JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – The Missouri House voted Wednesday to give lawmakers authority over space in the Capitol that includes the Hall of Famous Missourians following a controversy over the induction of radio host Rush Limbaugh.
Busts of those inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians are displayed in the Rotunda between the House and Senate chambers. Control over the space became an issue after House Democrats who disapproved of selecting Limbaugh asked the state Office of Administration not to display his bust.
House Majority Leader Tim Jones said the issue with Limbaugh highlighted the need to clarify who has authority over the third-floor Rotunda. That area frequently is bustling when the Legislature is in session and has benches, tables and artwork on display. Jones, R-Eureka, said it makes sense for lawmakers to control the space because of its proximity to the legislative chambers and offices.
“It would be the most commonsense for them to have control over everything in that Rotunda,” he said.
The Rotunda and the equipment there would be reserved for the Legislature, with the accounts committees in the House and Senate taking responsibility for the space. Groups would need written consent from the Legislature for use of the area. In addition, the House speaker and Senate president pro tem would be added as voting members to the state public buildings board with the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.
House members approved the measure 106-40 and tacked it onto broader legislation dealing with state property. The bill now returns to the state Senate. Lawmakers have until May 18 to approve the legislation before their mandatory adjournment.
Attention on the Hall of Famous Missourians was heightened after House Speaker Steven Tilley said that he had decided to induct Limbaugh, calling the conservative talk show host among the world’s best known radio personalities. Democrats have objected and specifically cited Limbaugh’s recent comments about a female law student involved in the national debate about insurance for contraception.
Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, said Wednesday’s proposal was an effort to secure a “landing spot” for Limbaugh’s bust. She called it an insult to women.
Several dozen people through the years have been chosen for the Hall of Famous Missourians, generally by House speakers. They include President Harry Truman, Walt Disney, George Washington Carver, St. Louis Cardinals baseball player Stan Musial and journalist Walter Cronkite.
Earlier Wednesday, a ceremony was held at the Capitol to unveil the bust of inductee Dred Scott, whose lawsuit in St. Louis sparked one of the most controversial Supreme Court rulings in U.S. history and helped galvanize anti-slavery efforts.
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