Putting the hammer down might mean something to truckers. But it means something entirely different to the presiding officer of the state senate. And when Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, the President of the Senate, vigorously gaveled the Missouri Senate to order earlier this week, the head of the gavel flew off and almost conked Senate staff member Julie Bochat.
That would have hurt because that sucker was heavy. It was pretty old and chipped from years of calling the chamber to order, maintaining some dignity during debate, and signaling recesses and adjournments. But the weight of authority that it carried was quite real.
To the rescue has quickly come Joplin resident Tom Rhoads, whose son Mark prowls the halls and corridors of power at the Capitol as a lobbyist. Rhoads, a woodworker, has crafted a large new gavel out of native Missouri cherry wood and has donated it to the Senate. Kinder gave the new symbol of authority some authoritative pounds in yesterday’s session.
Senate President pro Tem Charlie Shields drew up a special resolution of thanks, noting, "a proper gavel is integral for decorum and civil debate consistent with the dignity of the Missouri Senate." But the resolution also said Rhoads "in no way warrants the safely of this gavel nor that its use will improve decorum and civil exchange…."
During discussion of the resolution, Shields revealed that Senator Matt Bartle had actually broken the gavel earlier but had reattached the head of it without telling anyone what he had done.
You can hear the first raps of the new gavel along with related commends from Kinder and Shields in the attached soundbite.