Saturday, August 01, 2015
Tom Dempsey: Why I am resigning from the Senate
Twenty-four years ago, in front of an altar and in the presence of family and friends, I pledged to a beautiful young lady that I would love and be true to her all the days of my life. Though I have never managed to be all that she deserves, I have taken very seriously my responsibility to provide for her and the three wonderful children with whom we have been blessed.
For the past 17 years, my family has allowed me to serve the people of St. Charles County in public office, first on the City Council, then in the Missouri House of Representatives, and now in the Missouri Senate. While holding this public trust has been one of the highest points of my life, it has come at a cost. It has been said that time is like money: it can only be spent once. I have spent a lot of it away from those I love.
When I first packed my suitcase and headed off for Jefferson City in the winter of 2001, I said goodbye to two little girls ages eight and six. Our son Jack was a baby and doesn’t remember a time when I wasn’t away much of the winter and spring, serving in the legislature.
Today, Meaghan is a college graduate. I recently had the privilege of driving with her on a cross-country trip to California where she is spreading her wings and starting a new life as an independent, young adult. Abby isn’t far behind. She is getting ready to start her junior year at the University of Missouri. Jack is a high school sophomore, learning to drive, and has become a fine young man.
As I look in the mirror and count an ever increasing number of gray hairs, I have had to come to grips with the reality that the next year and a half is precious. Once our kids have come and gone, Molly and I will be “empty nesters” with a house full of memories and pictures.
In addition to the kids growing up, much has changed since my last election. Two years ago, I said “goodbye” to my mother who left us suddenly and far too soon. Her passing left a void and has led me to reassess my priorities. Last December, we closed down a part of our family business where Molly and I had worked for the past 24 years. As I drive by the location where the building once stood, the family banquet center known as ‘The Columns’ is now a memory, the building demolished to be replaced by a new outpatient health center.
These events have helped me come to the conclusion that it is time for me to return to private life. It has been an honor to be chosen to represent my community in Jefferson City, and a privilege to serve my colleagues in the House and Senate as an elected leader. In return, I have tried to steer our state in a direction they would support.
As I look over the past 15 years in the Legislature, we have made some great strides forward for our state. It is difficult to prioritize these accomplishments, but some that stand out include initiatives to make our state a better place to live, raise a family, and operate a business.
For example, we cut taxes twice, and after repeated attempts we fixed an insolvent Second Injury Fund, providing stability to those who create jobs while giving relief to thousands of workers who were injured on the job. We also improved Missouri’s economic landscape by reforming workers compensation, and we protected job creators from those who abuse the unemployment system by redefining workplace “misconduct”. We also passed the first reform to Missouri’s prevailing wage laws in 40 years and restored balance to a healthcare tort system where outrageous awards risked driving physicians out of Missouri or into retirement.
We've developed new tools to lure amateur sporting events and the tourism those events generate, to attract data center development, and in an eight-day special session, enticed Boeing as they sought to build a new generation of airliners. The latter has allowed St. Louis to expand its role beyond defense work into the commercial side of Boeing’s manufacturing. Further, we increased funding for the Missouri Technology Corporation which has fostered job and investment growth for small, high tech companies.
In order to capitalize on our geographic advantage, we worked tirelessly to promote economic development on the widest possible spectrum with a proposal we sent to voters to improve Missouri’s highway infrastructure, including the rebuilding and expansion of I-70. Though the proposal failed, it has led to broader discussion of our transportation challenges and possible solutions. We also passed a landmark bonding bill to allow for an array of much needed infrastructure improvements to facilities across our state.
To preserve the sanctity of human life in Missouri, we passed legislation that protects the weakest and most vulnerable among us by requiring a 72-hour waiting period before an abortion. We owe it to women who find themselves in desperate circumstances to give them the benefit of time, counsel and funding for abortion alternatives (something we also have funded in record amounts).
We passed legislation in 2015 to revamp our welfare system for the first time in 20 years by promoting work and self-reliance.
Twice, with large bipartisan Senate votes, we passed legislation to give kids in failing schools an opportunity to transfer to a better educational environment while taking steps to reverse the decades of decline in unaccredited districts. Sadly, both bills were vetoed. However, we were successful in promoting innovative charter schools, demanding greater accountability in those schools, and allowing failing schools to be placed under outside governance more readily.
We moved forward in a bipartisan way to pass a revision to Missouri’s criminal code – something that had not happened in decades. Recently, we enacted municipal court reform which will take the perverse profit motive out of running local courts and return them to their intended purpose, the administration of justice.
Of course, there is always more that can be done to protect the freedoms and liberties of the citizens of our great state, but I look back with pride on how far we’ve come. I also recognize that others are waiting in the wings to pick up the torch and carry on the work we have begun.
It is with mixed emotions that I announce that my time in the legislature has come to an end. I have been honored to serve. I have been blessed in more ways than I can count, and I leave owing a great debt of gratitude to my neighbors who have allowed me to serve. However, my family is my highest priority, and in the proud tradition of the “citizen legislator” the framers of our Republic envisioned, I now return to private life.