Headline: Teacher tenure and failed school districts bills fall in Missouri Senate [Entered: 04/05/2012]
By Jordan Shapiro
Two of the major education issues for the 2012 legislative session failed in the Missouri Senate.
The Senate rejected an effort Tuesday, April 3, to eliminate the state teacher tenure system. A day earlier, Monday, April 2, a Senate filibuster forced the chamber to cast aside a measure that would have allowed St. Louis County schools to reject students from the unaccredited St. Louis City school system.
The tenure-elimination plan was rejected 17-15 by the Senate. Under current law, a Missouri public school teacher is given automatic job protection after five years.
“People want to have reform, and we can’t just walk away from this,” said the proposal’s sponsor, Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County.
Senate Education Committee Chairman David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, sponsored the move to shelve elimination of teacher tenure and said the process was going too fast.
“This has long-term ramifications for the future of Missouri,” Pearce said.
Cunningham said she was surprised by the vote and described it as “terribly disappointing.”
“The colleagues in the Senate put government employees ahead of students,” Cunningham said when asked about the vote.
Then on Thursday, April 5, the Senate approved a different approach. On a voice vote, they approved a provision that would increase from 5 years to 10 the number of years a teacher must be employed before obtaining job-protection tenure.
The amendment was sponsored by Senate Republican Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles.
“Moving it from five to 10 years means teachers will continue to grow and develop,” Dempsey said.
The measure, given preliminary approval by the Senate, also eliminates the “last in, first out” principle for laying off teachers when budget problems force cutbacks. Under current law, layoffs start with the least senior teacher.
One major education issue did clear the Senate. It removes the two-year waiting period for the state to take over unaccredited school districts. The measure was prompted by the accreditation loss effective Jan. 1, 2012, of the Kansas City School District.
* Get the text story on the tenure elimination rejection. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/TENURE1.HTM]
* Get the bill, SB 806. [http://www.mdn.org/cgi-bin/bills/billhttp.exe?FORM=SB&NUM•6]
* Get the roll call on tenure elimination. [ http://www.mdn.org/2012/FORMS/VOTEVIEW.HTM?ne_year 12&ne_voteˆ6 ]
* Get the text story on the 10-year tenure requirement. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/TENURE2.HTM]
Headline: As Jerry Sandusky appears in court, Missouri House passes stricter mandatory reporting laws [Entered: 04/05/2012]
By Sherman Fabes
The same day that former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky appeared in a Pennsylvania courthouse, the Missouri House of Representatives passed stricter mandatory child abuse reporting laws.
Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-St. Louis County, sponsored the provision. She currently serves on the governor’s task force for prevention of child sex abuse. She said the Penn State scandal had a direct impact on her amendment.
“In working with that task force, and because of what happened with the Penn State issues, it’s kind of made us look at what our policies and what our laws are,” Haefner said, “and we decided that we had a loophole there that needed to be fixed.”
The amendment would not allow employers who work directly with children to prohibit employees from doing a mandated report if they suspect child abuse or neglect.
If passed in the Senate, the measure will head to the governor’s desk.
* Get the bill, HB 1515. [http://www.mdn.org/cgi-bin/bills/billhttp.exe?FORM=HB&NUM15]
Headline: Missouri Senate begins budget process [Entered: 04/04/2012]
By Matthew Patane
Senators began their discussion Wednesday, April 4, on Missouri’s budget two weeks after the House of Representatives approved a 2013 budget plan.
Even though the process has just begun and the House and Senate will need to meet in conference to discuss differences between their budgets, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said he would guarantee the state will have a balanced budget.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is following a House plan to keep balanced funding for higher education, offsetting the governor’s proposed cuts. A House budget plan partially maintained this level funding by cutting a $28 million health care fund for blind Missourians.
The Senate committee and leadership have said they would not maintain these cuts and would find a way to keep level funding without them.
* Get the House budget plan. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/DATA/BUD13.HTM]
Headline: Missouri House votes to ban teens from tanning salons, then back peddles [Entered: 04/03/2012]
By Paige Hornor
The Missouri House of Representatives shelved a plan to restrict minors from using tanning salons after members took the bill further than the sponsor proposed.
The original bill would have required parental permission for a teen under the age of 18 to use commercial tanning facilities.
On Tuesday, April 3, however, the House voted to simply ban anyone under age 15 from going to a tanning salon.
Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said he supports the bill after surviving melanoma himself. He proposed an amendment that would make tanning illegal for minors younger than 15 years old. Businesses that allow the use of tanning devices for anyone younger than 15 would be fined $250 for the first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.
“The long-term harms caused by that behavior is not anywhere near the short-term gains they might benefit from going to a tanning bed,” Barnes said.
After the amendment was approved, several representatives withdrew their support and spoke against the bill.
“I supported the bill. I cannot support it any longer because of the underlying amendment. I do not believe the government has a right to come in and tell us what we are doing with our children,” said Rep. Ray Weter, R-Nixa.
On Wednesday, April 4, the House voted by voice vote to send the measure back to a House committee for further review.
* Get the bill, HB 1475 [ http://www.mdn.org/cgi-bin/bills/billhttp.exe?FORM=HB&NUM75 ]
Headline: Missouri House votes to restrict lawsuits about inmate suicides [Entered: 04/04/2012]
By Tyler Fine
The Missouri House of Representatives gave first-round approval Wednesday, April 4, to a measure that would restrict lawsuits for damages resulting from the suicide of a local jail inmate or state prisoners.
The bill would require proof of gross negligence to collect damages instead of the current standard of negligence.
The measure’s sponsor said it would reduce frivolous lawsuits. Opponents, however, argued the new standard of proof would make it harder for bereaved parents to win awards. The bill faces one more House vote before going to the Senate.
* Get the full text story. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/INMTSCD.HTM]
* Get the roll call vote.l [ http://www.mdn.org/2012/FORMS/VOTEVIEW.HTM?ne_year 12&ne_voteˆ4 ]
Headline: Members of Congress visited the state Capitol to address the future of Missouri’s military bases [Entered: 04/04/2012]
By Mark Hodges
Republican members of Missouri’s congressional delegation Vicky Hartzler, Blaine Luetkemeyer and Todd Akin visited the state Capitol on Wednesday, April 4, to discuss the future of Missouri’s military bases.
They talked about the possibility for a new round of Base Realignment and Closures and made it clear they didn’t want the process to take place. All three representatives have historically opposed the BRAC process as a whole.
But Missouri’s only Republican in the U.S. Senate, Roy Blunt, has publicly supported the idea of a new BRAC process. With Missouri consistently ranking in the top five states bringing in federal defense dollars, Blunt said it is important to take a look at where the money is going.
* Get the text story. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/MILITARY.HTM]
Headline: Missourians “bugging out” after hot temperatures bring insects out early [Entered: 04/02/2012]
By Joe Chiodo
University of Missouri researcher Wayne Bailey says the early arrival of warm weather is bringing bugs out three weeks earlier than normal.
The bugs are expected to create problems for farmers growing corn because worms could eat up to 20 percent of the crop.
Bailey also said there is already an increase in the number of mosquitoes and ticks in the state.
* Get the radio story. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/INSECTS.HTM]
Headline: Senators block proposed tax credit for sporting events [Entered: 04/03/2012]
By Jordan Shapiro
Missouri senators blocked a vote on a tax credit aimed at bringing amateur sporting events to Missouri and challenged the state’s existing tax incentives.
Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, and Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield, blocked the proposed new tax credit and said they were frustrated with Missouri’s current economic incentives.
“We have always used tax credits in the past to create jobs and stimulate the economy,” Purgason said. “We have now backslided (sic) so far that now we have to pass tax credit bills just to keep the jobs we have.”
Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County, sponsored the amateur sporting events tax credit, which was a part of the economic development package that failed in a special session last year.
“This one [tax credit] is soundly based on actually what people will spend and the revenue that is generated for this state,” Schmitt said.
The bill would award a $5 tax credit per ticket sold at an amateur sporting event. The credit would be capped at $3 million a year.
In his effort to block the new tax credit, Crowell criticized the state’s tax incentives and Gov. Jay Nixon’s jobs record.
“I would love to see any kind of studies to compare all of the press releases about jobs Jay Nixon has announced since he has become governor to the real jobs that have been created,” Crowell said.
Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said they generally do not comment on things that are said on the floor of either legislative chamber but that the state’s declining unemployment rate since Nixon took office speaks for itself.
* Get the text story. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/SPORT.HTM]
* Get the sporting events tax credit bill, SB 588 [http://www.mdn.org/cgi-bin/bills/billhttp.exe?FORM=SB&NUMX8].
* Get the economic development bill, SB 8 [http://www.mdn.org/cgi-bin/bills/billhttp.exe?FORM=SB&NUM=8&YEAR 11.S1].
Headline: Contraception debate in Missouri legislature expands to vasectomies [Entered: 04/03/2012]
By Josie Butler
In response to previous contraception legislation, several women legislators want to limit a man’s access to vasectomies by making it a felony to receive one unless there is a life-threatening condition.
Under the bill, any person who performs a vasectomy or any person permitting a vasectomy to be performed on him would be guilty of a felony. The bill also states that a vasectomy would only be performed to prevent the death of a man or prevent a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the man.
The bill was presented to the House Committee on Governmental Affairs on Monday, April 2. The committee has not taken any action on the bill.
* Get the full text story. [ http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/VASEC.HTM ]
Headline: Capitol Perspectives: White Hats [Entered: 04/05/2012]
By: Phill Brooks
This past week, Missouri lost one of its White Hats.
Jim Mulvaney was a state representative from St. Louis County who rose from a milkman to become one of the leading consumer protection advocates in Missouri and one of the state’s top utility regulators. He died Tuesday, April 3, 2012.
Mulvaney served as a state representative from St. Louis County. In the 1970s, Mulvaney chaired the Missouri House Consumer Protection Committee. There, he gained a reputation for being a tough champion of consumer issues. Despite that toughness and intensity, friends in the statehouse today talk about his gentle kindness and the humor he regularly expressed in his soft, mellow voice. One colleague said he could never remember Mulvaney being angry.
I do not remember who coined the phrase White Hats for Mulvaney and some of the other lawmakers of his time. The term came from the old Western movies in which the cowboy with the white hat came in to clean up the town.
The term White Hats was used for the wave of new legislators who swept into Missouri’s House of Representatives in 1972 from redistricting and the aftermath of Watergate and the Vietnam War.
Like the cowboys with white hats, they entered office determined to clean up government. The disappointments of Watergate and Vietnam that discouraged so many about government and politics had just the opposite effect on the White Hats. They were driven to fundamentally change government, to reform the old political systems and to make government more relevant to its citizens.
They gained allies from legislators who had been around for a few years and shared their views — such as Mulvaney, who started in the House in 1967.
Many of the features of Missouri’s government that we take for granted today came from the efforts of those White Hats in the 1970s. They include requiring disclosure of campaign contributions, requiring the government to open its meetings to citizens, enacting ethics laws, requiring public schools to serve special needs students, stopping courtroom harassment of rape victims and creating a much more active role for government in protecting consumers.
In a few short years, they pushed through a package of legislation of a scope that has been unmatched in the succeeding decades.
As a young reporter at the time, I just assumed this kind of high-intensity effort on so many major public policy issues was normal. It was only later that I began to realize how incredibly special those few years were. A couple of the White Hats with whom I’ve reminisced called this period the most exciting and rewarding of their long political careers.
Bipartisanship was a defining feature for the White Hats. In their first year, they formed the Freshman Caucus composed of both Republicans and Democrats to shake things up. They regularly worked together on legislation at a level that remains unique for the House. It was personalized by Republican Jack Buechner and Democrat Steve Vossmeyer. They were close pals who behaved like an unstoppable team.
The White Hats were a remarkably diverse group. There were those from metro areas, such as Buechner and Vossmeyer. But there also were small-town legislators such as Willow Springs auto dealer Wendell Bailey who went out of his way to portray his rural roots.
In what at the time was a male-dominated legislative process, women had a major role with the White Hats. You can argue that the emergence of women as leaders in Missouri’s legislature began with the White Hats. Prominent among them was St. Louis County’s Sue Shear who began a quarter-century of legislative service championing women’s issues, including the Equal Rights Amendment.
With their governmental inexperience, the White Hats easily could have been neutralized by the old guard veterans who had decades of experience in diverting legislative effort. And their agenda did meet stiff resistance from legislative leaders. Buechner told me the House speaker kept trying to get Democrats to quit the Freshman Caucus.
But when blocked, they just went outside the system. In 1974, they won overwhelming statewide voter approval for an initiative petition proposal that imposed disclosure requirements on campaign contributions and created today’s Ethics Commission to enforce the requirements.
In 1977, the legislative dominance of the White Hats was assured when they captured the House speakership with the election of St. Louis County Democrat Ken Rothman.
But their dominance in the legislature was short-lived. The decline of the White Hat era was marked in 1980 by the defeat of Fulton Democrat Joe Holt, a White Hat who lost the race for House speaker to a more traditional politician, Bob Griffin.
Pat Dougherty, who joined the House a few years later, stressed that the spirit of the White Hats continued with what he called the legislative children and grandchildren of the White Hats. The flame might have continued, but it no longer shone with the brightness of those early years.
Many of the White Hats went much further in their political careers. Buechner, Bailey and Hannibal’s Harold Volkmer went to Congress. Like Mulvaney, Volkmer had started in the House before the White Hat era, but he became part of their movement. As chairman of the Missouri House Judiciary Committee, Volkmer was the main author of Missouri’s Sunshine Law, pushing the Senate to pass legislation far stronger than senators desired.
House member Hal Lowenstein from Kansas City became an appeals court judge. St. Louis County’s Wayne Goode spent years in the state Senate and now sits on the governing board of the University of Missouri.
And the late Jim Mulvaney became a member and then chairman of the state’s utility-regulating Public Service Commission, where he continued his record of being a consumer protection champion.
As always, let me know (at email@example.com) if you have any comments. If you would like your comments, or a portion of them, included in a future column, let me know and be sure to include your full name in your email.
[Phill Brooks has been a Missouri statehouse reporter since 1970, making him dean of the statehouse press corps. He is the statehouse correspondent for KMOX Radio, director of MDN and a faculty member of the Missouri School of Journalism. He has covered every governor since the late Warren Hearnes.
Past columns are available at http://www.mdn.org/mpacol.]