Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Jetton explains 'plagiarized' representative columns
Thanks to Missouri Speaker of the House Rod Jetton for taking time out of his busy schedule to explain the capitol reports, which are available to every state representative.
As you may recall, I took Joplin Republicans Ron Richard and Marilyn Ruestman to task Tuesday for writing columns which were nearly word for word duplicates of a Capitol Report issued a month earlier by Rep. Jetton.
I will let Rep. Jetton explain how the system works:
"I remember being in school and the rules for copying. In the House, it
is a bit different. We openly share our reports with each other. If a Rep
feels like I wrote something that they agree with they are free to use it in
he districts at the same time if I like what they are saying and a agree
with it I may use it in mine.
"Of course, we may change it slightly to better reflect our exact
thoughts. I can assure you all the Reps have a mind of their own but many
times we vote with each other on key issues and when we find a rep who is
communicating the same thoughts and feelings on a issue we will use that
"We have given each other full authority to copy, change or do whatever
the other rep wants to do with the different reports folks write. Another
point is with over 2,000 different bills introduced each year on all
different kinds of subjects there is no way one person can be an expert and
write about each one. This way if one rep who is an expert in a certain
subject writes about it and a Rep agrees or likes it can save them valuable
time. We do the same when it comes to getting advice on voting on issues.
I trust a fellow rep or constitute before I trust a lobbyist.
"Just thought I might try to clear this up. Each Rep only has one
assistant who usually works on taking care of constituent problems and
doesn't have time to write capitol reports for the Rep."
I remember about eight years ago, former Rep. Bubs Hohulin, R-Lamar, wrote about this topic in his weekly column that ran in several area newspapers. When Hohulin was first elected to the House in 1990, he discovered that these capitol reports were being prepared and, if I recall his column, he tried it one time and was not pleased with it because it did not reflect his thoughts the way in which he wanted them reflected.
It should be noted that the speaker of the house at that time was the notorious Democrat and friend of any lobbyist in sight Bob Griffin (and if you think I have been rough on our local state representatives, go back in the archives at the Lamar Democrat and check on some of the stuff I wrote about Griffin the late 1980s) so naturally, the reports were skewed in favor of the majority party at that time.
But Hohulin had the right idea.
Yes, our elected representatives are busy, but that has not kept Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, or Ed Emery, R-Lamar, from regularly keeping their constituents informed with well-written articles that are clearly from their viewpoints.
I would suggest that if Rep. Richard, Rep. Ruestman, or any other representative wants to use articles written by someone else, they should feel free to do so...as long as they clearly specify that the articles were written by someone else. When I see the words "I" or "my" in a column I should be able to know that I am actually reading something that was written by the representative himself or herself.
To extend the analogy I used Tuesday about giving zeroes to anyone in my eighth grade communication arts classes who plagiarized- What would happen if I followed the same approach with my students? My students are busy, they have numerous activities, homework in other classes, and family concerns, as well as outside interests, including church. What would happen if I were to tell them that if someone else in the class writes something with which they agree, they can use it, and they can make a few changes if they wish? It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for me to be able to tell what thoughts belonged to which students. The same thing applies to these capitol reports. If they must be used, let's please give credit where credit is due.