Don’t tread on me
State legislatures are often slow to recognize the contradictions they put forth, even if they are as obvious as the faces on Mount Rushmore.
Consider Kansas. Last session the Legislature was the scene of endless bluster about the need to guard against the heavy-handed federal government and the possibility that it might require something sensible like universal background checks on firearm purchases.
The Legislature passed and Gov. Sam Brownback signed a law declaring Kansas exempt from federal gun regulations. It’s blatantly unconstitutional, but nevertheless on the books.
This year, the Legislature has moved seamlessly from defiance to tyranny. Lawmakers are considering bills that would ban cities and counties in the state from regulating gun use, including openly carrying firearms.
Local governments wouldn’t even be able to ban the carrying of knives in public buildings.
So, Washington shall not tread on Kansas, but Topeka has no problem stomping on the city councils and county commissions that know best what’s good for their communities. Only a legislature blinded by loyalty to the gun lobby would not see the hypocrisy.
The Missouri General Assembly has embarked on its own attack on local control.
For the second year, key lawmakers are pushing legislation that would prevent city and county governments from regulating how many cellphone towers can be placed in their communities, and where they would be built.
Bills to that effect sped though House and Senate committee this week and appear to have the blessing of top Republican leaders.
Similar legislation is being pushed in a number of states by AT&T and other telecommunications companies and the American Legislative Exchange Council, a pro-business group.
Missouri needs a robust technological infrastructure. But cellphone towers are intrusive, and local officials and property owners absolutely should have a say in where they are located.
Officials from Kansas City, Blue Springs and Gladstone joined colleagues from around the state in opposing the legislation. Measures that are backed by deep-pocketed business groups usually sail in the Missouri legislature, so local communities are going to have to make a lot of noise to be heard.
Lawmakers in Jefferson City talk a lot about preserving freedoms, but apparently some freedoms are more valuable than others.
This week, Republican Sen. Brian Nieves of Franklin County — chairman of the Senate General Laws Committee — banned news organizations and members of the public from videotaping testimony and a vote on a bill. A reporter from a Columbia-based TV station was told to remove his camera. Earlier, Nieves had declared that news cameras on tripods would no longer be permitted at his hearings.
The testimony that Nieves didn’t want recorded was on a bill that, á la Kansas, would declare Missouri exempt from some federal gun laws. In the mistaken view of Nieves and some of his colleagues, such action is necessary to preserve the Second Amendment rights of Missourians.
Too bad he isn’t as concerned about upholding the First Amendment.
Press access shouldn’t even be an issue in Jefferson City or Topeka. Both capitols have the capacity to stream committee hearings on the states’ official websites. They should take advantage of it.
Kansas Rep. Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Republican, is sponsoring a bill that would require live video and audio of all committee hearings and House and Senate sessions. That is legislation worth supporting and copying.
Give me five
In Missouri, no legislative session would be complete without a bill to designate something or other as the official state whatever.
This year, Democratic Rep. Courtney Allen Curtis of Berkeley is sponsoring a bill to make the “high-five” the official state greeting.
Better than air kisses, we suppose. But how about the wave and thumbs-up sign? Let the lobbying begin.