The Missouri and Kansas legislatures are giving citizens plenty of reasons to be disgusted and angry.
They waste time and taxpayer dollars taking direction from outside groups. (Think right to work in Missouri and religious freedom in Kansas.) They pass legislation that is destined to embroil their states in costly and unnecessary legal battles. (Think gun regulation nullification bills.) Members too often seem more interested in causes than in public service.
When Jon Stewart of the Daily Show features Kansas and Missouri (along with Arizona) on a segment referring to state legislatures as meth labs of democracy, you know your capitols have become ridiculous.
The blame lies with legislative leaders. They cant stop individual lawmakers from filing off-the-wall bills, but they can prevent the measures from being heard in committee. They can choose their committee leaders more carefully. And they can be more focused in setting agendas.
Example: In Missouri, to their credit, lawmakers have put in hours of hard work on a bill modernizing the states criminal code. But the bill is more than 1,000 pages long, and the Senate floor leader says he isnt sure members will have time to get through it.
Perhaps thats because theyre distracted by matters such as gun nullification and protecting Missouri from Agenda 21, a United Nations resolution passed two decades ago.
Dont copy Kansas
Of the two legislatures, Kansas is the more rudderless. About the most productive bill in the works would add cell phones to the states no-call law for solicitors. Good ideas are vastly outnumbered by bills that are goofy and/or just plain bad, like a measure to clarify how hard a child could be spanked.
Democratic Rep. Paul Davis, the House minority leader and a candidate for governor, had a point Friday when he said the body should plan to wrap up in 70 days rather than the allotted 90 in order to save money and avoid further irresponsible legislation.
Missouri lawmakers actually are taking up significant legislation, which can be good or not so good.
On the plus side, a bill that would lower the cost of oral chemotherapy is on the move. The Senate is working on a bill to lessen the financial damage of student transfers out of unaccredited districts. Rep. Noel Torpey, a Republican from Independence, rolled out a plan this week to expand Medicaid eligibility, with a healthy personal-responsibility component.
Unfortunately, one fast-moving bill would strip local governments of the means to regulate where unsightly cell towers are located in their communities.
And, ominously, the House passed two bills this week that call for Kansas-style income-tax cuts. One is estimated to cost the state treasury up to $347 million a year, and the other would cost $703 million annually by 2021. Missouri is already a low-tax state; its most pressing needs are more funding for schools, roads and services. It should be clear by now that Kansas isnt the place to emulate for a lot of reasons.
The last laugh
Missouri Rep. Mike Lair is either brave or foolhardy.
The Republican from Chillicothe, a retired school teacher who sits on the education funding committee, slipped an $8 appropriation into next years budget and proposed that it be used to provide tin-foil hats to deflect mind reading by drones and black helicopters.
Lair was making fun of opponents of the Common Core curriculum, some of whom see the uniform learning standards as a form of government mind control.
Eight dollars wont be enough, though. Common Core opponents packed the capitol this week in a bid to get rid of the standards in Missouri. Opposition to the Common Core is growing nationwide, and Democrats are joining conservative Republicans in finding reasons to dislike it.
By the end of the week, lawmakers who oppose the Common Core were proudly sporting foil lapels. And Lairs desk in the House chamber gleamed in silver covered top to bottom in aluminum foil.