The Joplin Globe, Sept. 13
Worst of the bad decisions:
The Missouri General Assembly wants guns in the hands of teachers badly — bad enough to override a veto from Gov. Jay Nixon.
We thought it was a good idea when Nixon vetoed the measure that would allow specifically trained teachers and administrators to bring concealed weapons into classrooms. But that didn't matter to some legislators who believe that an armed teacher can successfully stop a school shooting.
If the Legislature wants guns in schools, it's fair to detail the lessons this bill teaches Missouri children:
— Your opinion doesn't matter. Parents didn't want more guns in schools, and neither did educators. Yet, lawmakers fought bitterly hard for something those closest to schools didn't want.
— Proper training doesn't matter. The lawmakers who overrode the veto believe the special training required in the bill is equivalent to the training our police officers receive in order to handle an active shooter at a school. That's unrealistic and insulting to Missouri's law enforcement officers.
— It's OK to be hypocritical. Earlier the Legislature backed a version of this bill that would have nullified federal gun control laws, and made it a crime for federal agents to enforce those laws. The thinking was that the smaller governmental agencies know better, and can make their own decision. But this bill has a power-grab for the state: Any other local laws banning open carrying of weapons are also nullified.
— College students carrying guns on campus are just fine. The measure lowered the age to obtain a concealed weapon permit from 21 to 19. As if parents didn't have enough to worry about with their children's teachers packing heat. Now, when those kids go to college, they could be surrounded by guns in the hands of fellow students.
— Preventing accidents is a waste of effort. We still believe that the prevention of shootings will be outnumbered by the amount of accidents in classrooms. A Google news search brings up a nauseating number of exactly these types of accidents.
Missouri's Legislature is on a gun-rights expansion spree. They aren't fighting against gun control — they are on a march to increase gun expansion at a chilling pace, despite the lack of demand from constituents.
Teachers want to teach, not tote guns to school. If the Legislature really wants to make schools safer, provide funding for schools to hire a trained security officer.
The Kansas City Star, Sept. 12
Nixon, women and public safety big losers in veto session:
The Missouri General Assembly's veto session ended badly for women, for public safety and for Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.
Republican leaders in the Senate employed a rarely used parliamentary tactic to shut down debate and force a successful override vote on Nixon's veto of an onerous bill that will make women wait 72 hours from the time they consult a doctor until they can obtain an abortion. The law makes no exception for victims of rape and incest. It is heartless and punitive.
While limiting the ability of women to obtain legal abortions, the heavily Republican legislature irresponsibly expanded gun access. Lawmakers overrode Nixon's veto of a bill that allows people with concealed carry permits to display those weapons openly.
Leaders in Kansas City and St. Louis had asked legislators to sustain the veto, correctly arguing that guns are too prevalent in the state's urban areas as it is. The legislature's override reveals its willful disconnect with Missouri's two largest cities.
The gun bill also lowers the age for obtaining a concealed carry permit from 21 to 19, and enables school districts to designate teachers and staffers to be armed "protection officers." Neither move is good for public safety.
Another regrettable override will allow tobacco companies to sell electronic cigarettes without the higher taxes and regulations attached to nicotine products. Backers had used a sham argument about the urgency of banning sales of e-cigarettes to minors, which is included in the legislation. But the federal government is getting ready to do that anyway. The purpose of this new law is to give tobacco companies a free pass.
All told, the legislature overrode 57 vetoes, the most in Missouri's history. But things could have been worse.
Nixon prevailed on most of his vetoes of the "Friday favors," bills passed in the last day of the regular session giving millions of dollars of tax breaks to a range of groups. They were reckless and would have resulted in a permanent drain on state revenues.
In one show of good sense, an attempt to resurrect an agricultural bill that included a serious threat to the state's deer population failed by one vote.
And the House showed no interest in reconsidering an education bill that was intended to fix the problematic transfer law but created new problems.
Still, the legislature bloodied Nixon by overriding scores of his line-item budget vetoes, with Democrats joining Republicans in the insurgency.
The governor had criticized the legislature's budget for spending too much, positioning himself as the fiscal conservative in the room. Lawmakers turned the tables, blasting Nixon for cutting money from social service programs while leaving his own travel and office expenses intact.
For Republicans to portray themselves as champions of children and the poor is outrageous, given their insistence on giving money away to special interests. But Nixon had placed himself in in perilous spot.
The governor's rift with members of his own party was on full display. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a Democratic senator, ripped Nixon on the Senate floor for his handling of the trouble in Ferguson, Missouri "You are a coward, governor, to let the state of emergency for black people go on," she said. "You've done nothing for black people."
No one spoke up publicly in Nixon's defense.
Nixon has done little to help elect Democrats to the legislature or cultivate relationships with lawmakers of either party, so some of his problems are of his own making. But without someone putting the brakes on a legislature shamelessly beholden to special interests, Missouri is in deep trouble.
St. Joseph News-Press, Sept. 13
On second thought, just send it back:
We have a new idea for what to do with Buchanan County's 36,000-pound, 11-foot-tall armored vehicle acquired this spring as U.S. government military surplus: Send it back.
No, seriously, make the calls, complete the paperwork and drive this thing to wherever the government wants it dropped off. Back to Texas, where we took delivery, if need be.
Two positives will come from this:
First, taxpayers will be assured there will be no costs associated with maintaining this used chunk of metal well into the future — no gas or oil, no new tires or paint jobs, no upgrades that someone might propose, no specialized training occupying officers' time as they learn how to maneuver this thing and prepare for its deployment.
Second, the community will take a step back from the militarization of local law enforcement. Instead, officers serving the city and county will have to make do with just one heavily armored vehicle — one already paid for with taxpayer Capital Improvements Program dollars and assigned to the St. Joseph Police Department.
The Buchanan County Special Response Team and the police work together already, and surely can work together on this to make the city's vehicle available when the need arises outside the city limits.
It has been explained the surplus "MRAP" — Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle — could be useful in moving law enforcement officers safely into position when confronting a threat in this jurisdiction. It's a decommissioned 2010 model, some 8½ feet wide and 24 feet long, that originally cost the government more than $700,000 and was designed to protect troops in desert warfare.
But you have to wonder, as those including Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill are wondering, what business does the military have in casting off expensive four-year-old equipment? And what needs does law enforcement truly have that would require movement of an armed force into position against local citizens?
We suspect the needs have been greatly exaggerated to justify this acquisition. It's time to reverse this decision.
Jefferson City News Tribune, Sept. 15
Retreat from ill-conceived amendment:
Although backers of Amendment 3 have abandoned active campaigning, the proposal remains dangerously positioned on the November ballot.
Among its provisions, the proposed amendment to the state constitution would tie teacher evaluations to statewide standards that include student performance.
Supporters of the amendment — including Rex Sinquefield, a wealthy political activist — said polling indicates a lack of support for the measure.
We are proponents of quality teaching and the need for basic education, but we are not convinced the amendment advances those goals.
As we have said previously in this forum, education includes two components — teaching and learning. Students may learn from a variety of sources — experience, books, teachers — but only if they are receptive.
Unlike other jobs that produce a product or service, students are people with different abilities, competencies and learning styles.
The best teachers adapt their instruction to reach the greatest number of students.
We fear a statewide standard may not acknowledge and reward that asset and, worse, might discourage teachers from reaching out to the spectrum of students.
In the Saturday and Sunday "Your Opinion" forums, two teachers expressed opinions based on their experiences.
David Ganey, a former Teacher of the Year in the Jefferson City School District, wrote: "Rather than teaching students to be problem solvers and critical thinkers, this poorly conceived amendment will require us to instruct all students to think alike."
And Marcia Ramatowski, who retired after 31 years as an educator, wrote: "Teachers will only have time to teach the material from the state-approved tests. There will be no critical thinking taught, no individualization given, no teachable moments to expand upon because education will now be 'one size fits all.'"
The retreat from active campaigning for this ill-conceived amendment is encouraging. But, because it remains on the November ballot, its potential danger has not been eliminated.