Our Call: Jefferson City should stay out of our county business



Local control sounds like a great idea for state lawmakers until they actually have to practice it.

Missouri legislators representing South County, led by Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, have prefiled bills that would take away the power state statute currently grants counties like St. Louis County to issue public-health mandates. They would give that power to state legislators instead.

But we have heard over and over from South County residents that they want Jefferson City lawmakers to stay out of their business, from decisions made by local school districts to whether a city-county merger should take place. South County residents have always said that lawmakers from Chillicothe or Cape Girardeau should not have any say over what happens here.

Local control seems to be more of a buzzword than a consistent philosophy for lawmakers. In a few cases where Missouri voters have wanted statewide jurisdiction on an issue such as regulating puppy mills, GOP lawmakers ignored the will of the people and did what they wanted to do anyway. Last year, they took power away from local governments to regulate factory farms.

In the absence of state action on COVID-19, local officials like St. Louis County Executive Sam Page have stepped in. Page won election twice this year — including the day after saying Nov. 2 that he might have to take more drastic measures if cases didn’t fall. But his initiatives have earned the ire of those who believe this pandemic does not merit drastic measures. Along with Koenig, Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Oakville, and Rep. David Gregory, R-Sunset Hills, are also proposing similar legislation.

Whether or not you support statewide or local control when it comes to orders such as mask mandates, it’s clear that St. Louis County has stepped in where the state has failed to address the coronavirus crisis.

It’s also clear that the will of the voters — including many who voted for these three GOP legislators — was firmly behind Page and the actions he and doctors at the health department determine will have the most impact.

We’re not sure if we ever need Jefferson City lawmakers deciding what we do in St. Louis County, but we certainly don’t need them now.