Sometimes a legislative session is noteworthy because of bills that were sent to the governor that improve the lives of Missouri citizens or make our state a better place to live and work. Sometimes a legislative session is noteworthy because of what did NOT pass, and I think the 2012 session falls into the latter category.
When the session got underway in January, we were told making Missouri a “right-to-work” state and eliminating the prevailing wage laws were key to creating jobs and improving the state’s economy. The truth is that both proposals would result in lower wages for Missouri workers, which would do nothing to boost the state economy since workers would have less to spend and the state would collect less tax revenue. Fortunately, we were able to prevent both measures from coming to a vote.
We were also told by Senate majority leaders that the main focus of the session would be jobs, jobs, jobs. We did not pass or even debate a single bill that could reasonably be called a jobs bill.
Earlier this session, I protections for working men and women in Missouri and removed critical protections for whistleblowers who report wrongdoing at their place of employment. Although the measure ultimately passed, the governor had our backs and vetoed the measure.
We also had issues with a workers’ compensation bill that made it to the governor, but he vetoed that measure as well. The version we sent back to the governor simply prohibits an employee from suing a co-worker who is injured by an honest accident while on the job.
Some bills sent to the governor that actually do some good for our citizens include a measure to direct $30 million in casino boarding fees to a trust fund for veterans’ homes. We must take care of the men and women who have proudly served our country, and I was happy to see this issue finally come to a resolution.
Lawmakers passed a bill that allows the St. Louis Board of Aldermen and the county councils in St. Louis and St. Charles County to put a small sales tax increase on the ballot to fund improvements to the Gateway Arch grounds and to local parks.
Thousands of tourists visit the Arch each year and spend money at our local restaurants, bars and hotels. It is prudent that we invest money to maintain and improve the grounds at one of the nation’s most recognizable landmarks. The General Assembly also sent a bill to the governor allowing cell phone users to add their names to the state’s no-call list that already applies to landlines.
Despite our best efforts, some bad legislation made it through the General Assembly, including a bill allowing the proliferation of digital billboards along our interstates and highways. Digital billboards are a major distraction to drivers, and distracted driving is the No. 1 cause of accidents. While I believe this will be detrimental to public safety, it just shows how much influence the billboard industry has in the legislature.
We also approved a bill allowing for the expansion of charter schools in unaccredited and provisionally accredited school districts. I spoke against this bill because I sincerely believe we should be doing everything in our power to improve our public schools rather than creating new alternative schools. The recent failure of the Imagine Charter Schools in St. Louis left thousands of students scrambling to find new schools, illustrating my concerns with charter schools.
We also sent a proposed constitutional amendment to the voters to change Missouri’s non-partisan court plan. Our system of nominating and selecting judges was created in 1940 to counter the death grip Kansas City political boss Tom Pendergast had on our state’s judiciary. Our non-partisan court plan has been adopted by more than 30 states and is considered a model for the nation. Unfortunately, the proposed constitutional amendment going before voters would inject politics back into the judicial selection process.
Typically, not much of consequence makes it through the Missouri General Assembly in an election year. This was a typical year.