Under the Dome – April 5

Under the Dome graphic with Missouri State Capitol Dome in background

Welcome back to Under the Dome, your weekly update on the goings-on of the Missouri state legislature.

Voters get final say as politicians seem bent on representing everyone but them

Remember that early viral video of the kid who had just received anesthesia at the dentist who – drugged up and confused — asked from the backseat of his parents’ car, “Is this real life?”

This week felt like that in Jefferson City, from an ethics investigation that continues to drag on for the House’s top leader to attempts to take money from public schools with unpopular vouchers to lawmakers’ refusal to help those injured in Kansas City’s Super Bowl parade.

David After Dentist screenshot via YouTube.

Sadly, the answer is yes. Yes, this is real life.

Grown adults who theoretically got into politics because they care about their communities and state voted this week to return so-called ballot candy to a joint resolution that dismantles majority rule and makes it harder for ordinary Missourians to keep politicians in check.

Why the candy? Because these politicians know the only way voters will give up their rights is if they are tricked. In this case, voters could be asked whether one must be a U.S. citizen to vote in Missouri AND whether foreign entities should be forbidden from funding initiative petitions – both already required and forbidden, respectively, in the state.

The measure will now go to the full House for debate before it heads back to the Senate.

Budget fight looms as help for Missourians is bleak

Meanwhile, elected officials are rushing to reach agreement on the state’s budget, which is shaping up to be even more draconian than the funding plan originally announced by Gov. Mike Parson, with reduced funding for teacher pay supplements and caps on how much providers can pay personal care aides who help people with disabilities.

Rep. Peter Merideth of St. Louis speaks after passage of the budget, shares how Missourians will face even fewer services. Photo by Tim Bommel / Missouri House Communications.

As reported in the Missouri Independent, the budget approved Thursday by the House is $1.9 billion less in total spending than Parson’s proposed plan. Much of that reduction is in the Medicaid program and other services provided by the departments of Mental Health, Health and Senior Services and Social Services.

Prioritizing pesticide over people

If politicians aren’t focused on improving teacher pay or paying for personal care for people with disabilities, what are they doing?

Republican lawmaker Justin Brown has put the state on the map as one of three in the country considering bills to shield pesticide makers from lawsuits. Roundup and its parent company Bayer have shelled out billions of dollars to defend its product. Thousands of people nationwide have sued claiming the pesticide’s active ingredient glyphosate caused non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

According to an investigation by KSDK in St. Louis, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment said the proposed legislation shows how companies like Bayer do not want to pay the cost of harming people.

Voters reject far-right school board candidates campaigning against DEI and “woke” agendas across Missouri

There is a somewhat happy ending to this edition of Under the Dome. And here it is: Despite these extreme politicians who seem hell bent on plowing over their constituents, voters ultimately get a say and they did in spades during Tuesday’s municipal elections.

Voters defeated conservative candidates across the St. Louis region and in Columbia Tuesday in a sweeping rebuke of right-wing efforts to gain control of local school boards.

As reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, none of the 13 candidates endorsed by right-wing radio talk show host Marc Cox won their races after campaigning against what he called a “woke agenda” in schools.

Supporters celebrate victories in the St. Louis region school board races. Photo by Laurie Skrivan / St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

And in Columbia, John Potter, who also ran unsuccessfully last year, was defeated by two more progressive candidates for school board. As reported in the Columbia Missourian, Potter campaigned on bringing a conservative voice to the board. He focused primarily on addressing students’ behavioral issues, implementing concealed carry training for district staff and advocating for school choice policies.

So yes, David, this is real life. But no, it’s not going to be like this forever.