Legislative Column for the Week of Monday, Feb. 4, 2013
Legislative Updates

JEFFERSON CITY — This week in the Missouri Senate, Sen. Jamilah Nasheed’s legislation concerning the St. Louis Public School District, Senate Bill 125, was heard before the Senate Education Committee. The measure would add incompetency as grounds for teacher dismissal, as well as cutting the waiting period between charges against the teacher and the actual termination from an entire semester to 30 days, among other provisions. The bill was not voted out of committee this week, but it is anticipated to move in the next few weeks.

As chair of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus (MLBC), Sen. Nasheed took the reins on Tuesday (2-5), calling out to stop the push for voter ID legislation. The MLBC is reaching out to stop the potential disenfranchisement of minorities, elderly, and persons with disabilities. Senate Bill (SB) 27, House Bill (HB) 48, Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 6, and House Joint Resolution (HJR) 5 are pieces of legislation that require all voters to have a state-issued photo ID.

The MLBC is urging fellow legislators not to support these proposed bills. Those who are in favor claim that the legislation was proposed to reduce voter fraud. However, Missouri currently does not have any claims of in-person voter fraud at the polls.

These bills would disenfranchise many of the 250,000 legally registered Missouri voters. Of these 250,000, it would significantly affect racial minorities, the poor, disabled, and elderly. These bills would put a poll tax back on voting, and that is unconstitutional. Members of the MLBC will do anything and everything in their power to stop these proposed bills from becoming law.

Also, the Missouri Senate sent legislation to the House this week that received unanimous approval in the Senate last year, but died on the last day of session when House leaders refused to take up the measure. Senate Bill 7, sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, removes the two-year waiting period that exists from a time a school district becomes unaccredited until the State Board of Education can intervene.  The Kansas City School District lost its accreditation Jan. 1, 2012, and current law would not allow the state to take over the district until June 2014. Senator Shalonn “Kiki” Curls, D-Kansas City, spent months last year talking to parents, teachers, school administrators and other stakeholders to find a solution to the school district’s loss of accreditation.

“If we can get this bill to the governor in the next few weeks, the State Board of Education could begin holding public hearings on the district’s accreditation status this summer instead of next year,” Sen. Curls said. “The sooner we can get together as a community to begin the work of regaining accreditation, the better it will be for our students. The most important aspect to me is our student academic achievement.”

Members of the Kansas City delegation all spoke in favor of SB 7 before the measure was given first-round approval Tuesday night. Senator Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, who previously worked as a social studies teacher in the district, said the bill did not represent an indictment of the Kansas City School Board.

“The school board in Kansas City is made up of good and decent, caring people who’ve done their best to try to take a very difficult situation and make the best of it,” Sen. Holsman said. “Unfortunately, the district has arrived at the time that state intervention is necessary.”

Senate Bill 7 was third read and finally passed Thursday (2-7), sending the measure to the House.