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Nixon signs bill that allows veteran St. Louis firefighters to live outside city

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 25, 2010 -  Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has just signed into law a bill allowing St. Louis firefighters to live outside the city, as long as they have worked for the city at least seven years.

The measure was long sought by firefighters, but opposed by city officials who viewed it as special treatment and an improper intrusion of the state into city affairs.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay hinted today on his blog today of possible legal action.

Slay sent Nixon a letter on May 19 that called the bill unconstitutional. The state constitution bars the Legislature from making changes in city charters, which Slay noted can be changed only by a vote of St. Louis residents.

St. Louis' police officers already have the right to live outside the city after seven years, but the city's police department has been under control of the state since the Civil War.

Firefighters are governed the same as other city employees.

Wrote Slay today:

"The new state law is contrary to both the city’s Charter and the state’s Constitution. The only people in the state with the legal (and moral) authority to change the city’s employee residency rules are the voters of the cty of St. Louis.... Beyond that, an exemption for a select group of employees seems to violate both federal and state rights to equal protection.

"Employees of the city of St. Louis have all accepted the residency rule as a condition of employment. SB739 purports to give some of them the chance to break that contract. The next steps will be serious."

Meanwhile, Nixon also signed into law today a bill that imposes restrictions on sex-oriented businesses, such as requiring semi-nude dancers to stand at least six feet from patrons. That bill, sponsored by state Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee's Summit, had sparked some of the most vigorous -- and racy -- debate during the final days of the session that ended May 14.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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