Wednesday, April 14, 2010

LeVota: Richard and Tilley are hypocrites

In a news release issued today, House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, D-Independence, says Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, and Majority Leader Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, are hypocritical in their reaction to Democrats' actions to remove the payday loan bill from a committee:

A seldom-invoked constitutional provision House Democrats used last week to remove payday loan reform legislation from committee and place it on the House debate calendar was last used in 2005 by House Republicans, including chamber leaders who now complain the action subverts the legislative process.

“This is just another example of hypocrisy by the speaker and majority leader,” said House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, D-Independence. “The Missouri Constitution grants lawmakers the right to strip bills from committee as a means of overcoming obstruction, and House Republicans in the past have exercised that right. Apparently they were for discharge petitions before they were against them.”

Article III, Section 22 of the Missouri Constitution allows 55 House members to remove a bill from committee and place it on the House debate calendar. On April 7, 60 House Democrats signed the petition discharging HB 2116, a payday loan reform bill sponsored by state Rep. Mary Still, from the House Financial Institutions Committee. The action came after committee Vice Chairman Don Wells, R-Cabool, conducted a hearing on payday lending to which only industry lobbyists were invited to testify. Wells owns Kwik Kash, a payday loan business.

In a story today by the Missourinet, House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, and House Majority Leader Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, complained about the use of discharge petitions. From the story:

“House Speaker Ron Richard, a Republican from Joplin, says the bill will go nowhere in the wake of Democrats taking such a drastic step. ‘There is a right way and a wrong way to do things around here,’ Richard said. ‘I’ll be asking the majority leader not to take it up.’

“Majority Floor Leader Steven Tilley, a Republican from Perryville, says he has no plans to. ‘If it gets to the calendar, I have no intention to take it up because it subverts the speaker, it subverts the committee chair and the committee process,’ Tilley said.”

Neither Richard nor Tilley had a problem with “subversion” in May 2005 when they were signatories to the last known discharge petition filed in the House. (See petition below.)

In that instance, 55 representatives, all Republicans, signed a petition to discharge a proposed constitutional amendment (HJR 23) that would have required impeachment trials to be conducted by the state Senate instead of the Missouri Supreme Court. Republicans controlled the House in 2005, as they do today.

“As far as I know, there has never been a massive public outcry for changing the procedures for impeachment trials,” said Still, D-Columbia. “By contrast, there is widespread public support for protecting Missouri families from predatory lending practices. Instead of defending the interests of payday lenders, House Republican leaders should stand up for consumers and allow the reform bill to be debated.”

Although the discharge process allows lawmakers to place bills on the House debate calendar, the House Rules give Tilley, as majority leader, the authority to determine what bills are debated.

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