The Buzz

Missouri lawmakers debate ‘stand your ground,’ state budget and sex education

The gun debate in Missouri is about to heat up, as Republicans this week begin their push to implement a “stand-your-ground” law. Meanwhile, we’ll learn a lot about the fate of the University of Missouri’s budget, and whether lawmakers plan to punish the school over a year of turmoil on its flagship Columbia campus.

Here are five things we’re watching this week:

STAND YOUR GROUND

A “stand-your-ground” law says that a person may use deadly force in self-defense without the duty to retreat when faced with a reasonable perceived threat. The idea has been controversial for years, reaching its apex in 2012 when George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida, fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.

Zimmerman said he shot and killed Martin because he feared great bodily harm or death, and he was ultimately acquitted by a jury.

The Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee will hearing SB1037, which would enact a “stand-your-ground” law in Missouri, at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday.  

BUDGET

The House Budget Committee will begin to put its finishing touches on the state’s $27.1 billion budget starting Tuesday. The item getting the most attention is the University of Missouri’s budget, which would take an $8 million cut under a proposal floated last week by Budget Chairman Tom Flanigan.

The cut was partially directed at Melissa Click, the communications professor caught on video pushing a student journalist and calling for “some muscle” to remove him from a protest site on campus. The Board of Curators voted to fire Click last week, leading some Republicans to publicly call for the budget cuts to be rescinded.

The House budget plan also currently puts $23 million of additional funding into K-12 education, far less than the $85 million requested by Gov. Jay Nixon.

The budget committee will debate and approve each of the budget bills, which would then go to the full House for approval. Once complete, the Senate Appropriations Committee will take over.

SEX ED

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a University City Democrat, wants sex education in public schools to be based on medically-factual information that has been demonstrated to influence healthy behavior and be age appropriate.

Chappelle-Nadal’s bill, SB672, would repeal a state law requiring course materials and instruction present abstinence as the preferred choice in relation to all sexual activity for unmarried students. Instead, course materials and instruction would present abstinence as the preferred choice in relation to all sexual activity as the only sure way to avoid pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.

The bill also repeals the prohibition on school districts and charter schools from providing abortion services or permitting a person or entity that is a provider of abortion services from offering, sponsoring, or furnishing course materials or instruction relating to human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases.

Chappelle-Nadal’s bill stands no chance of passing in the Republican-dominated Missouri General Assembly. But the Senate Education Committee will discuss it Wednesday at 3 p.m.

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION

A handful of bills being heard this week in the House and Senate would add Missouri to the list of states requesting a constitutional convention.

The Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee will hear three constitutional convention bills Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. The House General Laws Committee will hear one of its own Monday evening.

Thirty-four states would have to agree to the same language to call the convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which must then be ratified by three-fourths of the states. Alabama, Alaska, Georgia and Florida have passed calls for a convention thus far.

The Senate and House bills call for amendments to the U.S. Constitution mandating a balanced budget and implementing term limits for Congress.

UBER

The Missouri House this week could debate a bill prohibiting local governments from imposing any regulations on taxi cab companies and vehicle-for-hire businesses like Uber and Lyft.

The bill, HB2330, was originally focused solely on companies like Uber and Lyft. But it was amended in committee to include taxis as well, with lawmakers contending that since they provide the same service they should be regulated the same way.

The looser regulations would only require companies apply for a permit from the state. They would then be responsible for performing background checks on drivers, maintaining proper insurance and ensuring each driver has a clean driving record.

Proponents say statewide standards will allow companies to operate and expand throughout Missouri. Critics say by pre-empting local regulations, lawmakers are turning public safety over to private companies.

If approved by the House, the bill would go to the Missouri Senate.

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