February 11, 2016

Weighing in on whether to veto the transfer bill and call a special session

Critics of the bill that proposes change to Missouri’s student transfer law say it doesn’t fix anything, and want Governor Jay Nixon (D) to tell lawmakers to try again.

The bill lawmakers sent to Governor Nixon includes a provision that after three years of a district in St. Louis City or County and Jackson County being unaccredited, would allow its local tax dollars to go to a nearby private school if its students transfer there.

Opponents like Representative Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis) say that’s all the bill was about, and they want Nixon to veto it.

“I’ve heard from all of my superintendents, I’ve heard from my constituents. I don’t think there’s a superintendent in this state that supports this plan,” says Montecillo. “Those people that understand education and what it takes to improve education outcomes opposed this plan, and yet they continued to refuse to take vouchers off the table. If that’s not about agenda, then explain to me what it is about.”

Nixon has said he opposes any legislation that would let tax dollars go to private schools, but hasn’t said what he will do with this bill.

Some lawmakers say Nixon has indicated to them a veto and special session are coming

He tells reporters he knows he must act soon, with one school district bankrupt and another close to it because of the cost of student transfers.

“We’re going to expedite a review of this bill,” says Nixon. “Obviously I’ll have to make a decision on it relatively quickly because of the fiscal timeframes involved.”

Opponents of the bill want Nixon to call a special session so that a new bill can be created. He has not said whether he will.

House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) says if that happens, he wants to see more involvement from the Governor in a solution.

“If the governor vetoes this issue, then he owns it and he has to come up with a solution,” says Jones. “I will challenge him to propose and work with us, like he did in the Boeing special session. You saw that when this governor wants to, he can actually engage with the legislature, be a leader and get things done in a short period of time.”

Montecillo says it’s not up to the Governor to propose a plan.

“We have a plan,” says Montecillo. “The problem that [Republicans] have and what they dislike about that, it is a clean transfer fix. It addresses a single problem facing the state. It is void of the agenda that they want to push and promote.”
Opponents of the bill say the Governor has some leverage over what lawmakers might or might not attempt to put into a bill in a special session through the call he would issue for that session.

House Republicans and Democrats recap 2014 legislative session (VIDEOS)

Both parties in the state House assessed the regular session of the General Assembly after it wrapped up on Friday in back-to-back media conefrences.  Here is the video of those conferences (courtesy Jonathan Lorenz, Missouri House Communications).



Bill to triple abortion waiting period sent to Gov. Nixon

Missouri could become the third state in the nation to require a 72-hour wait for a woman wanting to have an abortion, under legislation that has been sent to Governor Jay Nixon (D). The bill, HB 1307, would triple the current 24-hour waiting period in Missouri.

The House voted 111-39 for the proposal, a strong enough vote to override a veto, but the Senate vote fell one short of the two-thirds majority.

Nixon has not said whether he would support the 72-hour waiting period, saying only that he has been consistent on such issues. In the past he has let other bills placing restrictions on abortion become law without his signature.

Proponents say the legislation isn’t about whether or not a woman should be allowed to have an abortion, but whether she gets all the information available and has time to consider that information.

“Lets get off the issue of whether there’s going to be an abortion or not,” argues Representative Jeanie Riddle (R-Mokane). “What we’re trying to do is get information to these women, we’re trying to give them healthy choices and we’re trying to lessen the suicide rate of women that are in turmoil.”

Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) argues 72-hours is not too long to wait before having a serious procedure.

“There is no more serious medical procedure than this,” says Barnes. “The last time we debated this bill we heard somebody get up and talk about how it took 6-months for her husband to decide whether he would get a knee surgery. A knee surgery, Mr. Speaker, and we’re talking about the ending of a human life.”

Opponents say the legislation is an attack on women’s ability to have an abortion led primarily by Republicans.

“The idea that a woman would not have taken this time already to take the time and have discussions with her doctor is insulting,” argues Representative Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis). “You give them 72-this year … you’re going to be back for another day or two next year.”

The passage of the measure in the Senate came on a deal that saw that chamber’s Democrats end a filibuster of the bill in exchange for Republicans agreeing not to bring up bills on so-called “paycheck protection” and photo-ID.

House approves ‘Pop Tart’ bill to protect kids pretending to have weapons in school

A bill has been sent to the state Senate that is meant to protect children simulating a weapon during play at school from criminal or civil penalties, fines or other punishments.

Representative Mike Kelley (R-Lamar) calls it the “Pop Tart” bill, stemming from an incident last year in a school.

“A child was eating a pop tart, and the shape of his Pop Tart happened to resemble a gun,” Kelley explains, “and that child was disciplined and suspended from school for having a pop tart that happened to be shaped like a firearm.”

The bill raised concerns among some Democrats, including Genise Montecillo (St. Louis), who challenged his contention that the legislation represented a “common sense” policy. She says it goes against other state laws.

“These are the procedures that school districts put in place as part of the Safe School Act to keep schools safe,” Montecillo told Kelly. “You’ve got a provision in here that children can have toy guns in school and there’s no punishment if they violate school policy for toy guns.”

Kelley stressed to Montecillo that the bill would allow guns only up to 2 inches in size.

“I don’t care what size it is,” she told him.

Kelley assured Representative Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) that the legislation would not take local districts’ power to set policy and make decisions about what would and would not be allowed.

“I just want to make suer that local school districts can make their own policies that will negate this,” Newman told Kelley.

“They definitely can, ma’am,” Kelly told Newman.

The proposal went to the Senate on a 110-39 vote.

House turns Common Core elimination bill into plan to develop new standard

The state House has turned a bill that would have completely scrapped in Missouri the Common Core education standard into one that will give it a chance, while developing its potential successor.

Representative Kurt Bahr (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Kurt Bahr (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The original bill filed by Representative Kurt Bahr (R-St. Charles) would have prevented the implementation of Common Core State Standards in Missouri without legislative approval. The bill was amended on the House floor to allow those standards to progress while a commission is created to create a new standard. 

Bahr says the amendments came from language the Senate is considering.

“We’re going to create the process in which we’re going to look at the standards and say, ‘How do we want to move forward for standards for the State of Missouri?'” Bahr tells Missourinet. “Are we simply going to blanketly accept Common Core standards or are we going to have Missouri standards written by Missouri teachers, Missouri parents and the stakeholders within Missouri and then change our assessments so that they are in-house?”

Some lawmakers who say they didn’t oppose Common Core did have problems with how its impact would be assessed, saying teachers might have suffered poor evaluations as a result of poor student performance while adjusting to the new standards. One of the amendments to the bill would prevent assessment test scores from the 2014-15 school year from counting toward school accountability or accreditation.

Representative Genise Montecillo (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Genise Montecillo (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“I think this sort of alleviated some of the members’ concerns,” says Representative Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis). She says with the changes approved Tuesday the bill, “was a good compromise and it doesn’t put districts in a bind that they have to dismantle what they’ve been working towards.”

The proposal would create a 14-member work group with members selected by the state’s professional teachers’ organizations, associations of state school boards and charter schools, the speaker of the House, the Senate president pro-tem, the governor, the lieutenant governor, the commissioner of higher education and the heads of state-approved baccalaureate-level teacher preparation programs.

That group will develop standards for English, language arts, math, history and government and present recommendations to the Board of Education next year. Those standards would then be implemented in the 2016-17 school year.

Bahr says during the two years before implementation, while Common Core is in place in Missouri, it will be evaluated and recommendations could include partial or full implementation of it.

The proposal would need another favorable vote to go to the Senate.