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Missouri House speaker-elect outlines his priorities for upcoming session, which may include ban on

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 15, 2010 - Missouri House Speaker-elect Steve Tilley is underscoring his reputation as a Republican on the move; he's already making his intentions clear for 2012.

Tilley, R-Perryville, who ran without opposition in his last race, has changed his campaign committee's designation so that it states he's raising money for a 2012 bid for lieutenant governor.

But Tilley said he did so only because of the Missouri Ethics Commission's requirement that a candidate must designate a future election before he or she can collect campaign donations.

"It's one of those things I've considered," Tilley said in an interview.

Tilley added that he had no plans to campaign for that post, or any other, over the next five months as he concentrates on his new job as leader of the Missouri House -- a post he can hold for no more than two years because of term limits.

But even before he takes office, Tilley is reportedly ready to make some waves. Several legislators, including some close to Tilley, said today that he is expected later this week to propose that all House members -- or at least members of the Republican caucus -- agree not to take personal gifts from lobbyists.

Tilley's proposal wouldn't apply to buffets and the food spreads often seen around the Capitol and available to all members. But it would apply to sports tickets and other gifts that legislators often receive -- and some solicit -- from lobbyists.

Tilley has been an outspoken critic of such largesse for years, sponsoring several bills over the years to bar legislators from taking personal gifts. Such a provision passed the House last year, but was tossed out in conference committee when the Legislature crafted the final version of the bill.

Tilley declined comment on such reports, but did say that he is hoping to be a new kind of speaker. He noted that he had announced committee chairmen earlier than usual -- with three of them Democrats.

"That's never been done before,'' he said. "I was looking at their qualifications and quality."

Tilley, 39, has been seen as an up-and-comer ever since he first arrived in the state House in 2005. Term limits helped him move up fast, although the restriction also means that he'll have a short time in the chamber's top job to press action on the topics he cares most about.

The Missouri House, over which Tilley will preside, also has 17 new Republicans boosting its current majority, meaning that he will have the tools to press for swift and decision action on his key issues.

Tilley said he plans to roll out his "Show Me solutions" during the first week of the legislative session, which begins Jan. 5. He offered a peek in a brief interview Monday with the Beacon.

Tilley said his key legislative initiatives, which he called "a pretty aggressive agenda," center on three issues:

  • Job creation: Tilley plans, for example, to propose "a moratorium on new regulations on smaller businesses" and perhaps tackle changes to Missouri's workers compensation laws for those injured on the job.
  • Education reform: Tilley said he told new education chairman Scott Dieckhaus, R-Washington, "to have everything on the table" and focus on "what's best for kids." Dieckhaus has told the Beacon that school vouchers will be considered.
  • Health-care changes: Tilley, a successful optometrist, is proposing to require physicians, hospitals and others to disclose how much services actually cost. Tilley believes that public knowledge of actual medical costs could lead to lower prices and more competition. He cites the example of laser surgery on the eyes, which he says has dropped over 15 to 20 years from $5,000 to $700 largely because consumers pay close attention to price and services because the procedure is not covered by insurance.

Tilley said that he suspects that more price transparency on such procedures as, say, a colonoscopy could have downward pressure on prices.
Tilly indicated he is cool toward one issue already cited as a top priority by the new Senate leader, Rob Mayer, R-Dexter. Mayer has said he supports the idea of eliminating closed union shops and making Missouri a right-to-work state. Such talk already has energized labor groups around the state against the idea.

(UPDATE: A spokeswoman for Mayer said Wednesday that while he supports right to work, it is not a priority this session, contrary to some press accounts indicating otherwise.)

Tilley indicated that he may do labor a favor. "Right-to-work is not an issue the House will take the lead on," he said.

Such a position could put Tilley on good terms with union leaders around the state, a relationship already shared by current Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a fellow Republican.

Kinder is expected to launch a bid for governor in 2012 against Democratic incumbent Jay Nixon.

But unlike Tilley, Kinder didn't get as specific when he changed his campaign committee designation in line with the Ethics Commission's mandate. Kinder's campaign committee simply says, "statewide office," for 2012.

Since Tilley already has made it clear he wants Kinder's job in 2012, the lieutenant governor may need to be more specific about his own plans in two years.

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