On Special Sessions, Public Service, and “Real Jobs”
This week the Missouri Senate returned to the Capitol for its second special session of the summer—an enterprise for which a handful of Senators have themselves to thank. After all, when you waste half of a Legislative session filibustering and singing Kumbaya, you may have to finish the People’s work on your own time. In the world of real jobs, that’s called earning your salary.
And it’s the “real job” debate that percolated during the first special session that I want to address here, since it’s now come back up in the second. During the first special session it appeared that a handful of senators might already have been looking ahead to the Memorial Day weekend, which I don’t begrudge them. But a common refrain during the session’s debates was that a few senators were put out by having to come back to the Capitol—that being a senator wasn’t a “real job.” At least one senator even threatened to try and close down future special sessions because his “real job,” whatever it is, was more important than finishing his work as a senator.
Are senators the victims here? They don’t donate their time to be senators. They’re paid. They’re aware that special sessions can be called. They weren’t tricked into this line of work.
And can you imagine U.S. Senators behaving like this when talking about their public service? Constituents aren’t honored by electing a senator to public office. Senators are, in fact, given the honor of representing their constituents.
So when I hear a senator complaining on the People’s floor about his pay, the burden of his office, and the inconvenience of doing the job he sought and received, I am left to wonder why he is standing there to begin with.
And now, as would happen in a real job, some of these senators are going to have to earn their cash advance. They were happy to walk away with their salaries during the regular session as bill after bill was buried by their filibusters and foot-dragging. Now they’re being paid per diems to do jobs that should already be done.
Maybe next year these senators will treat their real jobs—doing the People’s business—more seriously; otherwise, I suspect the summer of special sessions will evolve into an annual tradition. Let’s hope that won’t be necessary.