Courtesy of Senator Mike Moon
A Bit of Background
On February 10, a mentorship program was kicked off at your State Capitol. The intent of the program is to offer high school students an opportunity to see first hand how the legislature works. Two other legislators, Representatives Mitch Boggs and Susie Pollock, and staff are participating as mentors in the program.
Beginning last session, our office serves breakfast to the representatives of the 29th Senate District as well as Senators and staff, maintenance personnel, research and other support staff. The breakfast consists of pancakes or waffles, bacon, and eggs to order. I begin cooking at 7 am, dressed in overalls.
The day our mentorship program began, I had an early committee hearing, so instead of taking time to change clothes, I donned a tie and sport coat and headed to the meeting.
When I returned to my office after the meeting, I found five students, three chaperones, and four staffers crowded in my office. (Since my office doubles as my changing room, I didn’t change clothes.) When session began, I was still in my overalls, tie, and sport coat.
Little did I know that my doing so would lead to such a fuss (and, the eventual removal from the most important of my seven committees).
With roll call complete, I sat at my desk in the Senate chamber and listened to the conversation between the Senators. Soon, Senator Dave Schatz (the President Pro Tem – equivalent to the House Speaker) approached me from behind. He asked, “What are you doing, Mike?”
“I’m listening to the debate,” I responded.
Senator Schatz repeated his first question to which I gave the same response.
He then stated in a scolding tone, “You’re making a mockery of the Senate!”
“By sitting in my chair, listening to debate, I’m making a mockery of the Senate,” I snapped back!
Then, to my surprise, Senator Schatz told me that if I didn’t change clothes immediately, “Their will be ramifications!”
I stood from my chair to face him. I asked, “What ramifications?”
“You’ll find out,” he told me.
With that, I turned toward the dais and sought recognition from the President of the Senate, Lt. Governor Kehoe. I asked him if I had broken a rule, tradition, or violated decorum. (Lt. Governor Kehoe was a part of the Senate for at least eight years. I expect he would know whether or not I had broken a rule of some sort.) Lt. Governor Kehoe answered my question, “I have not been advised of any violation, Senator.”
With that, I sat down.
Events Leading to Committee Debacle
Most, if not all, of the events I’ll mention have been detailed in past Capitol Reports. If you’d like more information, contact me and I will respond with more information.
In my first Senate session, I quickly learned what appeared to be expected of me (i.e., Senate Rules). I soon found that even though a rule exists, it may not be a good idea to use it.
For example, once when I didn’t agree with the President Pro Tem’s (Senator Dave Schatz) ruling on point of order, I appealed the ruling. I was “invited” to a meeting with Senator Schatz. He told me, in no uncertain terms that my action often is met with consequences, such as, removal from committees. A year ago, I was first threatened with the stripping of my committees.
During the September Veto Session, while attempting to make a motion to override a Governor’s veto, I was informed by Lt. Governor Kehoe that I was not recognized to make the override motion. My persistence, along with the help of Senator Bill Eigel, led to a five-hour debate on Senate tradition, rules, and the MO Constitution (and, the question has not yet been settled).
This session began with tense moments the first day (and, often tension has been so high it could “be cut with a knife”). The redrawing of congressional districts has brought with it tense additional stress. Due to what seems a desire to disregard the wishes of many outside the Capitol (and pass a congressional redistricting bill passed by the MO House – HB 2117), a filibuster was conducted by some of the Conservative Caucus members. The purpose of the filibuster was, at least, two-fold: hold the floor long enough to allow sufficient time for negotiations to be had; and, prevent the House bill from being passed – a stronger bill is a possibility. What I find odd is the fact that in the past, when Republicans are negotiating, since we are the majority party, a recess can be called for (eliminating the need for a filibuster). In this case, the Senate leaders wanted to pass HB 2117. We had to hold the floor or risk passing a bad bill.
Since I participated in the filibuster, add yet another strike against me.
Just prior to the filibuster, I led a filibuster to stop the nomination of the Governor’s choice for the Director of the Department of Health and Senior Services. After approximately three hours of holding the floor, the Senate leaders were convinced to not confirm the nomination.
Again, I was in hot water: This time with the Governor.
Add to all this my wearing of overalls during session and the proverbial lid blew off.
Just after I sat down (following my question to Lt. Governor Kehoe), Senator Mike Cierpiot rose from his chair to introduce a “guest.” The guest was former Senator Jim Lembke. Senator Cierpiot disparaged Mr. Lembke in front of the Senate and guests in the chamber – including students.
Afterward, and to this day, nothing has been done to discipline Senator Cierpiot. Oddly, the following day, an attempt to amend the journal with detail of the actions taken by Senator Cierpiot. However, by a majority vote the attempt was quashed.
So, there you have it, the wearing of overalls during session is met with punishment. The belittling of a former Senator results in a majority of Senators ensuring the journal is void of any record (kind of reminds of bit of the book, “1984”).
The “Overall” Reason
Most, including me, find it hard to believe that one is punished for something as benign as wearing overalls. The underlying reason, I think, is an attempt to silence me (and, to send a warning to other Senate conservatives: “Don’t Cross Us!”). Don’t worry, I’m not listening! (And, I don’t believe any other Conservative Caucus member is concerned by the idle threat either!)
It is my belief that I was punished not so much because I wore overalls, but because I’ve been a constant thorn in the flesh of moderate Republicans. During my years in the MO House, I constantly kept the Constitution at the forefront of the debate (to the chagrin of many – especially Republicans).
In the Senate, I’ve made many of the same arguments and due to the increased influence, it’s much more difficult to be controlled by the Senate leaders. By their current actions, they are attempting to flex their muscle. However, this latest attempt to silence me has failed. In fact, I’ve been empowered. An extraordinary amount of support has been showered upon me by many outside the Capitol – from across the state of Missouri!
Whether or not my committee assignments will be returned, I cannot say. In the meanwhile, there’s much work to be done – to stop bad bills and support bills which protect liberty and freedom!