective parties. I had personal connections because I was fortunate enough to be one of my close group of friends to be old enough to vote in November 2008.
The race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton really caught my attention because of what would happen when whoever was elected. The first female or black president would be on the ballot for the Democratic Party.
The GOP's docket included Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin and Arizona Senator John McCain. I did not know much about either of these two politicians but learned their views and about their lives over the coming months until the election.
Media of all kinds thoroughly covered all candidates: history, education information, family members, etc. Some media was concerned about reporting the insignificant things about candidates as opposed to their political stances. This greatly affected people's opinions and thoughts about candidates.
Now in 2011, Congress has welcomed the freshmen legislators and gotten down to business. It's bothering that the attitude of the new majority of Republicans in the House is to pose a problem to legislation that was passed by the last batch of Congress. As opposed to progressing forward or even compromising about troubling points in recent legislation, the attitude is to simply reject an overturn anything the Democratic-dominated Congress from last term.
There is rarely partisanship in Congresses on the federal level and state level. It's understandable that ideas may clash, but there's no reason why legislators can't work together, find some middle ground, and compromise for a satisfactory end result. We elect our legislators to improve our country; however, if there is no progress then it's harder to improve.
Stray a little from your party's agenda and try and find something that you think could be compromised on. Nothing will unanimously be loved by any legislator or American for that matter, but at least show that there are efforts being taken to progress and not regress.
Politics and sports should rarely be intertwined, although the similarities between each industry exist.
Legislators at the state capitol deal with budget, revenue, and expenses of the state everyday. Many hours are spent voting and approving financial plans to cut the budget in order to decrease the state debt.
Recently, fans of the St. Louis Cardinals have been witnesses to the stress of managing a budget and trying to help an organization like legislators help the state. Albert Pujols' contract expires after this 2011 baseball season. Cardinals management have been working to offer Pujols a fair and reasonable deal.
Just like in the state capitol, no two parties or people will agree on how much money should be allocated to certain industries. Legislators who handle the budget have to consider many variables about which industry, with the correct allocated budget, with prosper with the most revenue. Legislators weigh public opinion and other components in our state to make decisions.
Similarly, the St. Louis Cardinals are responsible for talking to players and their agents about how much that player should be played. The St. Louis Cardinals also have a budget to adjust and use for their own operations. Like legislators, the fans opinion about giving Pujols a record-breaking contract is being weighed. Pujols has been asking for a $300 million/10 year. Management weighs all the variables like at the state capitol.
Pujols is 31 years old and Cardinal's management realizes that yes, he is one of the greatest baseball players ever, but giving him $30 million dollars at age 41 is a risk. Also, giving Pujols $30 million every year for 10 year can really cripple the future of the team's expenses. Management may raise ticket prices or cut jobs of stadium workers in order to potentially get this deal done.
Like with lawmakers, stubbornness of people on both sides of an argument are hard to work with.
Although Governor Nixon doesn't have Missouri's sporting industry at the top of his "to-do-list", but like the St. Louis Cardinals, the management of budgets, raising taxes/ticket prices, and public opinion are weighed heavily in decisions.
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