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SB380 passes constitutional muster

November 19, 1996
By: ANDY KRAVETZ
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's largest venture into realm of public education, which included $310 million tax increase, passed constitutional muster Tuesday as the Missouri Supreme Court refused to throw out Senate Bill 380.

Senate Bill 380, also known as the Outstanding Schools Act, dramatically overhauled public education in Missouri when it was approved by the legislature in 1993.

That bill rewrote the state's funding formula as well as created new education standards, guidelines and reforms.

Legislators argued that they couldn't allow Missourians to vote on the tax increase because of an order by Cole County Circuit Judge Bryon Kinder declaring the state's method of funding schools unconstitutional.

But Rep. Todd Akin, R-St. Louis County, one of three Republican legislators who filed the suit, said Gov. Mel Carnahan broke his promise to voters in 1992 when he pledged to bring such an increase to a vote of the people.

Instead, he says, Carnahan and other Democrats conspired to push the tax increase through the General Assembly without giving Missourians a vote.

"The Supreme Court said yes, (Former House Speaker Bob) Griffin, Carnahan and the Democrats in the legislature cheated in creating this partial referendum, but then we, the Supreme Court, are going to let them get away with it," he said.

Griffin, who was indicted earlier this month on several counts of fraud and bribery, was instrumental in getting the bill passed. He proposed the notion of allowing voters to decide on parts of Senate Bill 380 if Kinder's decision was thrown out.

That allowed leery legislators pass the bill. Former Rep. Chris Kelly and Ken Jacob both voted in favor of the bill while former Rep. Jim Pauley voted against SB 380.

Chris Sifford, the governor's spokesman, said the suit was a political weapon against Carnahan and Democrats. State Auditor Margaret Kelly pounded the message of "Tax Man Carnahan" home during her failed bid for governor.

"This lawsuit has been politically motivated from the start and it has been an attempt to overturn the progress that we have made in education and its an attempt that has been spearheaded by the Republican leadership," he said.

"The heart of the legislation is still intact. This is a big win for education and Missouri schoolchildren," Sifford said.

Akin said the real losers are Missouri parents and taxpayers because now, the bill's education standards, which he says are flawed, will stay imposed upon local school boards.

"Now, the people of Columbia have no right to chose the education standards they want for their district," he said.