The Jefferson City News-Tribune, May 9
Bad idea to grant in-state tuition to illegals
The Missouri Legislature should do an about-face on its plan to allow students living in the United States illegally to qualify for in-state tuition rates.
We reported an Associated Press story Wednesday saying immigrant students now are charged the tuition rate for international students. That requirement would end under a last-minute budget deal. The Legislature's deadline to approve the budget is Friday.
"It takes tuition dollars out of our state at a time when our higher-ed institutions need the enrollment," said Rep. Ingrid Burnett, D-Kansas City. "There isn't a good reason for this, other than something based in fear."
However, it isn't about fear, it's about fairness.
Yes, undocumented college students are here based on their parents' choices to bring their families here illegally. It wasn't their fault. However, allowing the same in-state tuition benefit offered to legal residents disrespects the immigration process. That's not fair to the many people who have entered our country the proper way, which can be lengthy and costly.
Other factors demonstrate why this is a bad idea:
. Allowing illegal immigrants to get in-state tuition rates gives them a cheaper tuition rate than legal residents who live in other states.
. Depending on the school, college entrance positions can be limited, making it possible for illegal immigrants to get into a college while legal residents are excluded.
. The practice would violate a 1996 federal law, which states: "An alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a state for any post-secondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident."
Before the Legislature gives final approval to Missouri's budget, we hope lawmakers reconsider extending in-state tuition rates to students who are not here legally.
The Joplin Globe, May 12
Our view: Restore housing credits
The Missouri General Assembly should restore funding for state low-income housing tax credits that were halted under former Gov. Eric Greitens.
The plan was frozen with no other state plan in place to help lower-income residents with housing. The state funding had matched a similar federal grant. The state funding went away with no offset for the loss. The need for affordable housing remains and grows. Researchers found that there are almost 196,000 low-income households in Missouri, but there are just under 83,000 affordable rental homes, according to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
More than 100,000 Missouri residents are on waiting lists for affordable housing, spending up to three years on the lists. The loss of the tax credits has slowed projects considerably — one third fewer lower-income housing projects have been started since the freeze hit. Without restoring the plan, building could slow more as current projects are completed and new ones aren't begun.
Tax credits offset a percentage of tax liabilities for investors in low-income housing projects. Some have complained that the bill was too high. The current bill, Senate Bill 28, would place an annual cap on credits issued at 72.5 percent of the federal level or $123 million, whichever is less. The latest version of the measure, which has passed the Senate and is awaiting action in the House, also would create a new scoring method to evaluate the merits of projects and allow developers to transfer credits in certain circumstances.
If you look around Joplin, you can see the impact these credits have. Hope Cottages, Delaware Duplex Community, Parkwood Senior Housing, Union City Homes, Eagle Ridge, Forest Park Apartments, Hampshire Terrace II and Canyon Trails have all been built using state low-income housing credits. Low-income housing dollars, combined with historic tax credits, are also responsible for the Zahn Apartments, Joplin's Frisco Station Apartments and the Ridgeway Apartments. And Memorial Hills, a senior living center, will open later this year at 26th and Cunningham, thanks to a $1.6 million award from the Missouri Housing Development Commission.
We urge area lawmakers to pass the bill to restore funding for state low-income housing tax credits and send the measure to Gov. Mike Parson. He has indicated he will sign it.
The need is there. The state should fund the program to help meet it.
The Kansas City Star, May 9
'We have a God-given right to discriminate.' Is this the state Missouri wants to be?
This is the 20th year that the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act has been filed. Democratic Rep. Greg Razer of Kansas City, one of two openly gay members of the Missouri legislature, is a sponsor of the bill that would make it illegal to fire someon BY JILL TOYOSHIBA
Ron Calzone, a conservative activist from Dixon, Missouri, had something to say.
The Missouri House Committee on General Laws heard testimony Wednesday on bills designed to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The idea that Missouri law should treat all citizens equally was apparently too much for Calzone, who testified against the legislation. He said anti-discrimination laws enslave property owners.
"I believe that we have a God-given right to discriminate," he told the committee. "We actually have a God-given responsibility, a duty, to sometimes discriminate," he added.
Asked if he believed a restaurant owner could eject someone based on race or religion or gender, Calzone said yes. "If a restaurant owner doesn't want to serve people with freckles, that should be his choice," he told the group.
Calzone's views will lead most Missourians to roll their eyes. Yet his testimony was a clarifying moment: In some parts of the state, in some minds, private business signs that say "whites only" or "no Irish need apply" or "no women allowed" are still acceptable, even laudable.
That may explain why the state's legislature is likely to continue to allow landlords and business owners to discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Missouri Rep. Greg Razer sponsored one of the bills that would add protections for LGBTQ Missourians. "I was a closeted teenager," he told The Star. "LGBT teenagers are five times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. Yet what we get from the leadership in this building is silence and inaction."
Absent a miracle, his anti-discrimination measure will die when the legislature adjourns May 17.
The legislature's perpetual silence on discrimination is deeply disappointing. No Missourian should be kicked out of his or her home or denied a job simply because someone thinks a tenant or applicant might be gay.
"All persons are created equal and are entitled to equal rights and opportunity under the law," the Missouri Constitution says. Apparently the state's lawmakers missed that part.
But their refusal to approve gender and sexual orientation protections in state law is a practical disaster, too. What 21st-century employer wants to come to a state where discrimination is legal? Lawmakers have effectively posted a "heterosexuals only" sign at the border, to their shame and the state's detriment.
Calzone disagrees with all of this, of course. "Forcing someone to serve someone they do not want to serve is a form of slavery," he told The Star Editorial Board in an email.
Depriving anyone of full participation in society because of gender or skin color or sexual orientation is the most fundamental denial of ordered liberty and individual dignity. And it should be outlawed.
The legislature should add gender and sexual orientation protections to state law this year and send the long overdue message that discrimination will not be tolerated in this state.