EDITORIAL: Some wins come out of legislative session in Jefferson City

·3 min read

May 16—The fact that initiative petition meddling didn't cross the legislative finish line was a win for all Missourians.

That includes Republican lawmakers.

Although these lawmakers advocated for a higher threshold than the simple majority now needed to pass a constitutional amendment — including a proposal that would have raised the bar to 57% approval from voters — they have benefitted from this mechanism in the past.

In 1980, the Missouri Constitution was amended to include tax, revenue and spending limits and refunds to taxpayers if a threshold is exceeded. Mel Hancock used the initiative petition process to launch the amendment that bears his name. It passed with 55% of the voters, but wouldn't have passed under the proposed changes.

Something else for lawmakers to consider: The right to amend the state constitution belongs to the people of Missouri, not Jefferson City, and should be as easy as the people choose to make it. They have said for 115 years that a simple majority of 50% works for them. History is on their side.

We're confident voters won't support any plans to raise the threshhold or require some supermajority of rural areas in order to amend the Constitution.

While political grandstanding and inflexibility shut down the Missouri Senate as the session came to an end, there were some things we liked coming out of Jefferson City this year.

Funding was provided to widen Interstate 70 across Missouri each way to three lanes. Included in that was funding for a study in preparation for doing the same on Interstate 44. It may look on the surface like they got the money and we got the study, but improving I-70 boosts Missouri's importance as a transportation hub in the center of the country. That can only be good for Joplin. It also makes it harder to oppose I-44 improvements in the future, meaning it makes it more likely our time will come.

We also like the fact that lawmakers extended postpartum Medicaid coverage in the state from 60 days to 12 months. Gov. Mike Parson has promised to sign it.

Missouri had the 12th-highest maternal mortality in the nation from 2018 to 2020, and there are several postpartum illnesses that may not show up in that 60-day window, including postpartum depression and heart issues. Previous testimony before lawmakers estimated 4,600 women a year would be helped by the bill.

The Missouri Senate also restored funding for libraries, after House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, cut $4.5 million from state library funding. Smith had said that the state should not be subsidizing a lawsuit that has been filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two groups — the Missouri Association of School Librarians and the Missouri Library Association — challenging a state law. But the ACLU is not charging for its legal representation. A check around the horn by Globe reporters this spring found the loss would be profound for our area. Joplin Public Library director Jeana Gockley told us they would have lost $35,000 in state aid; the Webb City Public Library could have lost $10,000 in state funds.