Back in the black-and-white days, Duane Benton was director of revenue in Missouri. While reporting a story we called the revenue office's main number in Jefferson City. It was the noon hour.
Duane Benton answered the phone. People were out to lunch, he explained, so he was catching the phones. That's what public servants do.
In today's supposedly improved world of service, Benton's gesture can be viewed as charmingly antiquated. Still, we prefer to think that a person calling a state agency should get to speak with a human being, instead of navigating through an automated voice-mail forest.
Missouri Rep. Sam Page of Creve Coeur wants to make that so. Page had filed House Bill 882; it would require state agencies to provide you the option of "speaking to a living, breathing person," Page says.
"State government must be accessible to the people it serves," Page adds. "Getting someone on the phone at a state agency should be easier than solving a Rubik's cube."