COLUMBIA — City Manager Mike Matthes has sent a letter to Gov. Jay Nixon urging him to veto a bill that would prohibit local governments from restricting the use of plastic bags or from setting minimum wages and benefits for workers.
And the Columbia City Council intends to follow up with a letter of its own.
House Bill 722, which the Missouri General Assembly sent to the governor's desk in May, has sparked frustration among some city leaders across the state who say it preempts local government control.
The bill was supported largely by Republicans in both the House of Representatives and Senate. Among Boone County delegates, Reps. Caleb Jones, Caleb Rowden and Chuck Basye, all Republicans, voted in favor of the bill. Democratic Reps. Stephen Webber and Kip Kendrick opposed it.
State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, also voted for the bill. It was sponsored by Rep. Don Shaul, R-Imperial, who is also director of the Missouri Grocers Association.
Matthes' letter to Nixon said the bill "should be vetoed on principle because it chills local initiative and long-standing local relationships that have united communities for decades." He noted in the letter that the council in March actually rejected restrictions on plastic bags.
"Council members listened to the public, weighed the evidence and said 'no,'" Matthes said. "Our local process worked. The larger question is: What's the next local target for state-level control?"
The council on Monday voted unanimously to have the staff draft a letter on its behalf that all the council members could sign and send to Nixon.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser, who strongly opposed restrictions on plastic bags, said she nevertheless dislikes HB 722 because she values local control.
“My biggest issue is with the ongoing trend that they are attempting to diminish local municipalities,” Nauser said. “They are taking away power that has been in place for years.”
Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp first suggested the council send the letter.
“Fundamentally speaking, local government is the most responsive to the people,” Trapp said Friday. Both he and Nauser complained that Shaul sponsored the bill given his work with the state grocers group.
"Local government is a lot less influenced by money and donations," Trapp said. "There is no connection between who raises the most money and who wins.”
City Public Communications Director Toni Messina is drafting the letter on behalf of the council. “It talks about our history with the plastic bag ordinance as an example of how local processes work,” Trapp said, adding he expects the letter will be delivered by the end of the month.
There were other bills filed during the legislative session that would have prevented cities from imposing rules on ride-sharing services such as Uber and from enacting ban-the-box ordinances, which prohibit employers from asking job applicants whether they have felony convictions until after a job offer is made. None of those passed, however.
Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said the governor has received other correspondence about HB 722, which is still under review. Nixon must either sign the bill or veto it by July 14.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.