Three shifts in, my love for the legislative session has far exceeded my affection for the off-season.
Today I covered the House Budget Committee hearing on the governor's proposed budget to fund a new Fulton State Hospital. The hospital has been falling apart for decades, but Governor Nixon is suddenly trying expedite construction for a new facility. He wants to use supplemental bonds to pay for the project because such bonds are funded by taxes.
Several representatives on the committee took issue with this plan. Some cited a constitutional grey area, others took issue with using taxpayer money without voter approval, and several shared concern with the timing of a mechanism that is usually saved for emergency and unforseen expenses. Consensus seemed clear: the question was not whether the hospital needed the money, but when, where and how they should get that money.
Something I appreciate about the legislative session is the rigid schedule. Hearings can only last so long because there are half a dozen hearings every day. The House and Senate respectively need to meet, which also forces hearings to stay brief. I'm also working more efficiently and feeling more confident about my writing and reporting. Working here last semester prepared me to handle the craziness and business of this semester.
This particular issue of Fulton State Hospital falling apart is one that needs to be addressed. Having visited the site, it's disturbing the conditions patients live in, and Nixon's representatives said getting and keeping good employees is extremely difficult. Both patients and employees deserve better - now it's up to the state to determine the best way to fix what's broken.
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