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Author of Hancock Amendment Gets Nod for Hall of Famous Missourians

Mel Hancock
Mel Hancock/Credit: Wikipedia

Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones Monday revealed the names of four inductees to the Hall of Famous Missourians, including a former U.S. Congressman from Springfield. KSMU’s Scott Harvey has details.   

The list includes Mel Hancock, Springfield businessman and later Republican representative of Missouri’s 7th District. He authored what would become known as the Hancock Amendment to the Missouri Constitution. Approved by voters in 1980, the law limits state tax collections to a percentage of the growth in the personal income of state residents. When revenues exceed the cap, tax refunds automatically are triggered.

Dr. George Connor, Political Science Department head at Missouri State University, says the key provision of the Hancock Amendment for most people is Missouri’s version of a balanced budget. But he adds that a frequent impact is a provision that requires voter approval for all new state or local tax, license, or fees.

“That tax provision allows the voters in Springfield, for example, to vote for a ¼ cent sales tax to improve roads, or to raise taxes for certain designated purposes. So I think it’s really more about transparency – the second half of the amendment – allows the people to increase their own taxes if they think it’s in their best interest,” Dr. Connor said.

“Mel Hancock was one of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever covered,” Brooks said.

Dean of the Missouri Statehouse Press Corps Phill Brooks recalls a strong-willed individual who had a vision for cutting the growth of government spending, which Brooks notes we take for granted as a significant political philosophy these days given the emergence of the Tea Party.

“You’ve got to remember that back when Mel Hancock put through, pushed through his Mel Hancock proposal, this was a relatively new phenomenon,” said Brooks. “And he set, I think, the stage for this restriction in the growth of taxes, of pushing tax cuts.”

Hancock, who served Missouri’s 7th District from 1989-1997, died in November, 2011. But his legacy remains, says Brooks, noting a provision of his amendment from more than 30 years ago that prohibits the state from imposing unfunded mandates on local governments.

“That fundamentally changed the relationship of the parent - state government - over local government – the children – like counties and cities that still lasts to this day. There is a great deal now that state government cannot require local government to do because of the late Mel Hancock’s Hancock Amendment provision.”

Also to be inducted into to the Hall of Famous Missourians will be Virginia Minor, who is best known for starting the women’s suffrage movement in Missouri. Minor and Hancock were both selected by Speaker Jones.

By public vote, Missourians selected two other inductees, casting over 33,000 ballots in a month’s time. They include Andrew Tayler Still, known as the father of osteopathic medicine, and renowned science fiction author Robert Heinlein. 

Speaker Jones will now seek private donations for the commissioning of bronze busts for each inductee. Official induction dates for Hancock, Minor, Still and Heinlein will be scheduled after the funds have been raised and the creation of the busts is underway.