With the Kansas Legislature on break, Missouri picked up the slack with its newsiest and most contentious week of the session.
A late-night Senate debate produced a series of budget bills and set up a clash with Gov. Jay Nixon and probably with House members as well. The Missouri Senate is attempting new and sometime radical policy changes through the budget process, without hearings or due diligence. This precedent will spell trouble.
Something to chew on
The Missouri Senate is proposing to offer to waive fines and fees for Missourians who haven’t paid their state income taxes. Lawmakers want to use the money that would raise, estimated at $60 million, to provide dental benefits to adults on Medicaid.
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“For all the discussion about our opposition to expansion of Medicaid, we’re taking steps to improve the lives of Missourians,” said President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey.
The attention to dental care is sincerely appreciated. But tax amnesty is a flawed method to fund health care. And the Missouri General Assembly’s failure to even consider expanding Medicaid eligibility so that nearly 300,000 working adults can have access to affordable health care remains a scandal.
The Missouri Senate is joining Attorney General Chris Koster in his uphill fight against California’s egg laws.
California requires that eggs sold in the state be produced in conditions humane to hens. The most controversial part concerns the size of cages, which must be large enough for hens to stand up, turn around and spread their wings.
The restrictions are reasonable. But Koster, who is leading several other states in fighting the requirements, claims they pose an unfair burden on Missouri egg producers.
By a vote of 33-0, the Senate passed a resolution calling on California to revoke its laws.
“If California wants to impose ridiculous standards on producers within their state they are free to do so, but they cannot pass laws that dictate practices to Missouri farmers,” said Mike Kehoe, a Republican from Jefferson City.
Actually, a federal judge has ruled that they can. Koster and the other states are appealing that ruling. Kurt Schaefer, a Republican from Columbia who is seeking to replace Koster as attorney general in 2016, proclaimed it erroneous and rolled out the slippery slope argument.
“We, very easily in Missouri, could tell the state of California, ‘we’re going to set standards on how you grow almonds,’” he said.
Maybe. But what would be the point?
A no-win situation
Let’s hope the furor over Rep. Valdenia Winn’s impassioned remarks regarding in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants has cooled by the time Kansas lawmakers return from break.
The Democrat from Kansas City, Kan., sounded off in a committee hearing on a bill to revoke in-state college tuition for children who have grown up in America but whose parents are undocumented.
It is indeed frustrating to see this measure appear every year in Topeka, threatening young people who are working hard to succeed.
Winn was harsh, saying, “I want to apologize to the students and parents whose lives are being hijacked by the racist bigots who support this bill.”
Several GOP lawmakers signed a formal complaint, which a select investigatory committee is scheduled to hear on April 30. It could dismiss the complaint, or take action to censure or even expel Winn.
Winn should have made her point without implying that colleagues are racist bigots. But if inappropriate speech is grounds for censure, the select committee is going to stay awfully busy.
Just a couple of weeks ago, a lawmaker took to the House floor to compare a legal abortion procedure to medical experiments conducted by Nazi doctors during World War II. When another legislator objected, she was told lawmakers had wide latitude to express their views. That same privilege should apply to Winn.
Missouri veto score thus far:
One veto for Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. One override for the GOP-controlled legislature.
Nixon vetoed a bill that, among other things, bars former school superintendents from returning to districts where they worked to serve on school boards. The restriction stems from trouble in the St. Joseph School District.
The measure seems overreaching, and even some lawmakers who overrode the veto think so. There already is talk of rewriting that portion of the new law.
Still, a veto override this early in the session could prove ominous for the governor down the road.