Speaker Tilley's Opening Address
Steven Tilley, Speaker of the House
Thank you, and welcome....I am addressing you today as the Speaker of the Missouri
House because your confidence, trust, and support made it possible and for that
I will always be grateful.
However the reason I stand here is because of the love and sacrifice of some
very special people, and I would like to take this opportunity to introduce
Although I may be the Leader of this House, there is one undisputed Speaker in
my own house, and that is my wife, Kellie Tilley.
I am sure serving as Speaker will undoubtedly be one of the most significant achievements of my life, but the
greatest honor and achievement I will ever have is being the father of my two
beautiful daughters, Kourtney and Korrin.
My parents taught me at a young age the importance of hard work, integrity,
kindness and compassion. They have always been my biggest fans and
believed in me when I found it hardest to believe in myself. Please
welcome my parents Everett and Bonnie Tilley and Linda and Dave Wooff.
And last, but certainly not least, my role model, my best friend, and my older
brother, Jason and his wife Maureen.
I would like to start by sharing a story with you that only my family members
know. As an 18 year old college freshman I was a pretty immature...perhaps some of
you can relate. I was more focused on “extracurricular activities” than I was
academics and my grades reflected this. My Mom once pointed out, "to say my
academic achievement was less than stellar would be a historic understatement"
However as time passed, and with the help of my wife, I matured and realized
that if I wanted to amount to anything and fulfill my potential, I had to get
serious about school. So I did, and in my last three years I excelled
academically. In October of 1993 I applied to optometry school. It was very
competitive to get into a professional school because only 1 spot is granted for
about every 10 applicants.
Although I had done quite well in my
classes the last three years, my lack of focus early on brought my grade point
average to less than impressive. But I always believed in my heart that if
I could just get an interview, if I could explain how much I matured, how hard I
could work, and how much I learned they would give a chance and allow me to
become an asset to the profession.
However, November and December passed and no interview. January and
February passed still no interview. As March approached as the last month
for interviews, I sat down with my father and he suggested I go visit a
respected optometrist just south of us. This doctor was a person who has
been recognized as a leader in the profession of optometry for a generation.
I called this distinguished optometrist and he agreed to meet with me, so I
drove to Caruthersville to ask for his help. After hearing my story he
agreed to make a call on my behalf and to make a long story short I got an
interview. The University of MO St. Louis accepted me and the rest is history.
Without being accepted to Optometry school, I probably wouldn't have become a
Doctor. I probably wouldn't have found my way into the Missouri House of
Representatives, and certainly wouldn't be standing before you as Speaker.
That man was Doctor Terry Swinger, we all know him as one of our colleagues here
in the House, Representative Swinger.
As I reflect on my past, with the exception of my family members, Representative
Swinger is the individual who has had the most profound positive impact on my
life, and I want to stand here today and from the bottom of my heart, thank him.
The reason I wanted to share that story with you is because we can all learn a
valuable lesson from Representative Swinger. When I was a young man that
needed help, a young man that needed someone to believe in me. He didn't
look at me as a Republican or a Democrat, especially not the future Speaker; he
looked at me as a person.
As we embark on this legislative session, let's not look at one another as
Republicans or Democrats, but rather as normal dedicated citizens working to
make this state a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
We’re not always going to agree – even with our own parties. But we must agree
to not let partisanship get in the way of good ideas.
Within this story there is also a challenge, and it is a challenge I am placing
before all of you. Dr. Swinger took a chance on a young a man because maybe he
was a local kid, or maybe because he believed I could become an asset to the
profession, but he definitely set an example as a role model that I have not
And in return, I hope as a young man I was able to set an example as well...that
it is alright to believe in people, that we can still have faith in one
another...and always hope for the best.
So, my challenge is this, that we all, in our entrusted positions -lead by
As Republicans we now control the largest majorities in the nearly 200 year
history of our state. Because of that, it is my belief we now have the greatest
responsibility in leading by example.
From the book of Luke, "When someone has been given
much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with
much, even more will be required."
Missourians have entrusted us with the power of state government. And
Missourians have been clear, they want...need...and deserve a change in the culture
of how we operate.
Missourians want legislative leaders who live by the same rules they do.
So as your Speaker, I have a great deal of responsibility and therefore the
largest role in leading by example.
However, we don’t always have to lead by legislating. As elected officials our
goal shouldn’t always be to create more laws, but institute better principles, a
change of attitude, and a willingness to challenge the status quo.
As your Speaker-elect, I believe you have seen firsthand my willingness to
challenge the status quo. To accept the way things have always been done as the
way they should always be done is unacceptable. My first change, for the first
time ever, as an incoming Speaker was naming our intended Chairman more than a
month in advance. We followed that by assigning committees to all members, both
Republican and Democrat before session started. The reason was, so that before
this gavel fell each of you could be focused on your issues and getting down to
business for the people of Missouri.
Second, I took a historic step in naming 3 Democrats as chairmen to substantive
committees. I believe in the fundamental principle that a chairman should not be
chosen because of the party under which they run, but rather the quality by
which they possess.
Missouri families face difficult times. Unemployment hovers over 9% and many of
these families have been forced to tighten their belts. We will also have to
make more cuts this year and so we in the Missouri Legislature must lead by
Together, with Minority Leader Talboy, our combined leadership teams have
identified savings of more than 10% and in my own office 15%. I applaud our
Republicans as well as the Democrats in working together for that step in the
right direction. This year we will prove to the citizens of our state that
government can and will tighten their belts to do more with less.
Another example of challenging the status quo will come very soon we will be
approving the House Rules under which we operate. Within this set of Rules you
will see several distinct changes. One of which, removes partisan control of
committees and reinstitutes the power of the minority leader to appoint his
chosen members to committee. The expansion of special committees was done under
Republican control, it limited the minorities power and we are going to fix it.
In addition, working with Budget Chairman Silvey and the Appropriations Chairs
we will move to require cost containment plans from every state government
department. Departments must realize we want to work together on improving
efficiency not simply hear requests for more dollars. Further, I am ready to
grant subpoena power to the budget committee to root out more waste, fraud, and
These are just some small changes, but they show Missourians we are willing to
lead by example and committed to getting beyond the business as usual mentality
and challenge the status quo.
However, it will take more than this to get our state on the right track.
As a citizen I am convinced government should NOT be the SOLUTION to every
problem....but as legislators we should try everything in our power to make sure
government is NOT the PROBLEM either.
Today, I would like to lay out a plan called the Show Me Solutions Initiative.
The principles of this plan are built on the principles which Missourians expect
us to govern - Limited Government, Fiscal Prudence, Individual Freedom, and
Personal Responsibility, but it is also grounded in common sense. These are also
ideas that are not entirely new, but with a change in focus are completely
achievable because when many of us talk with everyday Missourians their call has
often been – Show Me Solutions.
There are 5 key component areas I see as vital to our progress.
The first is a pledge to the voters that we heard them loud and clear. We will
force government to live within its means, balance the state budget, and hold
the line on taxes, period.
Second, our top priority must be job creation. But first let me be clear.
Government does not create jobs. Entrepreneurs, small business owners, and large
employers do. Government’s role is not to run the economy, but to facilitate a
business climate where the entrepreneurial spirit can thrive.
To create a better economic environment for all job creators, businesses must
have a piece of mind that they will not be hampered with new regulations, fees,
taxes, or frivolous lawsuits. If we achieve that THEY can create new jobs.
Therefore, our plan calls for a moratorium on any new regulations, fees, or new
taxes for small businesses. However, we also want to take a significant step in
reducing and limiting unfair lawsuits that threaten the viability of good honest
businesses – and that includes Missouri’s family farms.
Third, bring more accountability to government. For instance, if someone wants a
Missouri driver’s license I think they should pass it in our official language –
and that is English. And as law enforcement personnel conduct a citizenship
verification, why don’t we cross reference those individuals with the sexual
predator list. Finally, we have to acknowledge that human trafficking occurs in
our state and that in the worst cases it involves the sexual trafficking of
children let’s send a clear message to these worst of the worst that Missouri
will not tolerate it and that no punishment is too severe.
In Missouri, I believe we can also reach for greater accountability from the
federal government. So, we will work on a federal repeal resolution to band with
other states and reject out-of-touch, out-of-control, and policies outside their
Fourth, I believe in the fundamental principle that every child deserves a world
class education. And it shouldn’t matter if you are a Caucasian student in
Perryville MO or an African American child in St. Louis or a Hispanic child in
Kansas City. I have asked my education chairman to not focus on what’s best for
administrators, to not focus on what’s best for teachers unions, but to focus on
what is best for our children’s education. Therefore, we need to pass teacher tenure reform that will reward good
teachers and provide greater local control to school districts. We also need to
strongly consider adopting policies to address social promotion. We are doing
our children an injustice by merely passing them along if they can’t meet the
Fifth, use responsibility and free market concepts to expand and increase
quality healthcare. Missourians are compassionate people and willing to give a
hand-up, but that is different than a handout. Missourians are interested in
helping someone out of a bad situation, but Missourians have no interest in
funding a bad habit.
That is why we need to pass drug testing on welfare recipients.
In Congress they believe the first 100 days are essential to establishing
progress. However, in the Show Me State I believe our standards should be
higher, and so, my last challenge as well as yours is that we shoot for success
in our first 50 days. So, that in the first 50 days of this session the House
will have passed 75% of its priorities.
Finally, in closing I want you to take this into consideration. There are
roughly 6 million people in Missouri and only 163 get the honor and privilege to
serve in the House of Representatives. We all have a unique but fleeting
opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our citizens.
A few months back my Dad told me not to waste this opportunity. He told me I had
a choice. As speaker I could hop in the boat, float downstream, not make any
waves, and let the river of history take me through the path of least
resistance. Then, at the end of the ride just look back and be glad I was
Or, I could hop out of the boat, make a few waves and charter a new course.
I'm choosing to chart a new course, and challenge each of you to chart that new
course with me.
May god bless all of you, may god bless your families and may god bless the
great state of Missouri