- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri’s Republican-controlled Legislature on Wednesday passed legislation to strip cities’ ability to adopt local policies, an effort to block municipalities from adopting bans on plastic bags and increasing employee benefits.

Democrats, during debate before members approved the bill 105-48, slammed the GOP for seemingly abandoning the party’s platform. That was the final vote needed to send the bill to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

Senators, who had expanded the bill to include the restriction on municipalities from changing minimum wage, voted 24-10 in favor of the measure Tuesday.

The bill is aimed at preventing ordinances such as one considered in Columbia prohibiting grocers from using plastic bags, although that proposal later was dropped. It also would bar a Kansas City proposal setting a “living wage” above the state minimum wage and local rules requiring certain employee benefits.

Cities and towns with different local minimum or living wage requirements in place before Aug. 28 would be exempt.

“I guarantee that the majority of people in this chamber say the government works best when decisions are made closer to the people,” Democratic Rep. Stephen Webber of Columbia said on the House floor. “Are you going to do what you told everybody at home that you would do?”

Democrats have introduced measures that would bar plastic bags and raise the minimum wage statewide. But those have little chance of passing while Republicans control the Legislature.

While defending local control, Republicans argued against allowing cities and towns to craft a hodge-podge of ordinances that they said could harm businesses that operate across the state.

“This is a question about where decisions should happen,” said Republican Rep. Caleb Rowden of Columbia. “When we talk about decisions that don’t just impact the narrow scope of people in municipalities, but business owners broadly, the best place for those decisions to happen are at the state level.”

Kehoe said Tuesday that the bill would still ensure local control by leaving more choice with consumers and businesses, and could save companies from paying higher minimum wages.

He also said that the bill - introduced by Republican Rep. Dan Shaul of Imperial, the state director of the Missouri Grocers Association - would save grocers and other stores from providing only paper bags, which he said can be more expensive to transport.

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Local control bill is HB 722.

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Online:

House: https://www.house.mo.gov

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Follow Summer Ballentine at https://twitter.com/esballentine

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