Capitol Watch: Don’t use the budget to harm good students in Missouri

04/25/2014 6:52 PM

04/25/2014 6:52 PM

Documented meanness

Missouri lawmakers are inclined to use their budget process to bully certain vulnerable populations.

A few years ago it was low-income blind people, who had to fight off an attempt to cancel their health insurance. This year, it’s young people wanting to go to college.

Not all young people. Just those whose parents brought them to the United States as children and who have remained here without legal authorization.

Many of these students can remember no other home. They have attended U.S. public schools, often proving to be outstanding students. But the Missouri House added an amendment to the budget withholding all funds from public colleges and universities if they enroll undocumented students from Missouri at in-state tuition rates.

That’s a horrible move for a multitude of reasons. It’s better for everyone to have young people of any status striving for education and upward mobility than to be languishing without options.

The budget amendment is also a gutless way to enact public policy. If legislators want to make education at Missouri colleges and universities unaffordable for undocumented students, they should hold hearings and debate the issue properly. They should have the decency to look a few of these young people in the eye and listen to their stories.

Of course, that would make it harder to pull off such an offensive and self-defeating move. Nearly 20 states, including Kansas, have pivoted in the other direction and enacted laws permitting undocumented students to attend college at in-state rates. Missouri schools currently set their own policies, such as creating special scholarships for undocumented students.

The driving force behind the amendment, GOP Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick from southwest Missouri, frames the issue as one of fairness. Undocumented students shouldn’t receive a benefit that out-of-state U.S. students aren’t entitled to, he contends.

But those students can go to school at in-state rates in their home states. Undocumented students have few if any other options for affordable tuition.

The Missouri Senate should call the House’s bluff and kill this cowardly amendment.

Impeachable nonsense

A chilly noon hour in Jefferson City this week found the House Judiciary Committee hard at work on proposals to impeach Gov. Jay Nixon.

Rep. Nick Marshall, a Parkville Republican, wants to oust Nixon because he signed an order permitting same-sex couples to file joint state tax returns.

Another GOP lawmaker, Rep. Mike Moon of Ash Grove, thinks Nixon needs to go because he took a long time to call a special election to fill a vacant seat.

Still another Republican, Rep. Rick Brattin of Harrisonville, wants Nixon out because he was too lenient toward Department of Revenue employees who shared information on gun permit holders with a federal agency.

Let’s just say that if wasting time was a removable offense, these three otherwise obscure legislators would be first out the door. Alas, there is no such provision, and so the pointless impeachment hearing will continue next week.

Fossils in the capitols

The Kansas Legislature has been off for a couple of weeks, but Gov. Sam Brownback has been busy.

He signed multiple bills he should have vetoed, including the controversial school funding bill and one that tramples over local governments on gun regulations. Another terrible idea blessed by Brownback seeks to have Kansas divorce itself from federal health care programs, including Medicare.

For scorekeeping purposes, Brownback has now signed 81 bills. He vetoed one bill, because it made documentation of lobbyist activities less transparent. And he allowed a gambling bill to become law without his signature.

We are pleased to report that Kansas has escaped the drama taking place in South Carolina, where a feud over creationism has derailed an attempt initiated by an elementary school student to name an official state fossil.

Some lawmakers insist that a bill refer to “the Columbian Mammoth, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field.” Others find that language preposterous, so South Carolina will not have an official fossil.

Kansas, on the other hand, now has not one official fossil, but two! Brownback has signed a bill designating the flying pteranodon and the sea-roaming tylosaurus as official symbols.

That one was almost too easy.

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