Missouri lawmakers left for home Friday after a session marked with frustration, pointless squabbles, a near-collapse and several important missed opportunities.
And a couple of solid accomplishments.
This is no small feat. Whenever Missouri lawmakers gather, the chance for mayhem grows. This year, to their credit, legislators were able to overcome their disagreements and pass a handful of important bills.
On the final day, lawmakers shamed themselves with a disgraceful debate on lowering the minimum wage. Hard-working Missourians will pay the price.
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A final verdict on the rest of the session may take some time. Gov. Eric Greitens can still veto several measures that passed both chambers; if he does so, the grade will change.
For now, though, here’s where the Missouri General Assembly earns high marks — and low.
Legislators passed a $28 billion budget and sent it to the governor. For the first time, legislators fully funded K-12 education in the state, a major accomplishment.
Greitens’ decision here is key. He could take out the extra $45 million lawmakers put in for schools, ruining the good work done for the state’s children. If he does, Missourians will know who to blame.
After weeks of indecision, the legislature fixed the Real ID problem in the session’s closing hours. Thousands of Missourians were in jeopardy of having to use passports or other federally acceptable identification to travel or visit federal installations.
Reason prevailed. If Greitens signs the bill, Missourians will be able to obtain conforming driver’s licenses and travel like almost every other American. The nation will be safer, too.
Those still worried about federal encroachment on their rights can pick up a non-compliant ID.
We also applaud lawmakers’ decision to provide $48 million to help build UMKC’s downtown arts campus. The payments will be spread out over time, rather than delivered as a lump sum. But boosters say the important campus can be built — if the governor signs the bill. Which he should.
Lawmakers tried but failed to pass a statewide prescription drug monitoring program, making it harder to address the opioid crisis ravaging many rural parts of Missouri. We urge them to try again next year: This problem will only get worse as long as Missouri remains the only state without such a program.
To no one’s surprise, the state enacted so-called right-to-work legislation designed to weaken the influence of organized labor. We think that will hurt Missouri families, but we also think labor leaders should work harder to earn the trust of their members.
The legislature passed and the governor signed looser regulations for ride-hailing services such as Uber. We want local officials to keep a close eye on the services to make sure public safety isn’t threatened.
We’re also worried about spending cuts to higher education, which bore the brunt of the state’s budget problems. Cutting funding for colleges and universities is short-sighted and will mean more costs for families trying to provide a better life for their children.
The money should be restored when the budget allows.
On the final day of the session, lawmakers took money away from thousands of low-income residents in Kansas City and St. Louis by setting a lower statewide minimum wage.
The House cut off debate on the measure just a few minutes after it debated a bill naming a state historical dog.
That should shame every member of the General Assembly and outrage everyone in Missouri. Everyone.
Legislators passed a harmful and unnecessary measure making it harder for employees to bring lawsuits for discrimination in the state. It was a terrible decision.
They also refused to include sexual orientation as a protected class under the human rights law, another bad mistake.
The legislation was part of a so-called pro-business agenda. But it will hurt businesses in the state and will deter other businesses from moving here.
And the Senate sponsor of the bill owns a company that is facing allegations of discrimination. Bad legislation on top of a conflict of interest reflects poorly on the General Assembly and the state.
Greitens should veto Senate Bill 43.
We are also deeply disappointed the legislature failed to enact meaningful ethics reform. Heck, we might have settled for symbolic ethics reform.
Missourians got nothing. Lobbyists can still ply legislators with gifts. Dark money donations can still end up in secretive corporations.
For this, Greitens shares the blame. He talked the talk but never walked the walk.
He never disclosed the source of dark money contributions to his campaign. His inaugural used secret funding. He’s got his own dark money organization that attacks Republicans.
The legislature should try again next year. All Missourians will be watching.