By Tyler Schneider
The South Kansas City Alliance hosted a forum for area representatives at their monthly meeting, Nov. 8, where Missouri state senators Greg Razer (District 7) and Barbara Anne Washington (District 9) and state representatives Richard Brown (District 27), Ashley Bland-Manlove (District 26), Mark Sharp (District 36) and Annette Turnbaugh (District 37) had the chance to update voters on their respective legislative efforts for 2022.
Washington, a former state representative and first year state senator, spoke of her work on law enforcement reforms for juvenile detention centers as one area in which she will apply her efforts towards in 2022. “In Missouri, you must be 18 to be automatically charged as an adult. The youngest possible age is 12, which I believe is too young,” Washington said.
Instead of maximum sentences, Washington would like to see more STEM education in the juvenile detention curriculum as well as measures which would “put a little more meat back into punishing offending officers” in the event that they are found guilty of misconduct.
Razer was curt in his outlook for the upcoming legislative session in general. “I’m going to have to be the pessimist here, this is lining up to be one of the worst sessions that we’ve seen in quite some time,” he said.
He acknowledged what he saw as some of the positive results from 2021, including the gas tax increase, which will bring in funding for infrastructure repairs, but also mentioned the difficulty his party will face in a general assembly where the GOP holds a stifling supermajority.
One factor of particular concern is the state redistricting process, which was condensed from 9 months to about 9 weeks due to delayed census results in a pandemic year.
Brown mentioned two firearm related bills he has been championing. The first would remove the barrier that prohibits anyone charged with a misdemeanor or domestic violence crime from purchasing a firearm. The second would look to chip away at Missouri’s nonexistent concealed carry regulations.
“Missourians can legally carry concealed weapons without any sort of training or permit. That’s not a good look for KC. We’re just trying to do some things that are common sense. There’s a huge difference between a 19 year-old kid walking around with a gun in St. Louis or Kansas City and a kid out in a rural area somewhere,” Brown said.
Bland Manlove spoke of her ongoing efforts to increase the right to vote, the difficulty of achieving property tax reforms, and legislation she is working on that would introduce civics courses into the sixth grade curriculum. “With civics, you’re either all for it or have no idea what it is. One of the biggest atrocities over the last 20-30 years is that civics has been weeded out of the curriculum,” Bland Manlove said.
Another bill Bland Manlove supports will require that “all sales and transfers of all firearms and ammunition have to be sold by a licensed shop” statewide. “I’m military, I love guns, and I think they’re great in the right hands. The problem is that they’re not winding up in the right hands, and we need to fix that,” Bland Manlove said.
By the time Mark Sharp and Annette Turnbaugh had their time to speak, many of the key issues for next year had already been touched on multiple times.
Sharp made a point to make his opposition known regarding the open-enrollment bill which allows a charter school to recruit students regardless of residency. “It’s a real scary bill in my mind. If you know anything about this area, you know that we need to keep Hickman Mills School District together. I would really hate to see the district lose more students,” Sharp said.
Sharp added that the massive disadvantage of Democratic representatives increases the need for bipartisan cooperation.
Turnbaugh, a first term representative, said one of her ongoing responsibilities will be to guide the work on the I-49 outer roads. She is prepared to tackle all of the fine print.
“I have no issue with being a worker bee when it comes to legislation,” Turnbaugh added.