Considering the heavy damage the Republican-controlled state Legislature might have inflicted on Missourians, Friday’s conclusion of the legislative session could have been worse. Yes, the state’s radical new abortion law is a disaster for abortion rights. Yes, Missouri businesses unfortunately can still discriminate against gay customers. And yes, to the state’s embarrassment, it remains the sole holdout nationwide for the establishment of a prescription-drug database to battle opioid abuse.
But a cynical effort to undermine the new Clean Missouri political reform law failed, as did a premature bid to rewrite the way universities handle sexual assault cases, a revision of the Sunshine Law to allow local officials to hide their interactions with lobbyists, and a slew of other bad ideas — dodged bullets, all.
Of course, the headline from this session was Missouri shamefully taking its place among a handful of other Republican-controlled states — Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi — in passing draconian anti-abortion-rights bills designed to prompt relitigation of Roe v. Wade before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Missouri measure would ban all abortions after eight weeks, when some women don’t even know they’re pregnant. There is an exception to save the life of the mother, but none for rape or incest. This kind of extremism is the result of a GOP supermajority that’s far right of the state they represent. It’s something the voters of Missouri should remember in future elections.
The Legislature also passed a bill prohibiting counties from adopting their own environmental standards to control the damage from industrial farming — the latest reminder that the Republican ethos of local control is subservient to the party’s coddling of big business. Yet even that wasn’t enough to stop them from passing a gratuitously cruel bill banning universities from granting in-state tuition for immigrant “Dreamers,” something leading members of the business community support.
The good news is, lawmakers passed a measure ending the practice jailing people for being unable to pay earlier jail fees, a revolving-door scam exposed by the Post-Dispatch’s Tony Messenger in a Pulitzer-Prize-winning series of columns.
But most of the positive news out of this session came from what lawmakers didn’t do.
On two issues where the voters recently spoke clearly in ballot initiatives — Clean Missouri’s legislative redistricting reform and the increased minimum wage — galling attempts to legislatively override the voters failed. A school-voucher bill that would have diverted precious funding from public schools also failed, as did a dangerous proposal to allow guns to be carried in schools and day care centers.
It’s cold comfort that the silver lining of this session came mostly in the form of bad ideas that were stopped. But other than the abortion bill — which will be tied up in the courts as the national debate plays out — the appropriate response to Friday’s adjournment is an exhausted sigh of relief.
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