. (AP) – Missouri’s Democratic governor pledged Thursday to circumvent the Republican-led Legislature if needed to fill vacancies on the board that oversees the state’s flagship university, further escalating the tensions of legislators already frustrated about the handling of racial issues that culminated in the resignations of the system president and campus chancellor.
The only two black members of the Board of Curators, which runs the University of Missouri’s four-campus system, resigned last week amid the turmoil. That left three of the nine seats on the board vacant, but GOP leaders have said they have no interest in filling the vacancies before next year, when Gov. Jay Nixon is out of office.
“We’re not in a hurry to do anything for the University of Missouri,” said Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard.
Speaking to reporters during an Associated Press and Missouri Press Association event at the governor’s mansion, Nixon said he would “not hesitate at all to make interim appointments” when legislators are out of session.
Tensions with the Legislature started building in the summer, when the University of Missouri and Republican lawmakers butted heads over the Columbia school’s ties to a local Planned Parenthood clinic that enabled the center to start providing medication-induced abortions.
Then in November, the Columbia campus was the site of protests that resonated across the nation over what activists said was administrators’ indifference to racial issues.
“It’s apparent to me that no one is in charge,” Richard said Thursday during the press event at the governor’s mansion. “So we’ll be in charge.”
Richard has said the University of Missouri is primed for a budgetary “haircut,” and last week said that there will be a serious discussion of its budget.
(AP) – Residents of Kansas, Alabama and Georgia are no longer able to register to vote using a federal form without providing proof of U.S. citizenship after a federal elections official added the requirement without public notice or review by the agency’s commissioners.
The move by Brian Newby, the new executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, has sparked a backlash from one of its commissioners, who is asking the changes be withdrawn.
The American Civil Liberties Union says it’s a brazen move that will create additional barriers.
Newby defended his decision as a routine administrative action taken at the request of the states.
He took over the agency’s top job last November and came from Johnson County, Kansas, where the secretary of state has pushed for such laws for years
AP) – The Missouri Senate voted unanimously Thursday to bar cities, counties and law enforcement agencies from setting traffic ticket quotas, responding to criticism that some communities have been too reliant on raising money from issuing these and other types of citations.
The bill would make it a crime for a public official to require any police officer to write a certain number of citations and prohibit supervisors from suggesting that subordinates issue more tickets.
Its St. Louis-area sponsors, Republican Sen. Eric Schmitt and Democratic Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, said it builds on other measures passed in response to the unrest that stemmed from the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.
Last year, Missouri enacted a law lowering the percentage of revenue cities can collect from traffic fines. And earlier in the current session, the Senate passed a bill capping the fines for local ordinance violations. That bill and the one passed Thursday now head to the House for consideration.
Cities’ traffic fines have come under scrutiny since a white police officer shot and killed Brown, an unarmed black teenager. That incident didn’t involve a traffic stop, but afterward, protesters pointed to excessive citations as evidence of police harassment in predominantly black communities. A report from the U.S. Department of Justice cleared the officer of wrongdoing but said Ferguson’s municipal court system was profit-driven and frequently targeted blacks.
(AP) – A consultant for airlines that use the Kansas City airport says a plan to renovate the airport is unacceptable.
Lou Salomon, chief operating officer of AvAirPros, said Tuesday a plan submitted by Crawford Architects did not address the airport’s future needs for such things as gates, concessions and room for larger aircraft.
City and aviation officials have been discussing for more than four years a plan to demolish the airport and replace it with a single terminal. Some citizens want to keep the current three-terminal design.
Crawford suggested expanding Terminal A and doing similar work on Terminal B in the future.
The Kansas City Star reports (http://bit.ly/1SriXZV ) Salomon told the Kansas City Council’s airport committee the plan would cost about $984 million, not the $672 million estimated by Crawford.
(AP) – Missouri lawmakers are debating whether to criminalize a common second-trimester abortion method.
A House committee heard testimony Tuesday on bill that would ban doctors from using forceps, tongs or other medical implements to dismember a fetus in the womb to complete an abortion. Doctors who employ that procedure could face up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine, as well as a civil lawsuit.
Bill supporters said those kinds of abortions are brutal, especially for fetuses advanced enough to feel pain. Rep. Tila Hubrecht said her bill would make abortions more humane.
Abortion rights advocates called the bill an unconstitutional, political intrusion in the doctor-patient relationship that would make abortions less safe.
Similar measures in Kansas and Oklahoma have been put on hold pending lawsuits.