Mis-Representative trying to reverse Prop. B

Sunday, April 22, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:39 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
Kennedy is a professor emeritus at the MU School of Journalism.

Rep. Shannon Cooper has a different interpretation of the term “represent” than I do. I can’t imagine that the good people of western Missouri sent him to Jeff City to undo the expressed will of the voters, but that’s his intention.

So far, his effort to gut Proposition B hasn’t generated the public outcry it deserves. You remember Prop. B. That was the increase in the minimum wage we voters approved last November by a 3-1 margin. After legislators had refused for years to act, a petition drive led to the increase from $5.l5 to $6.50 an hour for most workers, with a built-in escalator to prevent inflation from eroding the gain.

Comes now Cooper, R-Clinton, chairman of the House Rules Committee. A flaw in the proposition gave him the opening: Inadvertently, Prop. B eliminated the exemption in the old law that allowed local governments to schedule police and firefighters to work long shifts without triggering the overtime provision.

Should be simple enough to fix that. But Cooper wants to go so much further that even Gov. Matt Blunt has been moved to protest. His bill would not only fix the problem, it would also lower the new minimum wage for waiters and other tip earners from $3.25 to $2.13 an hour and eliminate the anti-inflation escalator.

He says he won’t allow the real problem to be fixed unless his colleagues agree to reversing those important sections of the law adopted by the voters. He’s Rules chairman, so he controls the flow of legislation through the House. If he weren’t so powerful, we could write him off as just another right-wing demagogue. He is, though, so we can’t. As one who voted for the minimum-wage increase, I’m expressing my outrage publicly. I hope thousands of other about-to-be-disenfranchised voters do the same.

You do have to say for Cooper that he’s right in step with his GOP housemates.

In fact, the Republican leader, Speaker Rod Jetton, got the irresponsibility ball rolling early in the session by proposing to take this year’s modest budget surplus and spend it all — and then some — on tax cuts. Most would go to the less deserving. Our own Rep. Ed Robb, who used to be an economist, voted for cuts he knew were neither wise nor realistic and offered the excuse that the Senate would surely exercise more restraint.

Then there’s the Republican-backed bill to require “intellectual diversity” — meaning more conservative voices — on university campuses. This, after an egregious and isolated incident down at Missouri State. Sadly, at least one of our own curators seems to be in need of a social scientist to remind him of the folly of generalizing from an “N” of one.

I haven’t even mentioned the boy governor’s pet replacement for Medicaid, which creates a whole new bureaucracy but doesn’t restore coverage to the thousands the legislature and he cut from the rolls last year after falsely promising to trim fraud first. How long until May 18?

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