Vote No on Amendment 1- “Right to Farm”

The Boone County Democratic Central Committee recommends a NO VOTE on Amendment 1 the “Right to Farm” as it does not protect Missouri’s traditional family farms. It strips Missourians of their rights and ability to regulate food safety, including GMO-labeling and pollutants. By forbidding any state rules to regulate agriculture such as regulating food safety and protecting the land and farm animals on it, this amendment allow big agribusiness to write its own rules and ignore Missourians and their elected representives.

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Boone County Democratic Party is accepting applications for the Central Committee

The Boone County Democratic Party is seeking applications for the Central Committee.

Joining the Central Committee means that you get to play an important role in  representing the Missouri Democratic Party in Boone County; encouraging among all voters and citizens of Boone County,  an active interest in governmental affairs; fostering and perpetuating the ideals and principles of the Democratic Party; encouraging and developing leadership in the Democratic Party; encouraging party responsibility;  maintaining and promoting harmony in the Democratic Party rank and file: and promoting the interest of the Democratic Party and its candidates over those of the opposing candidates and political parties.

Members of the Central Committee represent townships in Boone County and wards in Columbia. Click here to see the Vacancies on Central Committee

If you are interested in applying for the Central Committee or have any questions please contact Homer Page at 573-446-0441, email

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Time for Ethics Reform – II

When it comes to denying that ill-timed campaign checks influence public policy, Missouri Republicans are having a hard time keeping their stories straight. 

n the day before his House committee voted to exempt e-cigarettes from most tobacco regulation (and taxes), state Rep. Caleb Jones, R-California, received a $2,500 campaign donation from tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, the Tribune reported.

Gov. Jay Nixon has since vetoed the legislation.

What caught our attention was Mr. Jones’ explanation that the check had nothing to do with his vote.

The check was written on April 23, and that’s the date that shows up on his Missouri Ethics Commission report. But the date that matters, Mr. Jones told the Tribune, was when he deposited the check. During the legislative session, he says, he rarely checks the post office box of his campaign. So, Mr. Jones says, he didn’t even know the check was there until long after the vote. He deposited the check on May 23, a couple of weeks after the session ended.

What is most interesting about that explanation is that it’s the exact opposite one other Republicans gave us when we noted a different ill-timed check from lobbyist Steve Tilley to the House Republican Campaign Committee. That check, for $10,000, came the day after Mr. Tilley signed up Tesla Motors as a client. By a couple of days after the check was deposited, anti-Tesla legislation had died an auspicious death.

At the time, Mr. Tilley, House Majority Floor Leader John Diehl, R-Town and Country, and other Republicans in charge of the HRCC told us that what mattered wasn’t when the check was deposited, but when it was written. The check, they said, was written before Mr. Tilley was working for Tesla.

To recap: If the date the check is written makes you look bad, wait to deposit it and use that date. If the deposit date makes you look bad, blame it on the date the check was written.

Rinse. Repeat.

Here’s what voters know: Missouri is the only state in the nation that has no limits on lobbyists’ gifts and no limits on campaign donations. The companies trying to get the Legislature to bend to their will know this and are willing to write whatever size checks they need to get their way.

Lawmakers always deny the poorly timed checks have anything to do with their votes, unless, of course, it’s somebody in the opposite party, in which case they’re dirty as hell.

It’s a silly game. Ethics legislation could take away the argument, or at least make it more difficult, by limiting the flow of money, or at least requiring more disclosure during the legislative session. The brief-lived 2010 ethics law required 48-hour notice of any donation over $500 during the session.

(Excerpted from St. Louis Today 7/21/14 ).

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Time for ethics reform

 Prompted by Reynolds American, the legislature passed a bill prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors… The money trail is especially enlightening. Records show Reynolds American gave generous campaign contributions to key committee leaders as the bill made its way through the legislative process. For example, Caleb Jones, a Republican from California, Mo., who chairs the House general laws committee, received $2,500 from the cigarette maker on April 23. His committee hearing was April 24. Caleb Rowden, a Republican from Columbia, sponsored the bill and received a $1,000 contribution on the day it passed the House. The top leaders of the House, Speaker Tim Jones and majority leader John Diehl, both received $12,000 donations from Reynolds American in June.

(Excerpted from Progress Missouri High Five at Five: Friday, July 18)

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FAIR: Missouri Republicans true to their ALEC oaths: ALEC first. Missouri taxpayers? Well, maybe later.

FAIR: Remember when Missouri Republicans denied up and down that they were shills for the American Legislative Exchange Council? Thanks to Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, such denials can forever be ignored. Thanks, Mr. Parson, for your unintentional honesty.

Mr. Parson was the sponsor of Senate Bill 508, an ALEC-written bill with the primary purpose of making it difficult for people to become “navigators” who would help connect Missourians living in poverty with the health insurance they are now able to obtain under the Affordable Care Act. A similar bill was already tossed by the courts for being unconstitutional. This is another attempt to make it harder for poor people to live, a favorite tact of the corporate villains who fund ALEC.

This week, Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed SB 508. Why? Mr. Parson and his fellow partners in crime didn’t even bother to fix a typo in the ALEC-written bill that refers to the wrong federal law.

“It appears that in copying and pasting from this ALEC-model act, the General Assembly failed to correct this incorrect reference to Public Law 92-554,” wrote Mr. Nixon in his veto message. While some may believe such an error is ‘close enough’ for a model act, it cannot be allowed to become the law of this State.”

All of a sudden, the ALEC oath signed by people like Mr. Parson and Speaker of the House Tim Jones and other Missouri Republicans makes that much more sense:

“I will act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first.”

ALEC first. Missouri taxpayers? Well, maybe later.

Thanks, Mr. Parson, for your incompetence. Making the case that the Missouri Republican Party is just a front for out-of-state corporate interests was never so easy.

(Excerpted from St. Louis Today 7/8/14)

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Nixon vetoes copycat ALEC bill that legislature shouldn’t have passed

When copying someone else’s work to pass off as your own, it’s best to clean up the typos before publication.

The Missouri General Assembly learned that the hard way this week, as Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed one of its bills, citing “a significant drafting error.”

The error turned out to be an incorrect number. The bill, which unnecessarily requires criminal background checks for people who work or volunteer as “navigators” to help people enroll in the new health insurance exchanges, refers to Public Law 92-554. But that is a federal statute dealing with alcohol abuse. The correct reference would be Public Law 92-544, which pertains to background checks.

With unconcealed enjoyment, the Democratic governor noted in his veto message that “model legislation” from the American Legislative Exchange Council contains the same error.

“It appears that in copying and pasting from the ALEC model act, the General Assembly failed to correct this incorrect reference…,” Nixon wrote.

Zinger alert. The GOP-dominated legislature has been accused of taking its marching orders from the exchange council, which wines and dines mostly Republican state lawmakers in its quest to promote corporate agendas. The verbatim language of the bill, error and all, reinforces that notion.

For good measure, Nixon noted in a footnote that while some legislatures corrected the error, other states have “simply parroted the incorrect reference from the ALEC model act.” Kansas, for example. Its legislature included the error in a bill which passed the Senate but didn’t have time to clear the House.

These bills are another petty GOP attempt to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Republicans claim background checks are needed to protect citizens who share financial information. But similar checks aren’t required for tax preparers, who see as much or more than the navigators. Many navigators work as volunteers, and shouldn’t be subjected to the hassle and expense of undergoing criminal background checks.

Even without a drafting error, these copycat bills are veto material.

Excerpted from Kansas City Star 7/8/14)

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Would ‘Right To Farm’ Ballot Question Protect Family Farms Or Ag Corporations?

In November 2010, Missouri voters narrowly approved a statute called the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, known at the time as “Proposition B,” with the bulk of the “yes” votes coming from the St. Louis and Kansas City areas and most of the “no” votes from rural Missouri. Many dog breeders in Missouri are primarily farmers who took breeding up as a side business, or who transitioned to doing it full-time because it proved more lucrative.

Five months later, during the 2011 legislative session, Republican lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon agreed on a bill that dropped the phrase “puppy mills” and undid most of the new rules in the voter-approved law, including a 50-dog limit per breeder.

That led to a broader push by GOP leaders and various agriculture interests to install the right to farm and ranch within the Missouri Constitution.

Carolyn Amparan of the Missouri Chapter of the Sierra Club, Osage Group, says the ballot measure [Right to Farm] could give agribusinesses the right to challenge state and local pollution laws in court.

“Missouri has had clean water laws for over 40 years, and other anti-pollution laws as well, and farming in Missouri has continued to grow and prosper,” Amparan told the amendment’s opponents at last month’s rally. “Let’s not let agribusiness or puppy mill owners control our state … we want the freedom for our voters to decide what is right for the state of Missouri and when it comes to the safety of our food, our water, our air, and our soil.”

(Excerpted from St. Louis Public Radio 7/6/14)

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Nixon vetoes “sham” payday loan legislation

Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed legislation re-writing Missouri’s payday loan laws Thursday, describing the newly proposed limits as an industry-backed “sham” that fell short of “true reform.”

The Democratic governor said it was better to leave the law as it is, with the hopes of pushing for more stringent regulations in future years, than to enact a modest revision passed by the Republican-led Legislature.

“Missourians want meaningful payday lending reform, not a sham effort at reform that allows such predatory practices to continue,” Nixon said in a written statement announcing the veto.

(Excerpted from Daily Journel on Line 7/10/14)

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Turns Out, Republicans Love Obamacare

Conservative groups have invested millions of dollars in opposing the Affordable Care Act, but they appear to have had little success in turning Americans against the law. In fact, according to a new poll from the Commonwealth Fund, individuals and families who enroll in Obamacare — including the overwhelming majority of Republicans — are satisfied with the product:

Overall, 73 percent of people who bought health plans and 87 percent of those who signed up for Medicaid said they were somewhat or very satisfied with their new health insurance. Seventy-four percent of newly insured Republicans liked their plans. Even 77 percent of people who had insurance before — including members of the much-publicized group whose plans got canceled last year — were happy with their new coverage.

The study also found that the percentage of uninsured has dropped, from 20 percent to 15 percent, after the first open enrollment period, with 9.5 million fewer people now uninsured. Latinos, the most likely of any racial group to lack health insurance, are seeing the biggest gains in coverage. “The percent uninsured fell from 36 percent in July–September 2013 to 23 percent in April–June 2014,” Commonwealth reports.

Moreover, states that expanded their Medicaid programs experienced the biggest drop in uninsurance rates for low-income citizens. In the 25 states and the District of Columbia that implemented coverage expansion for poorer residents, the average uninsured rate for people living below the poverty level fell to 17 percent from 28 percent. The 26 states that have rejected Medicaid expansion continue to see the uninsured rate among low income individuals hover at 36 percent.
The number of uninsured young adults dropped the most, the survey found, from 28 percent to 18 percent.
Commonwealth Fund conducted the survey from a July-to-September 2013 period, before Americans began enrolling in the Affordable Care Act, and then again from April-to-June 2014, following the end of open enrollment.

(Excerpted from Think Progress 7/10/14)

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Millennials get cut off at the polls

First they came for blacks, and we said nothing. Then they came for Latinos, poor people and married women, and we again ignored the warning signs.

Now, after our years of apathy, they’re coming for us: the nation’s millennials.

Across the country, Republican state policymakers have hoisted barriers to voting by passing voter-ID laws and curtailing electoral accommodations such as same-day registration and early voting. These policy changes are allegedly intended to eradicate the imagined scourge of voter fraud, but the real point seems to be voter suppression.

For a time, the targeted populations were primarily racial, ethnic and income groups that traditionally vote Democratic. Now they happen to include Gen-Y’ers, more specifically my college-age brethren. We millennials may be fickle in our loyalties, generally distrustful of government institutions and unaligned with any political party, but our generation’s motley, liberal-to-libertarian-leaning ideological preferences still threaten red-state leadership.

In response, Republicans have set out to erect creative, if potentially unconstitutional, Tough-Mudder-style obstacle courses along our path to the polls.

Last year in Ohio, for example, Republican legislators proposed a measure that would effectively strip hundreds of millions of dollars from state schools if they continued to provide students paying out-of-state tuition with the paperwork necessary to register to vote in the state (as courts have said college students are legally allowed to do). In Maine, the secretary of state investigated 200 university students for voter fraud; he found no evidence of wrongdoing but then sent a threatening letter telling them that they must either obtain a Maine driver’s license and register their vehicles or cancel their state voter registrations. In Texas, photo identification is required to vote and, while concealed handgun licenses count, state-school-issued student IDs don’t.

North Carolina’s efforts have been particularly aggressive, perhaps because young people represent an especially threatening voting bloc to the Republicans in control there. Without the strong turnout of young voters in 2008, after all, Barack Obama would not have become the first Democratic presidential candidate in more than two decades to carry the Tar Heel state.

Like other states, North Carolina has eliminated many accommodations disproportionately used by young people and other first-time voters, such as same-day registration, and instituted voter-ID requirements that don’t recognize student IDs. But it has also stopped allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to fill out voter-registration forms early so that they can be automatically registered upon reaching majority age. Another state Senate bill last year would have effectively raised taxes on parents of students who registered to vote where they attend college.

Perhaps it is unsurprising, then, that the state faces a lawsuit filed by college students, aided by several voter registration advocacy groups, as the New York Times reported Sunday. The suit essentially claims that the state is engaging in age discrimination. Age discrimination accusations may be off-limits to young people in employment settings — federal law doesn’t protect workers under age 40 — but when it comes to elections, the plaintiffs have a shot. The 26th Amendment, which lowered the federal voting age to 18 in 1971 , guarantees that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.”

Republican lawmakers may feel threatened by the political proclivities of millennials, but the truth is, aside from 2008, young people are not usually much of a concern to either party because our turnout rates are so poor. Of all age groups, Americans 18 to 29 consistently have the lowest participation rates — even in the 2008 election, when our generation was galvanized around an unusually inspiring presidential candidate promising hope and change. That year, just 51 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds cast ballots. Sadly, it was the first time since 1972 that a majority of young people voted.

For years, get-out-the-vote groups such as Rock the Vote and Citizen Change have tried to market voting as rebellious and enviably adult (including by enlisting celebrity spokespeople who were unregistered themselves, and at least one who was possibly barred from voting due to felony records). If Paris Hilton, 50 Cent and Madonna can’t convince young people to vote, maybe a bunch of old white men trying to bar their path will do the job.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 6/07/14)

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Lawsuit targets misleading GOP early voting proposal

A St. Louis civil rights leader is challenging the ballot wording for a proposed constitutional amendment allowing early voting.

At issue is a proposal referred to the November ballot by the Republican-led Legislature that would allow six days of early voting, with no excuse necessary, before general elections.

The lawsuit contends the ballot summary is misleading because it fails to note that early voting would take effect only if funded by the Legislature. It also says the summary should note that early voting would be allowed only during regular business hours.

The lawsuit was filed in Cole County Circuit Court by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of civil rights leader Norman Seay.

It asks a judge to either block the measure from the ballot or re-write the summary.

(Excerpted from KMOU 6/8/14)

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Charlatans, Cranks – Does Missouri Follow Kansas’ Lead?

Two years ago Kansas embarked on a remarkable fiscal experiment: It sharply slashed income taxes without any clear idea of what would replace the lost revenue. Sam Brownback, the governor, proposed the legislation — in percentage terms, the largest tax cut in one year any state has ever enacted — in close consultation with the economist Arthur Laffer. And Mr. Brownback predicted that the cuts would jump-start an economic boom — “Look out, Texas,” he proclaimed.

But Kansas isn’t booming — in fact, its economy is lagging both neighboring states and America as a whole. Meanwhile, the state’s budget has plunged deep into deficit, provoking a Moody’s downgrade of its debt.

There’s an important lesson here — but it’s not what you think. Yes, the Kansas debacle shows that tax cuts don’t have magical powers, but we already knew that. The real lesson from Kansas is the enduring power of bad ideas, as long as those ideas serve the interests of the right people.

Why, after all, should anyone believe at this late date in supply-side economics, which claims that tax cuts boost the economy so much that they largely if not entirely pay for themselves? The doctrine crashed and burned two decades ago, when just about everyone on the right — after claiming, speciously, that the economy’s performance under Ronald Reagan validated their doctrine — went on to predict that Bill Clinton’s tax hike on the wealthy would cause a recession if not an outright depression. What actually happened was a spectacular economic expansion.

Nor is it just liberals who have long considered supply-side economics and those promoting it to have been discredited by experience. In 1998, in the first edition of his best-selling economics textbook, Harvard’s N. Gregory Mankiw — very much a Republican, and later chairman of George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers — famously wrote about the damage done by “charlatans and cranks.” In particular, he highlighted the role of “a small group of economists” who “advised presidential candidate Ronald Reagan that an across-the-board cut in income tax rates would raise tax revenue.” Chief among that “small group” was none other than Art Laffer.

And it’s not as if supply-siders later redeemed themselves. On the contrary, they’ve been as ludicrously wrong in recent years as they were in the 1990s. For example, five years have passed since Mr. Laffer warned Americans that “we can expect rapidly rising prices and much, much higher interest rates over the next four or five years.” Just about everyone in his camp agreed. But what we got instead was low inflation and record-low interest rates.

So how did the charlatans and cranks end up dictating policy in Kansas, and to a more limited extent in other states? Follow the money.

For the Brownback tax cuts didn’t emerge out of thin air. They closely followed a blueprint laid out by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which has also supported a series of economic studies purporting to show that tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy will promote rapid economic growth. The studies are embarrassingly bad, and the council’s Board of Scholars — which includes both Mr. Laffer and Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation — doesn’t exactly shout credibility. But it’s good enough for antigovernment work.

And what is ALEC? It’s a secretive group, financed by major corporations, that drafts model legislation for conservative state-level politicians. Ed Pilkington of The Guardian, who acquired a number of leaked ALEC documents, describes it as “almost a dating service between politicians at the state level, local elected politicians, and many of America’s biggest companies.” And most of ALEC’s efforts are directed, not surprisingly, at privatization, deregulation, and tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

And I do mean for the wealthy. While ALEC supports big income-tax cuts, it calls for increases in the sales tax — which fall most heavily on lower-income households — and reductions in tax-based support for working households. So its agenda involves cutting taxes at the top while actually increasing taxes at the bottom, as well as cutting social services.

But how can you justify enriching the already wealthy while making life harder for those struggling to get by? The answer is, you need an economic theory claiming that such a policy is the key to prosperity for all. So supply-side economics fills a need backed by lots of money, and the fact that it keeps failing doesn’t matter.

And the Kansas debacle won’t matter either. Oh, it will briefly give states considering similar policies pause. But the effect won’t last long, because faith in tax-cut magic isn’t about evidence; it’s about finding reasons to give powerful interests what they want.

(Excerpted from Krugman New York Times 6/29/14)

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The Great Divide – Inequality Is Not Inevitable

AN insidious trend has developed over this past third of a century. A country that experienced shared growth after World War II began to tear apart, so much so that when the Great Recession hit in late 2007, one could no longer ignore the fissures that had come to define the American economic landscape. How did this “shining city on a hill” become the advanced country with the greatest level of inequality?

The straightforward answer: our policies and our politics. So why has America chosen these inequality-enhancing policies? Part of the answer is that as World War II faded into memory, so too did the solidarity it had engendered. As America triumphed in the Cold War, there didn’t seem to be a viable competitor to our economic model. Without this international competition, we no longer had to show that our system could deliver for most of our citizens.

Ideology and interests combined nefariously. Some drew the wrong lesson from the collapse of the Soviet system. The pendulum swung from much too much government there to much too little here. Corporate interests argued for getting rid of regulations, even when those regulations had done so much to protect and improve our environment, our safety, our health and the economy itself.

The American political system is overrun by money. Economic inequality translates into political inequality, and political inequality yields increasing economic inequality.
Our economy, our democracy and our society have paid for these gross inequities. The true test of an economy is not how much wealth its princes can accumulate in tax havens, but how well off the typical citizen is — even more so in America where our self-image is rooted in our claim to be the great middle-class society. But median incomes are lower than they were a quarter-century ago. Growth has gone to the very, very top, whose share has almost quadrupled since 1980. Money that was meant to have trickled down has instead evaporated in the balmy climate of the Cayman Islands.

With almost a quarter of American children younger than 5 living in poverty, and with America doing so little for its poor, the deprivations of one generation are being visited upon the next. Of course, no country has ever come close to providing complete equality of opportunity. But why is America one of the advanced countries where the life prospects of the young are most sharply determined by the income and education of their parents?

(Excerpted from Stiglitz New York Times 6/27/14)

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Missouri GOP wants to emulate Kansas

Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal last month to tout the success of his economic program, particularly several rounds of income tax cuts amounting to the largest in the state’s history. “We supported small business by taking away all income taxes on small businesses,” Brownback wrote, “allowing them to reinvest in their businesses, creating jobs and growth. … By giving these companies more money to reinvest in their businesses, we are enabling them to hire more people and invest in needed equipment.” Josh Baro notes in a must-read over at The Upshot today, job growth in Kansas has actually lagged behind the U.S. average, especially in the years following the first round of Brownback tax cuts in 2012.

Earlier this year, my colleague Niraj Chokshi reported on a Center and Budget Policy Priorities study of Kansas’ cuts. In an unusually frank assessment from the nonpartisan think tank, the study’s authors concluded that “Kansas is a cautionary tale, not a model. As other states recover from the recent recession and turn toward the future, Kansas’ huge tax cuts have left that state’s schools and other public services stuck in the recession, and declining further — a serious threat to the state’s long-term economic vitality. Meanwhile, promises of immediate economic improvement have utterly failed to materialize.”

Every month brings fresh economic news that further validates these findings — job creation in Kansas has remained essentially flat since last fall, even as employment increased in the rest of the country.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 6/26/14)

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When is Congress “Wise?” When the Court Agrees with Congress’s Wisdom

Near the end of Justice Alito’s majority opinion in the Hobby Lobby case today, he writes that it is not the Court’s job to question the “wisdom” of Congress in using the compelling interest test in RFRA, but the Court applies that RFRA test strongly, and in a way which shows the Court apparently giving great deference to Congress’s judgment about how to balance the government’s interest in generally applicable laws with the accommodations of religious freedoms. It reminded me of Justice Scalia’s pleas in Windsor last term for deference to Congress on the need for the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Court has shown no such deference when it comes to the need for campaign finance regulation or to protect the voting rights of racial minorities and others. The Roberts Court has overturned or limited every campaign finance law it has examined (aside from disclosure laws). It has struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. How much deference did Congress get in those cases? None.

Well when is Congress wise and entitled to deference? When the Court agrees with Congress’s approach.

(Excerpted from Election Law Blog 6/30/14)

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Missouri’s failure to expand medicaid – Ozarks Community Hospital is laying off up to 60 employees or 12 percent of its workforce

Ozarks Community Hospital is laying off up to 60 employees or 12 percent of its workforce in the Springfield area, according to a letter that the hospital CEO sent to a Missouri program that helps displaced workers.

CEO Paul Taylor wrote in the letter, dated Wednesday, that the layoffs began that day. The hospital has about 500 employees in the Springfield area and about 800 employees in the company.

Taylor blamed the layoffs on Missouri’s failure to expand Medicaid. He wrote that OCH is hiring in Arkansas.

“Even if Missouri expands Medicaid in the future, it will be virtually impossible for us to recapture this loss of capacity,” Taylor wrote. “Hospitals cannot shrink and expand as readily as other industries. I fear that Missouri will never recover the ground it is now losing statewide as a result of political posturing.”

(excerpted from Springfield News Leader 6/26/14)

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Living Wage Calculation for Boone County

In many American communities, families working in low-wage jobs make insufficient income to live locally given the local cost of living. Recently, in a number of high-cost communities, community organizers and citizens have successfully argued that the prevailing wage offered by the public sector and key businesses should reflect a wage rate required to meet minimum standards of living. Therefore we (MIT) have developed a living wage calculator to estimate the cost of living in your community or region. The calculator lists typical expenses, the living wage and typical wages for the selected location.

Living Wage Calculator -._1001

Living Wage Calculator -._2002

Living Wage Calculator -.
(Excerpted from Living Wage MIT)

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No on gun question

The right of Missourians to keep and bear arms is amply granted in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and in state law. But legislators, always eager to burnish their pro-gun credentials, felt the need to put it in the state constitution.

That would be a grievous mistake. Amendment 5 sets few barriers on exactly who has earned the “unalienable” right to possess firearms and ammunition. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker says that could include convicted gang members, drug dealers and persons accused of domestic violence.

“No one can ensure the citizens of Missouri that these changes to our constitution will not create these unintended consequences,” Peters Baker wrote to lawmakers this year.

Along with Jennifer Joyce, the St. Louis Circuit attorney, Peters Bakers has filed a court motion contesting the language that will appear on the ballot. The two prosecutors contend the ballots won’t sufficiently inform voters that the proposed amendment would severely limit the legislature’s authority to regulate firearm use only for “convicted violent felons” or those declared by a court to be dangerously mentally ill.

The state auditor does see fit to warn voters that “the proposal’s passage will likely lead to increased litigation and criminal justice related cost,” which “could be significant.”

Clearly, this is no simple nod to the gun-rights crowd. Amendment 5 has the potential to greatly expand firearm use and restrict law enforcement’s ability to protect the public. It is a threat to public safety and the state’s treasury.

No one is contesting the right of law-abiding Missourians to own firearms. The ballot question likely extends gun rights to criminals who shouldn’t have them. Voters must reject this dangerous proposal

(Excerpted from Kansas City Star 6/23/14)

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Wide open money

— Only four months into the year, Missouri legislators had already accepted more than $500,000 in gifts from lobbyists.

The $558,813 worth of gifts presented to lawmakers by lobbyists from Jan. 1 through the end of April is about the same given in past years, according to data provided by the Missouri Ethics Commission and compiled by St. Louis Public Radio.

That’s an average of $2,836.62 in gifts per lawmaker, although if you go to and look for yourself, you will quickly find that many among the 197 legislators took far more. And, we should point out, there are those who took nothing.

From expensive meals to sports tickets, there is no limit as to what and how much a legislator can take from lobbyists.

Efforts in the 2014 legislative session to curb or even ban the amount of money legislators can take from special interests failed to gain traction. The Globe early on endorsed a proposal by Jason Kander, secretary of state, who in January called for an ethics bill that restored campaign contribution limits, banned all gifts from lobbyists to all state elected officials, and required a three-year waiting period before ex-lawmakers can work as lobbyists.

Missouri, by the way, is the only state that allows unlimited campaign contributions and unlimited gifts from lobbyists. By the end of the year, legislators will easily have taken more than $1 million from special interests. Our laws make it too easy for those who make the laws to take money and gifts — lots and lots of money and gifts.

Let’s get serious about limiting the influence of special interests and demand reform in Missouri’s ethics laws.

(Excerpted from Joplin Globe 6/20/14)

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Missouri amendment could hurt family farms

Farming is a tough business made harder by difficult weather and markets. Like most survivors of life-changing events, those of us left on the farm have had experiences that shape who we are today.

Looking back over my 60-plus years on a family farm, I see attitude, sympathetic lenders, luck, and most of all family relationships, as reasons why I still farm.

Family farmers have waited and hoped government would do something to mend the farm situation in their favor. But in government eyes, bigger has always been better — even when bigger meant more pollution, less competition and higher costs.

Realities of today are that though U.S. agriculture seems a national icon, corporations, some native to foreign countries, are busily replacing people like me.

The National Cattleman’s Beef Association and the American Meat Institute opposed labeling meat and poultry according to its country of origin because their largest dues-paying members aren’t cattlemen at all, but multinational meat packers.

During recent farm bill negotiations, disaster assistance for U.S. beef producers hit hard by weather was held hostage in an effort to kill Country of Origin Labeling, known by the acronym COOL.

In order to have identity, family farmers must have products. Denying us the right to label our safe, wholesome, home-grown food denies not only who we are, but our very existence.

Family farms are not far from extinction as rural populations fall. Many of us who remain, even large farms, can claim family traditions. But the fact is that farm bill mischief and politics have hastened our demise.

Here in Missouri, where agriculture has always been mainstay, we are no strangers to big food. Traditional livestock growing regions in Missouri are two sides of the same coin as family farm cattle herds graze within feet of massive corporate poultry and hog confinements.

Most livestock confinements are controlled by the same meat packers who would deny my right to label my products. Among those corporate entities is Smithfield Foods.

Many of us in rural Missouri were dismayed when the General Assembly set about dismantling the rights of property owners by limiting recurring nuisance liability for Smithfield. As many of our Missouri state representatives and senators crafted legislation protecting it from its own pollution troubles, Smithfield was in buyout talks with a company based in China.

Liability from nuisance lawsuits like those faced by financially challenged Smithfield subsidiary Premium Standard Farms could have been a sticking point for Chinese buyers. Thanks to politics, it’s not an issue any more just as limits placed on foreign ownership of Missouri land have been redrawn to fit the buyout by China’s Shuanghui International.

In still another instance of pandering to corporate food control, the Missouri General Assembly has placed Constitutional Amendment 1 on the November ballot. Supposedly designed to assure the right to farm for Missouri citizens, its vague wording is bound to favor corporations, even Chinese corporations, over Missouri family farms. That’s because Supreme Court rulings that a corporation is a person play into the hands of Amendment 1 supporters of corporate food control.

Amendment 1 in Missouri could grant even the worst corporations the right to do whatever they want when they claim to be “farmer” or “rancher.”

Some say we can never return to the days when family farms produced the bulk of what we eat. That will be true so long as Missourians continue to elect those who favor the politics of big food. Missouri voters can reverse that trend. It’s time they did.

(Excerpted from St. Louis Post Dispatch )

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