Our Call: ‘Local control’ is preached, not practiced by legislators

Editorial

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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.

“Local control” is something we in Missouri frequently hear from legislators, but in this case our representatives are trying to take back powers that counties already have. Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Oakville, and Rep. David Gregory, R-Sunset Hills, are submitting their own bills on the issue.

But how have they stood on local control issues in the past?

Koenig was re-elected to a second term in November, and in his questionnaire, he said of Gov. Mike Parson, “I believe Governor Parson was right to leave as much control as possible to local authorities and elected officials to make the best decisions for their communities.”

Murphy said that Parson “has given local authorities the power to make decisions based on their circumstance. I believe this is a sound policy.”

So what has changed? Either you’re in support of local control or you’re not, and it doesn’t seem that they are.

But perhaps that doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who closely watches Missouri state government. As a letter writer pointed out Dec. 10, Republican lawmakers voted to take local control away from rural Missourians who live next to factory farms or CAFOs — “concentrated animal feeding operations.” The legislation was approved and signed into law by Parson, with votes from Koenig, Murphy and Gregory.

Under that legislation, local municipalities and health boards now cannot regulate these factory farms, similar to how these legislators are trying to take away local municipalities’ power to issue public-health orders during a pandemic.

What’s next? Will lawmakers dictate policy to local school districts, or tell cities and counties what they can spend their money on? The stage has been set for that state intervention.

Urban, suburban or rural, one message is clear: South County’s GOP lawmakers do not trust counties and cities to make their own decisions. They do not believe in local control.