Gov. Jay Nixon rebukes bill giving Missouri business owners the right to refuse service on religious grounds
A bill giving Missouri business owners the right to refuse service to individuals on religious grounds drew a rebuke Friday from Gov. Jay Nixon. Republican Sen. Wayne Wallingford of Cape Girardeau said he introduced the legislation to ensure that the government is not able to force individuals to violate their religious beliefs.
But opponents have condemned it as a way for businesses to discriminate against anyone they do not like, most notably gays and lesbians.
“Gov. Nixon believes we should be working to end discrimination, not passing unnecessary bills that would condone it,” Scott Holste, the governor’s press secretary, said in a statement to The Star.
State law currently bars discrimination based upon race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex and disability in employment, housing and public accommodations.
During his State of the State address in January, the Democratic governor called on lawmakers to add sexual orientation to the list.
Excerpted from Kansas City Star 2/28/14)
Contrary to what its backers contend, a bill that sped through the Missouri Senate does almost nothing to protect consumers who resort to payday loans.Short-term lenders, on the other hand, would benefit considerably from its final passage.
Sponsored by Sen. Mike Cunningham, a Rogersville Republican, Senate Bill 694 bans rollovers — loan renewals accompanied by accumulating interest and fees. Current law permits six rollovers a year. The proposal also requires lenders to offer each borrower once a year an extended payment plan with no additional interest or fees.
Perhaps deliberately, the rollover ban and the extended pay period ignore a central reality of payday lending: The business depends on repeat customers. A report last year by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that almost 90 percent of storefront payday loans go to borrowers with seven or more transactions a year.
As is done in other states, lenders in Missouri could adroitly sidestep a rollover ban by having borrowers pay off one loan and immediately take out another. For the chronic payday consumer, a once-a-year extended pay period would provide only a short breather from mounting debt.
In exchange for the appearance of being reined in, lenders would receive something they want: removal of the provision in state law that caps interest and fees at 75 percent of the loan’s original principal.
The current cap amounts to a ridiculously high annual interest rate of more than 1,950 percent and helps to explain why the average annual percentage rate on a payday loan in Missouri is 454 percent, more than 100 percentage points higher than the national average.
Honest reform would lower the annual rate of interest that could be accrued on a loan, not remove even the flimsiest of restrictions.
Records at the Missouri Ethics Commission show three payday loan companies donated a total of $3,000 to Cunningham’s campaign committee at the end of last year. When he filed his bill early this session, the famously vigilant industry offered no significant protest.
The Missouri House should reject the measure just passed by the Senate. It is a gift to the industry disguised as reform, and its passage would make genuine protections much harder to obtain.
(Excerpted from Kansas City Star 2/26/14)
“It’s not about purifying the voting process, it’s about purging some people from being able to vote,”
The Missouri House on Thursday approved measures to require photo identification, but the changes to the state’s constitution require approval by voters. Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said he would like to put the issue to a vote of the people.
….opponents point out there has not been a documented case of voter impersonation fraud in Missouri in years. They insist that the measure would create an obstacle to voting, particularly for some traditionally Democratic supporters. Accusations of racism and comparisons to a poll tax and literacy test were brought up during House debate on Tuesday. Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City, said the intent of these efforts was clear.
“It’s not about purifying the voting process, it’s about purging some people from being able to vote,” Ellington said.
Opponents also said it would be too costly for some to gather the documents needed to get a photo ID they don’t currently have. Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Democrat, estimates that 220,000 registered voters would not have the necessary identification. Kander opposes the bill.
Excerpted from the St. Louis Post Dispatch 2/27/14)
Republican Sen. Wayne Wallingford decides Missouri isn’t getting enough negative attention, introduces discrimination bill
The freshman senator from the boot heel region of Missouri (Wayne Wallingford) took full measure of the disdain thrown at Kansas and Arizona for taking up discrimination measures under the guise of religious freedom and figured the Show-Me State could elbow out some room of its own in the spotlight of contempt.
Wallingford on Monday introduced Missouri’s version of a “religious freedom” bill that gives Show-Me State businesses the discretion to turn away people they don’t care for by invoking their religious principles as the justification. In fact, Wallingford’s bill in some ways is worse than the one contemplated by Kansas. Wallingford’s measure lacks much of the specificity of Kansas’ infamous House Bill 2453, which leaves the Missouri version something of a catchall to refuse service to anyone, not just gays and lesbians, if someone can find some religious reason to show a customer the door.
(Excerpted from the Pitch 2/27/14 )
Kevin Drum questions whether anyone has truly been harmed by Obamacare by investigating the facts behind a recent Americans For Prosperity attack ad on Obamacare.
“It features Julie Boonstra, whose insurance was canceled and replaced with a new policy after Obamacare took effect.”
But it turns out that while Boonstra had some “initial problems with the Obamacare site,” she eventually found a suitable plan that allowed her to keep her doctor and continue treatments at the same cost as her old plan.
“Why is it that every single hard luck story like this falls apart under the barest scrutiny?”
“If this is happening to a lot of people, finding a dozen or so of them shouldn’t be hard. But apparently it is. So maybe it’s not actually happening to very many people at all?”
Excerpted from Roll Call 2/21/14)
Christopher Flavelle uses the restaurant industry as a test case for analyzing the impact of a minimum wage increase on employment levels.
Flavelle: “Since 1990, the federal minimum wage has risen seven times. If the arguments of restaurant owners were accurate, you’d expect those increases to correspond with a drop in the number of people working at restaurants.”
“The only dips in restaurant employment came during the recessions of 1990-1991 and 2008-2009. Although those drops followed increases in the minimum wage, increases outside of recessions — in 1996, 1997 and 2007 — didn’t lead to reductions in employment levels.”
(Excerpted from Roll Call 2/19/14)
The research division of the Missouri Department of Economic Development says Medicaid expansion in Missouri would create nearly 24,000 jobs, $9.9-billion in new wages and $14.6-billion in new Gross State Product between 2015 and 2022.
The report from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) says expanding Medicaid eligibility for adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level would also generate $402-million in new state general revenue over that period.
(Excerpted from Missouri Net 2/21/14)
Looking like lapdogs of the National Rifle Association, the Republican-run Missouri Senate meekly bowed to the group’s wishes in reviving an unconstitutional gun bill Monday night.
The measure seeks to nullify federal gun laws, and would allow Missouri law enforcement authorities to arrest and put in jail federal law enforcement officials.
That’s on its face silly and unconstitutional as courts have rules previously on similar legislation. But what’s even more inane is the vision of a bunch of taxpayer-supported politicians running around and making pro-gun legislation one of the first things they handle in the 2014 session, not something having to do with the real priorities of the state. You know, like jobs.
On Monday, GOP senators tried to put the best face on their act of spinelessness in face of NRA opposition to one aspect of the gun bill.
Last week the Senate approved a measure that included an amendment from Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, a St. Louis Democrat, which would have required owners to report stolen guns to authorities.
The NRA hit the roof and sent out a (ridiculous) message that the amendment amounted to a gun registry — which it opposes — and the amendment had to go or GOP senators would be graded badly by the pro-gun group.
In what turned out to be nothing more than a publicity stunt, Sen. Brian Nieves appeared at a press conference and decried the NRA’s opposition late last week, saying the organization didn’t understand what was really in the bill.
But on Monday, Nieves was right there with other NRA lackeys on the Senate, stripping Nasheed’s amendment from the bill on a 22-9 party-line vote.
After pointing out the fact that Nieves had let the NRA “punk” him, Nasheed’s quote during debate hit the mark: “Now, because you have one special interest group that has decided to oppose this amendment, everyone decides to run.”
Nieves tried to save face with a few choice marks of his own about the NRA, implying it had lied about the bill and that his opinion of the NRA “has been damaged tremendously in this process.”
But it turns out his opinion had not been damaged enough to actually send a message to the NRA, that it can’t try to mislead a state senator — not to mention millions of Missourians — about legislation before the General Assembly.
No, Nieves and other GOP senators let the NRA roll all over them, leaving its treadmarks behind.
(Excerpted from Kansas City Star 02/18/14)
The 2007 repeal of a Missouri law that required background checks and licenses for all handgun owners appears to be associated with a significant increase in murders there, a new study finds.
The law’s repeal was correlated with a 23 percent spike in firearm homicide rates, or an additional 55 to 63 murders annually from 2008 to 2012, according to the studyconducted by researchers with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and to be published in the Journal of Urban Health.
“This study provides compelling confirmation that weaknesses in firearm laws lead to deaths from gun violence,” Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and the study’s lead author, said in a news release. “There is strong evidence to support the idea that the repeal of Missouri’s handgun purchaser licensing law contributed to dozens of additional murders in Missouri each year since the law was changed.”
The spike in murders only held for those committed with a gun and was consistent throughout the state. Neither Missouri’s border states nor the nation as a whole saw similar increases.
Police in border states that kept such laws reported a big spike in guns bought in Missouri that had been diverted to criminals. In 2009, Missouri exported 136 guns to neighboring Illinois and 78 to neighboring Kansas, according to data collected by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and compiled by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
The researchers analyzed state murder data from the the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting system between 1999 and 2012, controlling for changes to other potential influencers such as policing, incarceration, poverty and other changes to state law. They also looked at annual death-certificate data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which revealed the spike in the firearm homicide rate.
(Excerpted from Washington Post 02/18/14)
What the CBO really found was that the numbers of hours worked would decrease under Obamacare, by roughly 1.5 percent to 2 percent between 2017 and 2024. The report then translated those lost hours into the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs. But that doesn’t mean 2.5 million jobs are going to disappear from the U.S. economy.
The CBO report, in fact, specifically undermines that claim. Those lost hours will “almost entirely” be the result of people choosing to work fewer hours because of Obamacare — not because they lost their jobs or can’t find a full-time job.
The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor, so it will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked relative to what would have occurred otherwise rather than as an increase in unemployment (that is, more workers seeking but not finding jobs) or underemployment (such as part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours per week).
The report explicitly says that Obamacare isn’t going to force businesses to cut jobs on any grand scale. What it is going to do is change how much Americans work.
“I think it’s important to distinguish between people choosing to work less and jobs being lost,” Larry Levitt, vice president at the non-partisan Kaiser Famiy Foundation, told TPM. “That is something important to keep an eye on, since you don’t want to discourage work. But, it’s not in all cases a bad thing.”
“For example, some people in their late 50s and early 60s would like to retire because they have health issues but have kept working for the health benefits. Some of them can now retire because they can’t be discriminated against for having a pre-existing condition and may get help paying their premiums.”
The White House used that argument to push back against the GOP attacks.
“CBO finds that because of this law, individuals will be empowered to make choices about their own lives and livelihoods, like retiring on time rather than working into their elderly years or choosing to spend more time with their families,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
So how exactly will the law influence Americans? It is, of course, complicated.
The main takeaway is: Obamacare will affect how much Americans decide to work. Why? Benefits like tax subsidies to purchase private health coverage and expanded Medicaid are based on income. The more money you make, the fewer benefits you receive. In general, the law’s added financial security will likely give Americans a little less incentive to work.
Some Americans will therefore decide to work less. That could manifest in different ways: some people might chose to transition to part-time work; others might wait longer between jobs. One population — those nearing retirement age — might opt to retire early because the law allows them to continue receiving health coverage even if they don’t work.
But the ultimate impact of those decisions is the same: Americans will be working less. But not because there will be so many fewer jobs, as Kaiser’s Levitt explained to TPM.
“If you guarantee people insurance even if they don’t get it on the job and you give them help based on their income, that’s likely to lead to people working somewhat less,” he said. “That’s going to be true of any means tested program. The only way around it is not to give people the help.”
Obamacare will have some effect on businesses and how many workers they chose to employ, but the net impact is hard to deduce, the CBO reported. Parts of the law, such as the employer mandate penalty, will likely reduce the demand for workers among businesses. But that will be offset, at least in part, because of the law’s positive financial benefits, putting more money into the economy and increasing demand for goods and services.
The report didn’t include any specific projections of how those opposing forces would influence the labor market — and, as the CBO said itself, they should be negligible compared to Americans’ own decisions about how much they want to work.
But those nuances haven’t stopped the horse-race coverage from reading the report as a win for Republicans and a devastating blow to Democrats. At the Washington Post, Chris Cilliza gets the facts of the CBO report correct, but says it doesn’t matter. Republicans can still use it against Democrats.
“Republicans have made quite clear that they will do everything they can to make the 2014 election a referendum on Obamacare and, more broadly, President Obama. And this CBO report gives them a major arrow in that quiver.”
Excerpted from TPM 02/04/14 )
Stop these deadly dances with privatization, and recognize that the medical, moral and economic imperatives for Medicaid expansion all line up
A new report came out this week showing the human impact of our Legislature’s decision to not expand Medicaid. According to Samuel Dickman and other Harvard researchers writing in Health Affairs Blog, between 218 and 700 Missourians will die each year unless we act.
Women in Missouri will miss 4,086 mammograms and 14,134 Pap smears; 12,947 diabetics won’t get their medications; 21,816 of our friends and neighbors will not get their depression recognized and treated; 7,770 won’t be spared from catastrophic medical expenses. Remember, one person’s bankruptcy has real effects on us all.
In a state that so prides itself on a “culture of life,” how can we justify this?
Our state’s legislators are fond of calling Medicaid a “leaky bucket,” something we need to fix before we add more people. What fix do they propose? Many of them propose that we move virtually all of the patients in Missouri Medicaid into private managed care insurance plans, ostensibly to save money. So how efficient are these private plans?
In the first half of 2013, SEC filings showed HMO overhead ranging from 16.1 percent to 26.6 percent. Missouri Medicaid, on the other hand, has a published overhead of 2 percent.
Calling managed care fiscally prudent is ludicrous when you compare those numbers. It’s difficult to imagine how managed care can overcome such a dramatic inflation of administrative expense and still save Missouri taxpayers money. Unless, of course, they just start impeding access to important medical services. Sadly, that is the history of managed care.
We need to fully expand Medicaid, stop these deadly dances with privatization, and recognize that the medical, moral and economic imperatives for Medicaid expansion all line up. We all win when everyone has access to comprehensive affordable health care.
(Excerpted from St. Louis Post-Dispatch 02/01/14)
It is not hard to figure out, however, who would benefit from these (Right to Work) efforts. The answer is Republican politicians, who believe that unions provide too much support to Democrats, and their own bankrolling supporters — business interests hoping to wrest away even the dwindling power held by unions.
While the state is finally coming out of the last recession, middle-class and working-class Missourians are looking to the legislature to take steps to help their bottom lines — not the bottom lines of any political parties or donors.
Right to Work is not the way to get that done.
Unions are not holding this state, its businesses or its employees hostage. With only about 9 percent of Missouri employees affiliated with a union, and with laws that already side with businesses in union contracts, unions are not responsible for impeding the state’s economic growth.
But unions can provide a positive impact on the quality of work done in our state and the wages paid to those who provide that labor.
One area where this is easily seen is the building trades. In fact, the Builders’ Association, which represents more than 900 commercial building companies in Missouri, both union and non-union, testified before the House Workforce Development & Workplace Safety Committee in opposition to Right-to-Work efforts.
One of the association’s arguments — echoed by local union and contracting representatives — is about training programs offered to workers through labor unions. Trained and safety-certified workers make sure that the construction done in Missouri is high quality.
And those skilled workers are, in turn, paid a good wage and provided health care insurance and retirement programs.
Without unions — the goal of Right to Work — Missouri would lose the benefits of that training, insurance and retirement savings.
“In Right to Work, we lose that because the competition is for low wages,” Springfield contractor Jim Carson said.
Derick Barnes with the Laborers Local Union No. 663 in Clever pointed out that low wages mean a lower tax base. “It’s a ripple effect.”
The state is also likely to lose the workers who provide that high-quality construction. They will move on to other states where they can continue to enjoy union benefits, and they will take their skills, training and money with them.
In return, Missouri would have to turn to an untrained, underpaid workforce. We cannot expect the same quality work from them.
Randy Ganz, president of DeWitt & Associates in Springfield, said it has been a challenge to find qualified workers since the recession. “If we don’t pay a good, solid wage … how are we going to keep a good workforce base in Missouri?”
Companies that want to maintain their high standards, including those doing government work that requires those standards, will struggle to find qualified workers — especially without union training available. Without the unions’ apprentice and journeyman programs, private businesses would have to pay for that training. With an untrained workforce, those businesses would also have to ramp up supervision by employees who get paid substantially more than those workers.
Jones has indicated that he prefers the Right-to-Work question to go to the voters. While Missouri voters resoundingly defeated a similar effort in 1978, dwindling union membership and the state’s ever more red complexion make a renewed run past the electorate a more pleasing proposition for the speaker. It also means that our Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon cannot use his veto pen to stop it.
The influence and importance of labor unions has changed dramatically over the century and a half that they have been a force in the United States. Market forces and political shifting winds have contributed to much of that change.
Right to Work should not be used to push one side of those economic influences out of Missouri.
(Excerpted from News Leader 02/02/14 )
A new study that is sure to spur debate attempts to quantify how states’ decisions against expanding Medicaid could affect health and mortality.
The research, published yesterday on the Health Affairs blog, looks at Missouri and the other 24 states that have thus far rejected the idea of extending the public health insurance program to cover the working poor.
In its most dramatic statistic, the study estimates that between 218 and 700 people could die in Missouri each year if Medicaid isn’t expanded. Nationwide, the number of “deaths attributable to the lack of Medicaid expansion” in the opt-out states is estimated at between 7,115 and 17,104.
The number-crunchers — Harvard researchers — also attempt to quantify how many thousands of low-income women will skip breast and cervical cancer screening, how many diabetics will not take medications, and how many low-income people will face undiagnosed depression and catastrophic medical expenses.
Andrea Routh, executive director of the Missouri Health Advocacy Alliance, said the new research documents the tragic and staggering human consequences of not expanding Medicaid.
But the numbers aren’t likely to change the political dynamics. The Republican-led Legislature rejected the expansion last year and leaders give it scant chance of passage this year.
About 238,427 Missourians who would have gained Medicaid coverage will remain uninsured if the program isn’t expanded, the new study estimates.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government would pay most of the cost for that group — adults making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or $32,500 for a family of four. States eventually would cover 10 percent of the tab.
Excerpted from Stltoday.com 01/31/14)
After nearly four years, we finally have a Republican counterproposal: the Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility and Empowerment (or Patient CARE) Act. Despite all the heated rhetoric from Republicans about Obamacare laying ruin to America, the plan would actually keep some of the law’s key provisions. It would preserve some subsidies for lower-income people to buy private insurance, though it would change the way they are calculated. Those $700 billion worth of Medicare savings Mitt Romney denounced during the 2012 campaign? Republicans would keep them. Allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26? Republicans would keep that, too. And the ban on lifetime insurance caps, so people with very expensive diseases don’t lose insurance? Republicans wouldn’t touch it.
But in other crucial ways, the Republican plan is different. First, Obamacare’s absolute ban on withholding coverage from people with pre-existing conditions would be rolled back. Those who remained continuously insured would stay protected, so they couldn’t be charged higher rates or be excluded entirely. But if their insurance lapsed, health insurance companies could charge more or refuse to cover them.
Second, it would shrink the Medicaid expansion. Pregnant women, children and families below the poverty line would still be eligible, but childless adults would not. States would be given a fixed amount per person enrolled in Medicaid to reduce spending.
Third, the Republicans would provide tax credits for people to buy insurance, but only for families earning up to $70,650 per year. (The Affordable Care Act’s subsidies go to families earning up to $94,200.) And employees of large companies, even if those companies did not offer health insurance, would be exempt, regardless of income.
The largest difference is in cost control. Currently, employer-sponsored health insurance is tax free; the Republican plan would make employees pay income tax on at least 35 percent of what their company pays for their plan. The idea is to make patients pay more for their coverage, giving them an incentive to choose cheaper health insurance plans with more deductibles and co-payments, which, in turn, would encourage them to shop around for cheaper tests and treatments and forgo unnecessary ones.
On a more individual level, this is what the Republican plan means: If you are one of the 150 million Americans who get their health insurance through an employer-sponsored plan, get ready for a big tax increase. For a family in the 28 percent tax bracket (earning around $150,000 per year), according to my calculations, it would add up to about $1,470 per year.
People who don’t get insurance through their employer would also be likely to pay more. The Republican plan would provide the unemployed, people in the individual market and those working for small businesses that don’t provide health insurance a tax credit to buy private insurance. But the credit increases only by age, not by need — which means people with lower incomes would pay much more than they would under Obamacare.
In addition, the proposed plan would take us back to the old days when insurance companies could charge women more than men for the same health plan. And older people would also be penalized. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are allowed to charge 64-year-olds only three times what they charge 21-year-olds. But the Republican plan allows insurance companies to charge 64-year-olds five times more. So a 64-year-old individual could pay as much as $21,900 for a plan that costs a 21-year-old only $4,380.
The plan would bring back many insurance company shenanigans. For instance, the decision to roll back the ban on excluding those with pre-existing conditions sounds O.K. in theory: “individuals moving from one health plan to another — regardless of whether it was in the individual, small group, or large employer markets — could not be medically underwritten,” meaning charged higher premiums based on a disease, and “denied a plan based on a pre-existing condition if they were continuously enrolled in a health plan.” So if you lose your job and therefore your employer-sponsored health insurance, you would not be excluded for a pre-existing condition if you immediately bought your own insurance. But if there were a gap in coverage, insurance companies could deny you coverage.
What if the paperwork you filled out is “lost”? The history of insurance companies’ tricks for denying coverage to high-cost patients — like revoking the insurance of a cancer patient who failed to disclose that she had back problems — does not inspire confidence.
Finally, there is the issue of prevention. The Affordable Care Act made preventive services free. To save money, Republicans want to reverse that, so that Americans will behave like cost-conscious consumers — getting their blood tests at a cheaper laboratory or their CT scans at the cheaper imaging center. The problem is that mountains of evidence show that when patients have to pay, prevention is the first thing to go, in part because people aren’t suffering pain or other symptoms, and the benefits of preventive services are typically years away. Saving money by cutting back these services makes no economic sense in the long-term.
(Excerpted from NY Times 01/28/14)
Onerous restrictions imposed by Missouri on federally approved counselors who help people understand and enroll in health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act have rightly been blocked by a federal district judge in Kansas City. Although the ruling by Judge Ortrie Smith applies only to Missouri, its reasoning applies to similar laws or regulations adopted by more than a dozen Republican-led states that are doing their best to sabotage health care reform.
Missouri has been especially recalcitrant in trying to block reform. It declined to create its own insurance exchange, as have many other states, leaving that task to the federal government. It also forbade state and local officials from cooperating with the federal exchange.
Its most outrageous tactic requires counselors, known as navigators, who are already required to meet federal standards, to obtain a separate state license that requires many extra hours of training. They are also required to get an insurance agent’s license before offering advice about the strengths and weaknesses of various health plans. Judge Smith called these additional burdens impermissible obstacles to carrying out the federal law. State officials claim the law ensures that counselors are competent and not scam artists. But the judge ruled that the state law, which he said is pre-empted by the federal law, would harm the public interest by preventing navigators from carrying out their duties. Consumer advocates ought to challenge such laws in other states as well.
(Excerpted from the NY Times 01/28/14)
A Missouri Senate committee is considering legislation to require voters to show photo identification at polling places, amid warnings from the state’s top elections official that 220,000 people would be unable to vote if the bill passed.
Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander said Monday that 150,000 registered voters currently don’t have a government-issued ID that would satisfy the measure’s requirements. He says an additional 70,000 voters have expired licenses.
(Excerpted from News Leader.com 01/27/14)
The Missouri legislature began its 2014 session Wednesday, and anti-choice lawmakers have already set to work introducing legislation that would increase barriers to reproductive health care for women in the state.
State Sen. David Sater (R-Cassville) filed SB 519, which would increase the state’s current 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion to 72 hours.
But as Paula Gianino, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, told RH Reality Check, “women already give considerable thought to this most difficult decision.”
“Waiting periods have been studied for decades, and they don’t decrease abortion they just increase abortion later in pregnancy,” she said. “As a matter of public policy it’s really abhorrent to have politicians force women to have abortions later in pregnancy.”
A 2009 Guttmacher Institute report found that waiting periods have little or no impact on abortion rates, but may postpone the timing of some abortions. “Extended waiting periods are exceedingly onerous,” said Gianino. “Requiring longer wait time will only push women further along in their pregnancy. Any time you force women to have abortion later in pregnancy you are putting women at greater risk.”
In the state house, Rep. Ron Hicks (R-St. Charles County) filed HB 1148, which would make ultrasounds 24 hours prior to an abortion mandatory in the state; under current state law, ultrasounds must be offered but are not required.
Gianino says that as the only clinic in Missouri that provides surgical abortion services, the Planned Parenthood in St. Louis sees patients from a large geographic region, and increasing waiting periods would lead to significant additional cost and create further burdens for women seeking reproductive health care. “Which, frankly, is the intent, I believe,” she said.
According to Gianino, one out of every five patients at the St. Louis clinic travels over 100 miles, and because the clinic offers mid-term abortion, the clinic sees patients from about nine states surrounding Missouri. “These forced delay laws create huge obstacles for women,” said Gianino. “They increase cost, time away from jobs, schools, and families. These laws are meant to create these burdens, while proponents like to disguise them as something different.”
(Excerpted from RH Reality Check 01/09/14)
Leaked internal documents show that Walmart’s strategy for fighting to keep its workers from forming unions includes instructing managers to report suspicious activity and warning workers that joining OUR Walmart could hurt them.
OUR Walmart, which stands for the Organization United for Respect at Walmart, was formed in 2011 as a non-union organizing platform to engage Walmart workers in collective action for better pay and working conditions after the company successfully stifled direct unionization efforts for years. The group can’t negotiate worker contracts in the same way a union would, but it is an organizing vehicle that extends labor law protections against retaliation to workers who participate.
Those protections have been crucial as Walmart has disciplined and fired scores of associates for engaging in OUR Walmart protests and discussions. The evidence of illegal retaliation by the company was strong enough to convince the National Labor Relations Board to file charges against Walmart in 13 different states for violations including threats to fire workers who joined strikes and other protests. The strikes began just before Thanksgiving of 2012 with 400 workers and another 30,000 supporters and have escalated since. Nine different Walmart stores saw strikes in the weeks before Black Friday last year, and the day itself featured 1,500 separate protest actions and more than a hundred arrests.
OUR Walmart’s central demand is for the company to commit to paying associates at least $25,000 per year. Walmart workers currently make an average of $8.81 per hour, more than 25 percent less than at similar retailers, and the majority make less than $25,000. Taxpayers subsidize those low wages and poor benefits. A single 300-worker Walmart store accounts for between $900,000 and $1.7 million per year in public benefits costs for its workers.
By contrast, one of the company’s primary competitors, Costco, pays an average wage of $21.96 and enrolls nearly all of its workers in benefits programs. It reported a quarterly profit of $459 million last spring and of $617 million last summer.
(Excerpted from Think Progress 01/16/14 )
Simple way to tell whether the Republican Party’s newfound commitment to fighting poverty is more than rhetoric: Follow the money
Follow the trail in the party’s recent budgets and what you find, hidden between appendix tables, are deep cuts to programs for the poor.
That’s an agenda that would result in more poverty and deprivation, not less. Yet all the Republicans now talking about poverty — Sens. Marco Rubio, Mike Lee and Rand Paul and Rep. Paul Ryan – either voted for or, in Ryan’s case, authored these cuts.
The notion that the main problem of the poor and jobless is their generous indulgence by the federal government is apparently too seductive to resist. Senate Republicans this week filibustered an extension of emergency benefits to the long-term unemployed. Some have argued that the existence of unemployment benefits is itself the problem.
“When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you’re causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy,” Paul said.
This is a correlation/causation mistake of staggering size and consequence. In effect, Paul sees that people who take medicine are more likely to die and concludes that we need to take away their medicine. When there are three job seekers for every open position, it’s pretty clear that a lack of jobs, rather than lack of interest in getting jobs, is the core problem for the long-term unemployed.
(Excerpted from Wonkblog 01/17/14 Wonkblog 01/17/14)