Francis “Bud” Barnes liked to brag that he was a proud product of the University City schools. He was brave to do this, for he represented Kirkwood in the statehouse and Kirkwood folks take their own schools very seriously.
An eight-term Republican House member, Barnes favored state funds for Amtrak, history and the arts, as well as adequate funding for Missouri universities. He helped secure a $2 million expansion for Ellis Library at the University of Missouri, named for Professor Elmer Ellis – a man who went on to become Mizzou’s president, but not before inspiring a love for history in a student named Francis Barnes.
Barnes would be labeled a RINO (Republican in Name Only) by today’s party stalwarts. I recently covered Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign rally in Kirkwood. Were he alive, I wonder if Barnes would be stumping in Kirkwood with Romney, tagged as the GOP’s Massachusetts “moderate.”
I don’t think Romney’s plans would sit well with Bud Barnes. After all, Romney was pretty excited to speak in Kirkwood Park about his plans to defund Amtrak, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and, of course, the folks at Planned Parenthood.
That kind of scorched earth policy would not go down well with a man who loved history, the arts and rail transportation. I once traveled on Amtrak to Jefferson City with Barnes and listened to him recount every historic train wreck along the rail route. Once at the state capital, he gave me some lessons on every crazy piece of legislation that ever emerged from under the capitol dome.
Later, Barnes gave me a book, “The Columbus Chicken Statute – And More Bonehead Legislation.” The tome was a hilarious sampling of hundreds of loony laws and statutes. Barnes thought we had made a lot of progress in this country since...
• a Louisiana law making it illegal to wear masks after sundown except during Mardi Gras.
• a Kansas law forbidding any exhibition that consists of eating snakes, lizards or scorpions.
• an Alabama law making it illegal to play dominoes on Sunday.
As I study ill-conceived or outdated legislation in the book from my good friend, the late Rep. Francis Barnes, who passed in 1999, the thought occurs that we haven’t made all that much progress in our legislative thinking in Missouri since the days of yore.
Consider a bill recently introduced by puppy mill defenders that forbids any “right, privilege, or legal status” for an animal that would equal or exceed that of a human being.
Consider a bill listing gun owners as a protected minority group and that makes it illegal to refuse to hire someone because they use a firearm.
Consider a measure that allows the House Speaker to unilaterally install a bust of Rush Limbaugh in Missouri’s capitol building as a state hall of fame person of honor.
Consider a bill demanding that female contraception be exempted from coverage in any medical health plan, if such coverage be deemed as unnecessary or objectionable by an employer or health care provider.
Our local Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights, tried to express her concerns on restricting coverage of contraception. She was refused recognition in the state assembly.
“I was one of the ‘Silenced Seven,’ seven progressive Democratic women, who stood at the microphone for over three hours and were not allowed to speak on a topic unique to females,” Newman said.
Newman said the male-dominated assembly was out of line in stifling discussion on a bill “to restrict access to birth control used by over 98 percent of Missouri women.”
After being rebuffed, Newman filed a bill, co-sponsored by other women legislators, restricting men from getting vasectomies unless necessary to avert serious injury to body functions or threats to the life of the man. No male legislators were asked for input on the House bill, HB1853.
“People think we are joking around with this,” said Newman. “There was nothing funny about women being silenced and shut out on legislative issues so important to their lives.”
Some folks may think her bill is goofy. But, hey, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.