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Legislature says Missouri cities can't ban plastic bags or set 'living wage'

plastic bags
Donna Korando | St. Louis Public Radio

Cities would be unable to ban the use of plastic bags under a bill passed by the Missouri Legislature on Wednesday. The bill, House Bill 722, also bans local municipalities from enacting ordinances that would require businesses to provide employee benefits that "exceed the requirements of federal or state laws, rules or regulaions."

Many Democrats in the Senate and House said they were worried the measure would limit the ability for local municipalities to make their own policy decisions. It is already against state law to require a minimum wage above the state's minimum wage. But this measure specifically rules out a "living wage" above the state's minimum, as has been proposed in Kansas City.

Rep. Jon Carpenter, D-St. Louis, said Wednesday that if the federal government were trying to do something similar, Missouri's Republican-controlled Legislature would be "outraged."

"I think it's pretty clear if the United States Congress was going to pass a bill that does exactly what this bill does to local political subdivisions in this state, regarding this exact issue on the minimum wage, people would be outraged," Carpenter said. "And not just the people in here, the people of Missouri, who overwhelmingly passed a higher minimum wage than the federal, would be outraged."

Republicans such as Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, defended the bill. He said if these policy decisions didn't happen at a state level, businesses would have to comply with numerous policies across the state.

"Some of these policies are OK and certainly can happen at the local level, but when it comes to broad, far-reaching business practices, these conversations can and should happen at the state level," Rowden said.

He added he doesn't think the bill is a "local control" bill, but is a "very needed clarification of where certain decisions need to happen."

Columbia recently unsuccessfully attempted to ban grocers from using plastic bags, a decision Rowden said Wednesday was an overreach of local government.

The bill originally only banned the prohibition of plastic bags, but the Senate later added the employee benefit amendment.

The Senate approved the measure Tuesday and the House approved it Wednesday with overwhelming Republican support. It now heads to Gov. Jay Nixon's desk. The governor has not yet said whether he will sign the bill. 

Follow Ray Howze on Twitter: @RayHowze.