Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has until July 14 to decide the fate of dozens of bills passed by the General Assembly this year.
Two of those bills would be particularly harmful to the Kansas City area and he should veto them.
Attack on local control
House Bill 722 restricts cities and counties from doing two things: Setting minimum wage limits or employment provisions that exceed federal or state requirements; and regulating what type of shopping bags merchants can use.
The bill is a sign of the legislature’s willingness to please business interests. Its sponsor, Dan Shaul, a Republican from Imperial, Mo., is state director of the Missouri Grocers Association. No wonder he opposes a plastic bag ban.
But it’s not the state’s role to stop local governments from discussing and possibly adopting policies that benefit their communities.
As Kansas City Mayor Sly James and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said in a letter to the governor, “cities can serve as laboratories in experimenting with new approaches to social and economic issues, without risk to the rest of the state and without forcing the rest of the state to come along for the ride.”
The fear of the Republican-controlled legislature is that these experiments will actually succeed and be copied by other local governments.
The General Assembly has become heavy handed in recent years. Nixon should veto this latest attempt to stop cities from acting in their own best interests.
Charter school expansion
House Bill 42 was supposed to present a long-awaited fix to Missouri’s student transfer provisions, which are causing financial hardship for some struggling school districts.
But as usual, conservative lawmakers insisted on using an education bill to promote other agendas.
The bill on Nixon’s desk would allow charter schools to set up in all of St. Louis County and most of Jackson County. Currently, charter schools operate only within the Kansas City and St. Louis school district boundaries.
The bill would also enable online schools, including for-profit models, to operate in Jackson and St. Louis counties.
Public school administrators understandably fear that charter schools and virtual schools would recruit their students, taking state and local education money with them.
“There’s this belief that charter schools by default are better than public schools,” said Dale Herl, Independence School District superintendent. “There is zero evidence of that.”
Jackson County districts such as Grandview and Independence serve high numbers of low-income families and achieve good academic results. They need more state resources, not less, to continue to serve their communities well.
House Bill 42 creates new problems without adequately fixing the flawed transfer provision that drains money from unaccredited districts. It definitely deserves a veto.