December 06, 2006

Missouri Legislation Threatens Checks and Balances

Anyone who has taken a civics class learned about the importance of checks and balances. They ensure that any one branch of government doesn’t overstep its bounds.

One Missouri legislative leader, Rep. Jane Cunningham, has prefiled legislation that turns the concept of checks and balances on its head. HRJ1 is a constitutional amendment that limits the jurisdiction of any court in the state to mandate that revenues are increased or levied. Here’s a portion of the legislation:

Neither the supreme court nor any inferior court of the state shall have the power to instruct or order the state or any county, city, or political subdivision thereof, or an official of the state or of any county, city, or political subdivision thereof, to levy or increase taxes.

The bill also makes it illegal for the courts to instruct the state or localities about how revenues should be spent. A portion of the judicial branch’s ability to check and balance the legislative and executive branches is clearly eliminated if this legislation passes.

Not only should this legislation turn the stomachs of anyone who cares about the balance of power, but those concerned with school funding should be moved to action. It seems likely that next year a court will rule that Missouri’s school funding formula provides Missouri children with neither an adequate or fair education. If Rep. Cunningham’s constitutional amendment becomes law this would make it illegal for the courts to rule that Missouri needs to increase funding for education.

Checks and balances and school funding are obviously complex issues. This legislation doesn’t offer a real solution to the school funding issue and does a disservice to the concept of checks and balances.


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