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City sues over changes to residency requirement

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – The city of St. Louis will move by the end of the week to sue the state over a law that allows firefighters to live outside of the city.

Governor Jay Nixon quietly signed the measure Friday that allows firefighters to move within an hour of the city's boundaries after seven years. Police got that right in 2005, and the sponsor of the 2010 measure, Republican state Senator Jim Lembke of South County may try next year to extend that right to all city employees.

Mayor Francis Slay urged Nixon, a fellow Democrat, not to sign the measure, said Slay's spokeswoman Kara Bowlin. She said the mayor understands that firefighters used every option available to loosen the residency restrictions.

"But what it really comes down to is it's not the governor's place. It is the people of St. Louis and probably the mayor's place to sign this bill if anyone is signing it," she said.

Slay is a supporter of residency requirements. Aldermen last year used a parliamentary maneuver to stop debate on a city measure that would have allowed all city employees to move after seven years, but city voters have twice supported residency requirements in non-binding referendums.

Lembke, whose district also includes a small part of the city, said the state was well within its constitutional boundaries.

"Everybody talks about local control, but if you go to the Missouri Constitution, and you look at Article VI, Sec. 19(a), you'll see that the legislature has the ability, even with charter cities, to legislate on any issue," he said.

An attorney who studies residency requirements, Peter Salsich, said the city may have the best luck challenging the law on the grounds that it is a special measure written just for St. Louis.

Read the new law here
Read what the state Constitution says about special laws
Read Art. VI, Sec. 19(a)

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