Politically Speaking: Former House Speaker Tilley on the pressures of wielding the gavel
On this week’s extra edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome back former Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley to the show.
The Perryville Republican – who now has a residence in Chesterfield – was previously on the show in 2013, and provided candid insights into his tenure as speaker. We asked him back to discuss two big stories percolating throughout the Missouri political universe – the resignation of Republican House Speaker John Diehl and the fight over “right to work.”
Tilley was close to Diehl, a Town and Country Republican who pieced together a sizable body of work as a legislator. Diehl, of course, stepped down from office in May after the Kansas City Star published a story about how he exchanged sexually suggestive texts with a 19-year-old intern.
Even though he’s no longer in office, Tilley is still a major figure in the debate over “right to work.” That’s the shorthand supporters use to describe legislation that bars arrangements in which employers and unions require all workers in a bargaining unit to pay union dues if a majority voted to organize.
Tilley – who became a lobbyist after he termed out of the Missouri House – is representing the Missouri AFL-CIO in trying to defeat "right to work."
While Rep. Eric Burlison’s bill passed both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly, it didn’t draw enough votes to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s inevitable veto. Tilley will be part of a team of lobbyists who will try to sink "right to work" if it comes up for an override vote later this year. Tilley will concentrate on fellow Republicans who currently side with Democrats against "right to work."
During the show, Tilley said:
- He was saddened by Diehl’s resignation, both because he thought Diehl had been an effective speaker and because Tilley knows his family well. “It’s sad to see all of his accomplishments and all of his potential and ability be marred by a mistake,” Tilley said. “And that’s the tough thing about politics. We’re all human beings. And I think both of you would readily admit that you’d hate to be defined by the worst point in your life.”
- Even though he was at the “top of the ladder” in Missouri politics back in 2011 and 2012, Tilley still made mistakes, some of them personal. He talked at length about moving past his personal struggles – and touched on a memorable speech he made to open the 2012 legislative session.
- House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, shouldn’t necessarily expect continuously flattering coverage as his speakership stretches on over the next three-plus years. Tilley said House speakers typically encounter controversy and conflict – even when they govern over large majorities.
- Tilley believes it was a mistake for Rep. Robert Cornejo, R-St. Peters, to say on a recent Politically Speaking podcast that he’d cast a decisive “right to work” vote to override Nixon's expected veto, although Cornejo previously has voted against "right to work." Said Tilley: "It’s hard to defend to the voters switching your vote."
Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum
Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies
Follow Steve Tilley on Twitter: @TeamTilley (but he really doesn’t use it much anymore.)
Music: “Millstone” by Brand New