The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

January 6, 2013

New Missouri speaker lays out agenda on education, labor issues

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After state lawmakers finish with opening-day pomp and circumstance Wednesday for the 97th General Assembly, they will wake up to a full agenda laid out by the new speaker of the House, Tim Jones.

Jones, a Republican from the St. Louis suburb of Eureka, outlined his legislative goals during a 20-city tour in December. His “Triple E” agenda includes energy law reforms that are important to Ameren Missouri, an investor-owned utility that serves parts of eastern, central and far southeastern Missouri. Also on the agenda are economic and education changes that many Republicans have been pushing for years.

This year, however, there is one key difference.

During the 2012 elections, despite Democratic wins in statewide races, Republicans won a supermajority in the Missouri House. That gives them the potential — with a unified caucus — to pass legislation without the support of Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

For many, including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, that has renewed calls for a bill making Missouri a “right-to-work” state. Such a law is overwhelmingly opposed by Democrats, who have long been supported by labor groups, and it is not a sure thing even among Republicans. Right-to-work laws prohibit contracts that require workers to be union members.

Jones, during an interview from his campaign RV between stops on his statewide tour, said the political reality is that pursuing right-to-work legislation could damage his legislative majority. Republicans won 110 seats in the 2012 election, but after Nixon appointed Rep. Don Ruzicka, R-Mount Vernon, to the Missouri Probation and Parole Board, that majority — at least temporarily — shrank to 109, the minimum number of Republicans required to override a gubernatorial veto.

A special election will be needed to fill Ruzicka’s seat. Until then, that would mean every Republican would have to vote in favor of the bill, which Jones does not think is likely.

“Forcing every single member of my caucus to vote on an issue which many of them feel conflicted on — that’s just not going to be my leadership style,” Jones said.

Instead, he said, there are other ways to “skin the cat” and limit labor’s influence. Jones, as well as his caucus, supports legislation that would prevent labor unions from deducting dues from members’ paychecks, which he called the “ultimate goal of right-to-work.”

Republicans have long pushed these policies, and labor groups have long opposed them. Sean Soendker Nicholson, executive director of Progress Missouri — a progressive advocacy group — called the Republican proposals “political power grabs.”

“The speaker’s revelation of his ultimate goal makes it abundantly clear that paycheck deception bills and so-called right-to-work bills are all about politics, not economics,” he said. “Missourians need their elected leaders to be focused on creating jobs and investing in our future, not nonsense like this.”

Jones also supports changes to Missouri education law that a coalition of conservative Republicans and urban Democrats has backed in recent years. Jones has indicated his support for legislation that would expand teacher evaluations, restrict tenure and increase public support for charter schools.

“Our antiquated, overly bureaucratic education system is the antithesis of innovation and excellence,” Jones said in a letter announcing his proposals. “Teachers should be rewarded for their performance and encouraged to boldly engage in the technological innovations that will create the high-skilled work force of tomorrow that we so desperately need to be creating today.”

Some of those changes — particularly those having to do with tenure and charter schools — have long been opposed by school administrators. Joplin Superintendent C.J. Huff said they are “challenging” issues in the educational community, and he cautioned against jumping the gun legislatively.

“If the issue is about teacher performance — we can already terminate a tenured teacher for lack of performance,” he said. “The tenure piece is really a nonissue from our standpoint because we use the process, and it works if we do it right.”

Huff also said he fears that an expansion of charter schools in the state could be damaging to public schools. Furthermore, he said the competitive nature of charter schools would encourage them to not share their best teaching practices.

Charter schools are basically public schools that are operated like private schools. They are run by independent boards and supported by the state.

“When I was a farmer,” Huff explained, “every Sunday I’d sit shoulder to shoulder with other farmers in the area. After the sermon was over and we walked out of church, we stood around for an hour after church discussing best practices in farming and what we can do to increase yields.

“We came together to share ideas in a noncompetitive type of way,” he said, making the point that he fears charter schools could be “detrimental” to education innovation.

Committees

TIM JONES, the new speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives, is expected to officially announce committee chairmanships and committee assignments later this week.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • r073114rebuildjoplin3.jpg 30 volunteers a day would be a ‘game-changer’ for Rebuild Joplin

    Betty and Louis Wirick, both 79, say they are grateful to have survived the 2011 tornado as it tore down part of their home of 25 years on South Bird Avenue. But three years later, they are frustrated.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • Event for veterans on tap at Crowder

    For area veterans who have returned home from more than a decade at war, the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks hopes to send a simple message at an event this weekend: Welcome home.

    August 1, 2014

  • Fair to feature goats, chickens and decorated bras

    Along with the usual fair sights, sounds and smells — livestock, poultry, produce and the like — there will be something a bit unusual at the Cherokee County American Legion Free Fair this year: Decorated brassieres. And pink. Lots of pink.

    August 1, 2014

  • Damien D Doxley 051314.jpg Prison term meted out in carjacking case

    A Newton County judge assessed a defendant in a Joplin carjacking case seven years in prison Friday on a conviction on a charge of tampering with a motor vehicle.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • 080114 Older worker1_72.jpg Co-workers, friends honor nurse with 50-year career

    Wilma Massey has worked a half century in health care and, even at the age of 74, she’s the first to arrive at work each morning.

    August 1, 2014 2 Photos

  • Amendment 7 backers tout safety, new jobs; foes say special interests to benefit

    Billions of dollars are on the line when Missouri voters head to the polls on Tuesday to consider Amendment 7.
    The constitutional amendment, sent to the voters by the Legislature this year, would temporarily increase Missouri’s sales tax by three-quarters of 1 percent, raising an estimated $5.4 billion for the next decade to fund transportation projects. That includes more than $114.1 million in state funds for projects in Newton and Jasper counties, on top of additional revenue for localities that would be raised.
    After the Missouri Department of Transportation downsized in recent years, these projects are now mostly designed and built by private engineers, contractors and laborers — many of whom have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to a campaign effort to sway voters to support the measure.
    Last Monday — eight days ahead of the primary election day — supporters of the measure reported having raised more than $4.1 million for a campaign committee called Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs, which was established last fall to support the measure.
    The International Union of Operating Engineers in St. Louis and Kansas City have contributed nearly $250,000 to the effort. That total was dwarfed by the $649,398 put in by the Industry Advancement Fund Heavy Constructors. Between its Missouri and Kansas companies, APAC — a construction contracting company that specializes in transportation projects — has contributed more than $150,000.
    “The whole idea that money is flowing into the campaign, of course it is,” said Sen. John Lamping, a St. Louis Republican who is opposed to the measure. “It would be a smart business decision to do that.”
    Lamping said the money pouring into the campaign supporting Amendment 7 is indicative of the financial gain the measure bodes for contractors and laborers.  
    Lamping proposed a measure in the Legislature that would redirect one-eighth of existing sales and use tax revenue directly to transportation projects, but he said that measure was rejected by legislative leaders. The coalition “didn’t hear about it,” the outgoing senator said, “because it was my idea instead of someone else’s idea.”
    Lamping, who filibustered a similar measure in 2013, said Republicans have an ideological consistency problem on the issue. He pointed to the Legislature passing a sales tax increase only a few weeks after overriding Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of an income tax cut that will largely help businesses organized as limited liability corporations, like many of the companies that could benefit from the measure. Lamping said that the tax increase will mostly affect taxpayers who did not get a significant tax cut.
    “Who wants a tax cut in Missouri?” he said. “Businesses. (Republican leaders) wanted to make them happy and then they passed a tax cut. This is grand-scale special interest cronyism.”
    The ad campaign being funded mostly by the business interests features paramedics and construction workers claiming the measure would “fix our roads and keep Missouri families safe.”
    “We have a chance to give our highways and bridges the repairs they need,” says one ad, which is running in Joplin and statewide in the lead up to Tuesday’s vote. “We have a chance to fix what’s broken by voting yes on Amendment 7.”
    The commercial uses a lot of words to talk about the benefits of the measure, but two words in particular are noticeably absent from the commercial: “Tax increase.”  
    “The ads don’t mention any of the ballot language,” said Jewell Patek, a spokesman for Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs. “We figure Missourians will see the language when they go to the polls.”
    Patek, a former state representative who now lobbies the Legislature, said he disagreed with Lamping’s notion that Amendment 7 is all about special interest gain.
    “There’s quite a bit to gain for Missourians,” he said. “We have serious road needs. We’ll win or lose by the benefits in Amendment 7. I’m not sure I agree with Senator Lamping’s assessment.”
    If approved, Amendment 7 would prevent an increase in the state’s fuel tax, a funding boost opponents of the amendment like Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and some of the state’s social welfare groups have said would be more appropriate because it could pull in revenue from people who use the roads — like the state’s trucking industry.
    The Missouri Truckers Association’s political action committee has contributed more than $27,000 to the effort to pass the measure. Tom Crawford, president of the association, said his members support the amendment because they see the problems on the road and deal with them every day. And passage of the measure does not mean anyone will stop paying fuel tax.
    “We overpay our fair share on the fuel tax,” he said, pointing to statistics by the American Transportation Research Institute that show truckers have accounted for about 14 percent of road usage while paying for 39 percent of all taxes and fees owed by motorists. “We pay sales taxes just like everybody does on goods and products that people buy in the stores.”
    Crawford said truck companies do not pay state sales taxes on the purchase of trucks, but they do pay a federal tax. “So, we won’t be impacted on new equipment purchase, but other areas of our business will be impacted just like every other taxpayer in the state will,” he said.
    Thomas Shrout, who is helping lead the campaign against the tax hike, said that is not good enough and that Amendment 7 lets truck drivers off the hook. “Under Amendment 7, they wouldn’t have to pay any more,” he said.
    Shrout’s opposition campaign has raised just over $27,000 — less than 1 percent of the total money raised by its supporters. They are targeting their opposition at the state’s urban core by spending money on direct mail and targeted robocalls in the final week.
    “We think using the sales tax to fund road projects is poor policy for the state of Missouri,” he said. “It should be rejected.”
    Shrout said the Missouri Department of Transportation and its supporters should go back to the drawing board and consider some of the other options like campaigning for toll roads or a gas tax increase — both based on road usage.
    Representatives for APAC and the Heavy Constructors Association declined requests for comment.

    Tuesday’s election
    Amendment 7 is one of five measures voters will consider when they head to the polls on Tuesday. Statewide, local election officials reported to the Missouri secretary of state that it was their estimate that about 27 percent of the state’s 4.06 million registered voters will show up to vote, including 25 percent of registered voters in Jasper County and 30 percent in Newton County.

    August 1, 2014

  • Brownback names 3 Kansas Board of Regents members

    Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday named a former veteran Kansas House member and two attorneys to the board overseeing the state’s higher education system.

    August 1, 2014

  • Grant to fund solar energy system for PSU’s Plaster Center

    An $80,000 grant from Westar Energy will fund solar panels to provide both energy and education at the Robert W. Plaster Center, now under construction at Pittsburg State University.

    August 1, 2014

  • Survey seeks views on Joplin’s future goals

    Residents are being asked to fill out a survey on priorities for Joplin’s future. The effort was inspired by a meeting of community leaders last month. Survey forms are available at the Joplin Public Library and online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/jointjoplinareaplanningsurvey.

    July 31, 2014

  • Habitat slates volunteer work days

    In the wake of the 2011 tornado, Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity has been a partner with organizations and individuals in the construction of 86 new houses. But what’s also needed, Executive Director Scott Clayton said, are repairs to area homes.

    July 31, 2014

Must Read
Sports
Photos


Facebook
Poll

Do you plan on voting in the Aug. 5 elections being held in Missouri and Kansas?

Yes
No
     View Results
Opinion
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter