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When the Missouri legislature is in session, it’s easy to focus on the negative and give in to cynicism. But before you start shuffling around the house muttering to yourself about the logistics of moving to Canada, let's take a moment and reflect on a few good things that have happened in Jeff City recently. You might even crack a smile.
Last week, a senate committee heard testimony on Sen. Kurt Schaefer’s bill to eliminate the earnings tax in Kansas City and St. Louis, which would eviscerate both cities' operating budgets. (If you're wondering why a state senator from mid-Missouri would want to interfere with local control and cripple our state's two largest metropolitan areas, look no further than Schaefer's campaign donations, which show $750k from none other than Rex Sinquefield, who has declared the repeal of the earnings tax to be among his top priorities.)
Mayor James schooled the committee on how large cities actually function, and detailed the overwhelming support for the earnings tax in both Kansas City and St. Louis. He finished with this:
While the focus this week was on restricting Missourians' voting rights through extreme Photo ID proposals, one bill sought to expand the number of eligible voters. Sen. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) filed the Missouri Restoration of Voting Rights Act, which would allow felons to vote while still being on probation or parole.
More than 60,000 Missourians currently on probation or parole, about 26.1 percent are African-American...The Senator likened the restriction to Jim Crow laws that “once systematically disenfranchised many African-Americans."
When Rep. Joe Adams, a former history teacher and mayor, spoke out on the House Floor, you could hear the proverbial pin drop as he gave a passionate plea to his colleagues to defeat the bill. Adams invoked Monday's Martin Luther King Jr holiday, and argued that extreme voter ID laws strip away King's legacy.
In his last State of the State Address, Gov. Nixon said:
"Finding good, affordable childcare is a challenge for every working family in America – and especially those with low incomes. That’s why my budget makes child care more affordable for 20,000 low-income working families, reducing their out-of-pocket costs. And this year, we are going to expand family-friendly policies like parental leave for state employees. It’s good for kids, it’s good for families – and it’s good for our state."
And guess what else? Looks like this effort will actually be bipartisan--Rep. Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) has filed a bill that will have its first hearing next week.
On Wednesday, the Missouri Department of Economic Development released updated unemployment numbers that showed the state's rate dropped to 4.4%, the lowest since July 2001. While economic recovery is a long process with many still in need, this is a good sign for where the state is moving.