(Last month OI carried an exclusive interview with Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr. Now we present the view from the other side of the aisle, courtesy of Democratic House Minority Leader Crystal Quade. The majority of this interview initially aired on Morningline on 560 AM/93.3 FM KWTO. Part one of the interview can be read at this link.)
OI: Let’s talk Clean Missouri (which put limits on lobbying, opens more records to the public, and ensures no partisanism in drawing of election districts). It seemed like there were a lot of people in Jefferson City who wanted to get rid of Clean Missouri. What is your opinion of Clean Missouri, and what was your opinion of those who were trying to overturn it?
Quade: First, the actions to overturn it? I don’t think we should! It just happened in November and 62 percent of voters said they wanted it! I know in my district it was higher than that.
OI: And there’s no way to say that was a partisan result when you get 62 percent of voters choosing something at the polls. That’s bi-partisan.
Quade: It definitely is and when you look at the legislature, across Missouri we had 46 seats this year that were Democrats. So a lot of people who were voting for that were also voting for my Republican colleagues.
That, for me, just fundamentally says that we don’t need to mess with it. I get the argument that times change, we have to go back and look at things over and over again, I agree with that. But this just happened in November.
My personal feelings on Clean…I didn’t love every provision of it. I didn’t. I think it would be hard to find someone who did. But I think we needed to do redistricting reform. I don’t think that elected people, politicians, should be deciding what our election districts look like.
In 2010, we can look here in Springfield. Former representative Charlie Norr was carved out of his district by one road. But then if you look at my district now, I go National north to Walnut, I jet over for just Walnut almost to Glenstone, jump over and then back to National on Walnut Street.
So why would we do that? It doesn’t make any sense. There’s no big road dividing me, there’s no giant river, they just carved out this one street. So the way we’ve been doing it just isn’t right in my opinion and I don’t think we as politicians should be the ones making that choice.
I am in favor of redistricting reform. And the lobbyist gift piece, lobbyist reform is something voters always want us to talk about and I believe they put it in there because they’re frustrated with the culture around the world of government and wanted some kind of discussion around that.
To expect elected officials to do any kind of ethics reform is a hard thing. I understand why the people wanted it.
OI: In our interview with Speaker Haahr, we noted that not a single piece of legislation sponsored by Democrats in the House made it to the governor’s desk. His response to us was that you had taken a “combative tack” and tied it to the national party’s positions and actions.
Fair’s fair, I quoted you on the abortion law to him to get his response, so I’m giving you the same opportunity here. That’s what he said about you, how do you respond?
Quade: My first response is that it’s unfortunate that he feels that way. And I hate that he feels that way because the Speaker and I, both coming from the same town, came to the legislature this year as friends as can be, to be honest with you.
We’ve had coffee together, breakfast, and so on.
OI: It’s safe to say it’s not like you didn’t know each other before you went to Jeff City.
Quade: And to be honest with you, I’m a social worker. Being combative is not something that has ever been attributed to me before! So when I heard that, I was a little shocked by that.
But let’s be honest, we’re on opposite sides of this general conversation. He has to fight for his side and I have to fight for mine.
But to the question at hand, there’s no secret that Democrats are not going to get a bill to the governor’s desk. There are 46 of us out of 163. We might get a piece of our language tied into another bill. But I even knew going in, and this goes back to the combative conversation, the very first bill I filed as a legislator I also found a Republican to file the bill as well.
Why? Because I know if I want to get something done it has to have an R next to it. I don’t care who gets the credit, to be honest with you.
I’ve been working on this cliff effect legislation dealing with child care since I got to Jefferson City and I don’t care who gets the credit. That’s what Democrats have to do to be successful in Jefferson City. Don’t care who gets the credit. Find people who can ally with us on particular topics and work with them on it.
When it comes to my combativeness, as I said earlier, we have to be creative in how we are being effective in Jefferson City. And this year, we took to the rule book and I’m very proud of that!
I’m very proud of my members. Matt Sain is a great one, Brandon Ellington, a lot of our members who know the rules and point of ordered left and right. And we won a lot of point of orders this year.
And just for clarity, we use that any time someone tries to amend a bill. There are parameters that go along with amending a bill. You can’t just go throw on random things that have nothing to do with the bill at hand, as we shouldn’t.
And so we will point of order when we see something being done wrong. That’s a way that we can be effective and slow things down a little bit.
And that can be viewed as combative, and I’m sorry if it is, but we have to be effective where we can and if the following the rules makes me combative, then I’m OK with that.
OI: You’re talking about the rules, and it’s making me think of the situation in Oregon where Republicans left the state to deny a quorum because they are in a similar situation. When you’re in a superminority, your hands are pretty tied in the things you can do.
Quade: Oh, of course. Ultimately the Speaker holds all the power and anything the Speaker wants to have happen, will.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had Republicans crying on my shoulder after a vote saying “I’m sorry, I had to vote that way.” And that’s a real thing that happens.
So there are certain things that happen no matter what, so we have to as a superminority be strategic where we can.
And to Oregon, and what the Republican Senators are doing, I may not agree with what they’re doing but I get it. They are following the rules. They’re not doing anything against those rules.
And they can send the state patrol after them to bring them back which is again, following the rules. The rules exist in our chambers for a reason and we need to adhere to them the best we can.
OI: Let’s address two issues that just don’t seem to be able to get done in Jefferson City. The first is the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. Just like I asked Speaker Haahr, what’s it going to take to get that done?
Quade: That’s a good question. It’s something that the whole state is asking us for to the point that we have counties doing it on their own. The downside to this being done county by county is you can just leave to the next county and there’s no cohesion there.
In terms of what’s going to get it done, in years past there’s been one or two people, mostly in the Senate, who have been blocking the bill.
I’m not sure what the answer is to it. I know my whole caucus supports it. Many of them are co-sponsors of the bill and have been advocating for it for a long time. I believe again this time it was the Senate that was holding it up.
I think it’s going to take some real leadership over there to make it get done. There are still a few people over there that are big obstacle blockers, and their argument has to do with privacy, so it will be interesting to see if it actually happens.
OI: Let me bring up something I did not speak to Speaker Haahr about, which is the payday lending situation. Springfield Mayor McClure spoke to us and talked about how they’re handcuffed by the fact only the legislature can do things related to issues like interest rates.
How do we get that reform done in Jefferson City?
Quade: Another wonderful example. So the payday lending reform bill was a Democrat bill for many, many years and it wasn’t getting anywhere. Representative Tracy McCreery handled it, Martha Stevens, and then we finally got Representative Lynn Morris, who’s a Republican from Christian County, to file that bill and I’m so thankful that he did.
So we have two versions, same language, Republican, Democrat. That was step one, finding a Republican to be that spearhead and spokesperson for us.
But the Mayor’s right. There are some things we can do here at the local level in the city, and I really hope that we do, but when it comes to interest rates and holding these people accountable, allowing folks in poverty to break that cycle, if anyone gets into that cycle it’s atrocious. I’ve had family members get into that cycle and to get out is almost impossible.
OI: The Mayor called it a “death cycle.”
Quade: It is. It’s up to the legislature to do it. And I don’t even know if Representative Morris’s bill got a hearing this year. It’s frustrating. It’s yet another example of if we want to break the cycle of poverty, get people off state aid, which is an ultimate goal of everybody’s, we need to look at things like the payday industry.
OI: A reader submitted a question for Speaker Haahr regarding the MONA legislation. The reader took issue with Haahr’s statement that he didn’t think the “issue was ripe”, which Haahr explained he meant that there were so few votes to pass the measure and if it came to a vote it would end up causing more harm in the long run than good for supporters of MONA.
Quade: I disagree with that. It’s been 21 years and you can still get fired in the state of Missouri for who you love. I personally know people who have refused an apartment because they’re married to people of the same gender.
It’s happening in Missouri, it’s far past time for our elected officials to do something about it. And the only way we can know where we’re at in this, if this is actually attainable, is for us to take a vote.