Missouri Gov. Parson signs bill requiring photo ID at the polls
Missouri voters will soon have to provide a photo ID in order to cast their ballot.
Gov. Mike Parson signed a sweeping bill on Thursday that contains a multitude of changes to the state’s elections laws, including requiring a photo ID to vote.
Under the law, acceptable photo identification includes a non-expired Missouri driver’s license or state ID. Other approved forms of ID would include non-expired passports and photo military IDs, as well as other documents.
Before signing the bill into law, Parson said this was probably one of the most important pieces of legislation the state has passed in a long time. He also praised the work of election officials across the state.
“When a lot of the things in this country seem to be going a little off track, Missouri has always handled every election in some of the most difficult times, and we've been able to maintain that,” Parson said.
The over 50-page bill also gives the secretary of state the authority to audit voter rolls. It prevents election authorities from receiving private funds, with few exceptions. It also allows for two weeks of no-excuse, absentee, in-person voting with a photo ID before an election. And it ends the Missouri presidential primary. The state’s convention delegates will now be chosen in party caucuses.
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who attended the signing, said the legislation is about running good elections.
“You want it to be easy to vote, you want it to be hard to cheat, and you want the people to have credibility in the results,” Ashcroft said.
The law is effective Aug. 28, meaning it won’t impact the Aug. 2 primary.
State money for charter schools
Another bill Parson signed into law on Wednesday addresses funding inequity for public charter schools in St. Louis and Kansas City.
Public charter schools in Missouri will now receive the same amount of funding per student as their traditional public school counterparts.
Formerly, public charter schools received less funding through that formula, and for several years the legislature fielded attempts to address the disparity.
An earlier version of the law passed this year would have taken millions of dollars from traditional public schools and given that funding to public charter schools. However, that approach received pushback as public schools have additional fiscal responsibilities they must provide that charter schools do not, such as transportation.
Now the state will instead pick up the tab for the funding disparity.
Parson said the state needs to give schools the resources to educate all children.
“If we are to make a difference in this state, no matter where people live, these kids have got to get an education. And I don't care where they get it, I really don't, all I want them to do is get it,” Parson said.
New criteria for charter schools are also included in the law, such as requiring any management company operating schools to be a nonprofit and school board members to reside in Missouri.
The law also includes sections reforming virtual schooling in the state. Changes include the establishment of an attendance center for virtual schools and a requirement that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education create a policy directing schools to have a timely process on participating in the virtual school system if parents decide to enroll their children.
“The reforms in this legislation clarify so many details for the benefit of parents and students in Missouri. Not everyone's going to benefit from virtual education, but there are some that will be directly benefited,” said Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs.
Homeless encampments banned on state-owned land
A provision in a different bill signed into law by Parson on Wednesday addresses homeless people, including where they can sleep.
The legislation requires that state funding for homelessness must go toward certain facilities.
Camping facilities receiving state funding would have to provide a mental health and substance abuse evaluation as designated by a state or local agency.
State funds going toward the construction of permanent housing for homeless people will also be used to aid with substance abuse, mental health treatment and other services like short-term housing.
Sen. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, spoke on her support for the legislation.
“This bill really focuses on moving from just focusing on the housing model to actually focusing on the root of the problem, which is the mental health crisis,” Rehder said.
However, the law also bars people from camping or sleeping on any state-owned land, limiting where homeless people can spend the night. St. Louis Alderman Tom Oldenburg had proposed a similar law to address homeless people camping on public rights of way, including near highways.
Local governments are prohibited from adopting or enforcing any policy that would be in opposition to this part of the law.
Other bills signed into law
The law with the provisions related to homelessness in the state is a part of a larger law about local governments. Another part of the over 60-page law prohibits governments from requiring public employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination.
Additionally, the law contains language related to vacant properties in St. Louis, including steps to allow the city to redevelop those properties.
Rep. Donna Baringer, D-St. Louis, said that part of the bill is also about public safety.
“Because the buildings that we're talking about are derelict, they're fallen down, and we have had firefighters get injured and killed going into these buildings,” Baringer said.
Parson also signed two bills related to utilities into law, including one that modifies the criteria of who qualifies for discounted electric rates. It also stops deeds, covenants or a similarly binding agreement from banning or limiting the installation of solar panels to the rooftop of any property or structure.
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