The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 24, 2013

Our View: Rules makers, breakers

The Joplin Globe

— Let’s see if we’ve got this right.

The people who make the rules for the rest of us in the state don’t have to abide by those same rules in their offices. Is that it?

It’s hard to interpret it any other way, based on votes in the Missouri House of Representatives last week that determined members can continue to smoke in their House offices.

A majority of Missouri House members, including those in the Joplin-area delegation, voted to reject a proposal to ban smoking in member offices. Another proposal to leave smoking policy to the decision of the caucuses passed.

The votes come despite a smoking ban in place in all state buildings, except for prisons, and all public areas of the Capitol.

So only prisoners and legislators can smoke. Draw your own conclusions.

The vote also means that legislators are thumbing their noses at restrictions in place in Jefferson City for two years after residents there voted in November 2010 to ban smoking in bars, restaurants and other indoor workplaces.

These are the same members who talk about the importance of decisions made at the local government level, and who say rules should prevail.

It’s not the first time in this short session that some members have sent the message that obeying the law can be selective — another member has proposed a bill that would exempt the state from any federal gun control regulations that are imposed by executive order or by Congress.

Pro-smoking arguments cited by the majority were that members worked long hours and erratic schedules and should be able to smoke in offices, and that productivity would be reduced when members who smoked had to leave their offices to light up. There are other staffers in the Capitol who also work long hours, but they don’t get a smoke break.

It reminds us of the Charlie Brown cartoon when the teacher or parents are talking and all that comes back is an unintelligible “WA WA WA.”

We hear what they’re saying.

But what it really sounds like is: “We make the rules. But they don’t apply to us.”