Turbulence ahead for unions and governors
The Kansas City Star
Takeoffs and landings
For Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, the week had its ups and downs.
The Democratic governor won back some disenchanted members of his own party by stepping out with bold proposals in his budget and State of the State address Monday. Calls to expand Medicaid limits and cap campaign contributions were well received.
Nixon had little opportunity to bask in the glow of his big moment, however.
By Wednesday, it was clear the General Assembly wasn’t about to let the matter of his administration’s purchase of a $5.6 million plane for the Missouri Highway Patrol rest. The House budget committee grilled Patrol Superintendent Col. Ronald Replogle about the purchase. More plane hearings apparently are, well, on the runway.
Perhaps inevitably, Nixon’s strong show of support for caps on campaign donations prompted a report by The Associated Press noting that the governor received a $10,000 contribution on Monday, the same day he declared that large donations eroded the public’s trust in government.
The contribution came from World Wide Technology Inc. of St. Louis, which has a state contract up for renewal on Feb. 28.
The report cheered Republican lawmakers, who had been muttering all week about Nixon’s campaign fund, which is flush with donations that would be banned under any sensible campaign financing restriction.
We agree that Nixon’s well-stocked war chest does dim the luster of his shining stand. But calling forcefully for a lid on political donations is still the right thing to do.
And let’s be honest. Does anybody really expect Nixon to turn down large donations as long as his political opposition can accept unlimited amounts?
Both states’ legislatures are moving at a fast clip.
The Missouri Senate, which seemed frozen for most of the last two sessions, sailed through debate on a bill to offer up to $3 million a year in tax credits for major sports events. Supporters made a persuasive case that revenue from the events exceeds the expense. The bill, if it passes muster with the House and Nixon, would help Kansas City maintain its claim as a college tournament destination.
In Topeka, legislation is moving so quickly that Kansas House and Senate leaders predicted adjournment would take place about a month earlier than last year.
Unfortunately, the Legislature’s work has a methodically ruthless quality. In short order this week, the House passed a controversial and unnecessary bill barring public sector unions from withdrawing contributions for political activities from members’ paychecks, even though the donations were voluntary. The intent is to weaken unions by making it more difficult for them to collect money.
The Senate, meanwhile, sailed through a debate on a bill that would fundamentally weaken Kansas courts by allowing politicians to select the judges.
Neither measure is final yet, but leaders seem intent on passing destructive legislation that could have a major, long-term impact on Kansas as rapidly as possible.
Not so elementary
In firearms developments this week, a Missouri Senate committee took no action on a bill that would require all public schools in Missouri, including charter schools, to introduce students in the first grade to a gun safety curriculum, preferably the one designed by the National Rifle Association.
A roomful of senators and others got to watch a video of a cartoon bird, the NRA’s “Eddie Eagle,” intervening when a child stumbled upon a gun. By the end of the hearing, most of the audience could recite Eddie’s instructions by heart: “Stop. Don’t touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult.”
Controversy surrounding the NRA, and an estimated $16 million price tag for teacher training, might keep the bill from gaining much traction, but one never knows.
In Kansas, Republican House members introduced the “Second Amendment Protection Act.”
It states that “any act, law, treaty, order or regulation of the government of the United States which violates the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is null, void and unenforceable in the state of Kansas.”
Unfortunately for the legislators, they won’t decide whether a law “violates the Second Amendment.” That would be up to the courts.