Notes from a quiet street

(formerly known in our working days as “Notes from the front lines,” compilations of observations that do not merit full bloggitry)

The chairman of the Special Senate Committee to Generate Headlines for a Senator Running for Attorney General, wants the committee to subpoena patient records from Planned Parenthood, a private organization, and to hold some people in contempt for refusing to submit themselves to grilling by the committee.  Planned Parenthood says it will resist any subpoena from the committee as improper meddling in a private business’s affairs and because the records are protected by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which protects the privacy of personal health information. 

“Phhhhtttttt!” says the leader of the entire senate. He’ll support the SSCGHSRAG’s subpoena, federal law notwithstanding.  

Some folks with whom we have discussed this situation suggest the position of the SSCGHSRAG might be more consistent, although probably still questionable, if the legislature would let the state auditor subpoena records from political campaign committees, including the independent committees that hide contributors from public knowledge, and the activities of legislative staff members who work for political campaigns “in their spare time,” and find those who don’t cooperate in contempt. Some would consider such a step as (pardon the cliché) leveling the playing field.

State law says those who are held in contempt of a legislative committee that they consider taking a contemptible position can be fined and jailed. 

The auditor has no such power and the consensus is that the legislature’s response to the idea that the auditor should have it also would be “Phhhhttttt!”  

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One of our neighbors is a fellow we’ll call Felix, one of those folks who drives around with a school alumni license plate, a school decal in the back window, and little school flags sticking out of the windows on football or basketball game days. He’s 67, about five-foot-eight, and will weigh, probably, 143 pounds after watching an entire football game in a rain storm.  He was concerned for a few days not long ago when he read about two bills filed for the 2016 legislative session. 

One would take away scholarships for football players who refuse to play a game to show their support for fellow students protesting a perceived injustice.  The other would make it legal to carry guns on campus.  

Felix worries about what would happen if he got into an argument with a six-foot-seven, 350 pound offensive lineman who had just lost his scholarship but had a gun.  He was relieved when the scholarship bill was withdrawn by the sponsor because that took away one of the issues to argue about.  Now all he worries about is whether the six-foot-seven, 350-pound lineman with a scholarship would beat the tar out of him or just save his energy and shoot him.  

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A divorced couple in St. Louis County is in court to decide who gets custody of two frozen embryos they enjoyed creating in happier times.  

Someone asked us the other day, “Since the state says life begins at conception, shouldn’t there be another law for frozen embryos to be considered wards of the state, making the state responsible for their maintenance and any support payments in case they do lead to babies without the sperm donor’s consent? “ She continued, “The state is avoiding responsibility for the situation it has caused.” 

Another person at the table opined, “Well, you can’t get an answer if you only write half of the equation.”  

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And a personal note:  We have found in our first year of retirement that our detachment from the intense climate of the capitol during legislative sessions has helped us understand why folks like our neighbors hold those we elect to represent us in lowered esteem.  Perhaps it is because those who serve lose the perspective they had while they lived on quiet streets like this one, before they started hearing all of the capitol voices telling them how important they are. 

We remain convinced, however, that most of those who are beginning their work at the capitol now are good people. Unfortunately they are operating within a badly-flawed system that only they can fix.  And the temptation to leave a system that favors their presence as-is has been too difficult to overcome.  

We have known these people for a long time, them and their predecessors.  And we can tell you that away from the capitol, perhaps around a barbecue pit or sharing a table at a coffee shop, they’re okay.  But the environment in which they will be operating for the next four months is not necessarily he climate that is best for the neighbors they leave at home Monday through Thursday. 

This scribe is no longer the business associate (never a partner) that he once was.  Now he’s the neighbor left behind.  It’s been interesting to feel perspective change.

Let me know what you think......