Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon generally does a good job of vetoing the most harmful bills that the General Assembly passes. And so the annual veto session often causes the GOP-controlled legislature to put its worst face forward.
When lawmakers convene on Sept. 16, Missourians will learn how far Republicans are willing to go to cripple workers’ rights to collective bargaining, further shorten the time frame for out-of-work people to receive unemployment benefits and intrude on the authority of local governments.
Those potential fights are ugly enough. But legislators may take meanness to even greater heights.
A priority of the veto session, leaders say, will be to deny Missouri A+ scholarship program funds to young immigrants who have been granted lawful presence status in the United States but who aren’t citizens.
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The irony is rich. Missouri lawmakers spend a lot of time telling citizens to “show initiative.” That’s the premise behind the effort to cut unemployment benefits. It practically became a mantra when the legislature passed a law making it harder for the poorest citizens to receive welfare benefits.
Well, if ever a group has shown initiative, it’s the DACA students, so called because they quality for President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act.
These are young people who came to the United States as children, have lived here continually since 2007, stayed in school and have clean records.
To qualify for an A+ scholarship, which helps pay tuition to community colleges and vocational schools, a student must have good grades, near perfect high school attendance and a record of community service. The DACA students have cleared that bar while learning English and often coping with poverty and the threat of deportation.
Yet lawmakers passed Senate Bill 224 solely to exclude undocumented students from A+ scholarships.
Lawmakers who want to override Nixon’s veto say the scholarship program is underfunded and unable to help a new group of students. So fund the program properly. A state can make few better investments than motivated students and a well-trained workforce. In any case, the number of DACA students who want to use the program is thought to be relatively small.
The bill’s sponsor, GOP Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick of Shell Knob, told The Star he can’t fathom “why we would reward somebody who is breaking the law.”
Fitzpatrick ignores the reality that these students had no choice when they were brought to this country. Once here, they did everything that was asked of them. They showed initiative. Surely the lawmaker can fathom that.