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This is the last week of the regular legislative session in Missouri and we'll bring you the perspectives of two senior House members who are ending their legislative careers because of term limits...We'll have the perspectives of a democrat and a republican. To begin our series, KSMU's Missy Shelton talks with Republican Representative Mark Wright of Springfield.
Shelton: You've been in the House during a time when we've seen power shift from all democratic control to now all republican control. What has that changeover been like from your perspective?
Wright: It's been interesting because I served four years in the minority and four years in the majority. I much prefer being in the majority. Being in the minority has an important function as well. You don't have as much responsibility, you can throw bombs, play political games. Obviously, being in the majority, it's your responsibility to keep the wheels of government moving and in the direction of the constituents we represent. The minority has a different point of view so they try to slow it down a little bit. When I was in the minority, it was more partisan. I think that had to do with the way the rules were. You could throw out an amendment out of the blue and cause consternation and long debate and upset feelings. Whereas when we came into power, we stopped the drive-by amendments. And so that's been the biggest difference I've seen.
Shelton: Regardless of whether you were in the majority or minority, do you think you were able to be effective in both scenarios?
Wright: Yeah. I look back at when I was in the minority and I was surprisingly able to pass a lot of legislation. Now the way you do it in the minority is through amendments. You don't get your bills heard. It's almost unheard of to get a bill to the floor. I was one of the few guys in the minority who actually got a bill to the floor and passed it out of the House. It died in the Senate unfortunately. But I passed a lot of amendments, economic development amendments for my district. I think I was effective in the minority. In the majority, I served in leadership the four years I've been here...as the assistant floor leader and then as the accounting chairman, a quasi-leadership position. My focus in the last four years hasn't been as much legislatively, even though I've had some accomplishments, like the foster care legislation which will be the crowning jewel of my legislative career but when you're in leadership, you're more interested in setting the agenda so it's a different perspective. You have to be more than focused on legislation. I've enjoyed it. It's been fun.
Shelton: Now you're on to bigger things...You're running for state auditor. How's that going?
Wright: It's going great. As the accounting chairman in the House the last two years, I've had the opportunity to conduct and implement audits. I oversee the accounting department. We've got a couple hundred employees, $25 million budget. We've been able to consolidate and privatize services, save the taxpayers millions of dollars.
Shelton: If you had the opportunity to continue serving in the legislature and you weren't being forced out essentially by term limits, would you have run for another term or would you still have thrown your hat in the ring for auditor?
Wright: It's a good question because you just don't know. If it weren't for term limits, I probably wouldn't be here. My predecessor probably would've ran for a few more terms as well. You really don't know. Term limits accelerates every decision from statewide officials, state reps, state senators, county officials, local officials. So you don't really know where you'd fit into the process if term limits wasn't there. I doubt I'd probably be here and if I was here, I'd be early in my legislative career and wouldn't be thinking of a statewide office or anything like that.
Shelton: Join me this afternoon for the second part of my interview with Republican Representative Mark Wright...And Wednesday, I'll have a two part interview with Democratic Representative Barbara Fraser. I'll have her perspectives on the changes that have taken place over the last eight years and on term limits.