What happens when bullies control the state legislature

An editorial writer for the Warrensburg Daily Star Journal succinctly summarized the Republican majority’s responses to each of those three most important needs [crumbling highways, support for public schools, ethics reform]: “Lawmakers did nothing, next to nothing and worse than nothing.” Exactly.

If only they had stopped there. They didn’t, of course.

Instead, the grand finale of the session was the passage of a proposed constitutional amendment to require photo identification for voting. There’s no evidence of any fraud that requires correction, but plenty of evidence that the folks most likely to be turned away from the polls would be poor or minority. Which party would you expect to lose those votes?

The two most popular targets this year were Planned Parenthood and our university. In both cases, the charge was led by Boone County’s own Sen. Kurt Schaefer, who wants very much to be the state’s attorney general (with, I’m guessing, his sights set a good deal higher). In both cases, the senator was a bully.

In the Planned Parenthood case, a federal judge eventually called him on it, ruling that “political pressure” pushed a state agency into revoking the license of the organization’s Columbia abortion clinic. No extra credit for identifying the loudest source of that political pressure.

In the university’s case, Senator Schaefer was more successful. In addition to a fiscal penalty, he sponsored and won partisan support for a special committee with no apparent qualifications for the job to scrutinize the university’s operations before the next session.

Even more troubling was the report a couple of weeks ago in which investigators for the American Association of University Professors concluded that the Board of Curators “violated basic standards of academic due process” in firing faculty member Melissa Click.

The investigators attributed that violation to “legislative intrusion.” The leader of the intrusion? Senator Schaefer.

(Excerpted from Columbia Missourian 5/26/16 )

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THE DANGEROUS ACCEPTANCE OF DONALD TRUMP

“One can argue about whether to call him a fascist or an authoritarian populist or a grotesque joke made in a nightmare shared between Philip K. Dick and Tom Wolfe, but under any label Trump is a declared enemy of the liberal constitutional order of the United States—the order that has made it, in fact, the great and plural country that it already is. He announces his enmity to America by word and action every day. It is articulated in his insistence on the rightness of torture and the acceptable murder of noncombatants. It is self-evident in the threats he makes daily to destroy his political enemies, made only worse by the frivolity and transience of the tone of those threats. He makes his enmity to American values clear when he suggests that the Presidency holds absolute power, through which he will be able to end opposition—whether by questioning the ownership of newspapers or talking about changing libel laws or threatening to take away F.C.C. licenses.”

“To say ‘Well, he would not really have the power to accomplish that’ is to misunderstand the nature of thin-skinned authoritarians in power. They do not arrive in office and discover, as constitutionalists do, that their capabilities are more limited than they imagined. They arrive, and then make their power as large as they can.”

(Excerpted from New Yorker 5/20/16)

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Trump provokes and plays on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger

The Republican Party’s attempt to treat Donald Trump as a normal political candidate would be laughable were it not so perilous to the republic. ….the entire Trump phenomenon has nothing to do with policy or ideology.

We’re supposed to believe that Trump’s support stems from economic stagnation or dislocation. Maybe some of it does. But what Trump offers his followers are not economic remedies — his proposals change daily. What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger. His public discourse consists of attacking or ridiculing a wide range of “others” — Muslims, Hispanics, women, Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, Arabs, immigrants, refugees — whom he depicts either as threats or as objects of derision. His program, such as it is, consists chiefly of promises to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion. He will deport them, bar them, get them to knuckle under, make them pay up or make them shut up.

That this tough-guy, get-mad-and-get-even approach has gained him an increasingly large and enthusiastic following has probably surprised Trump as much as anyone else. Trump himself is simply and quite literally an egomaniac. But the phenomenon he has created and now leads has become something larger than him, and something far more dangerous.

(Excerpted from Kagan Washington Post 5/17/16)

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Trump’s Bizarre Climate Beliefs Would Jeopardize Meaningful Global Climate Action

Donald Trump’s climate science denial and dubious deal-making skills just raised the stakes of this election to “existential.”
As Reuters reported Tuesday, the presumptive GOP nominee said he would seek to renegotiate the Paris Climate Agreement, “spelling potential doom for an agreement many view as a last chance to turn the tide on global warming.”
For the mainstream media, Trump’s dangerous recklessness on the gravest national security threat the nation faces was mostly lost amid the incessant barrage of jaw-dropping things Trump

Certainly it is uniquely reckless and self-destructive to undermine the world’s best — and, indeed, only — hope for preserving a livable climate for ourselves, our children, and the next 50 generations to walk the Earth. In addition, Trump’s nonsensical explanation eviscerates any notion that he might translate whatever deal-making skills he has in the business world into the world of international politics and negotiations.

Trump told Reuters a bunch of other malarky about the deal: “Not a big fan because other countries don’t adhere to it, and China doesn’t adhere to it, and China’s spewing into the atmosphere.”

At this point, all one can do is take him literally. And this is literally gibberish. First off, the United States is “spewing into the atmosphere.” So are all of the countries who signed Paris. That is the point of making the deal.

Second, this is just gibberish: “Not a big fan because other countries don’t adhere to it.” The Paris agreement hasn’t gone into force yet, so no countries “adhere to it” as of now. If Trump meant other countries haven’t been adhering to previous climate agreements, the main country that actually applies to is the United States which agreed to the Kyoto Protocol CO2 reduction targets in 1997 but never ratified it and never adhered to it. The European Union, however, did adhere to it.

Third, more gibberish: “China doesn’t adhere to it.” Again, it hasn’t gone into force yet. Moreover, despite the fact that it hasn’t gone into force yet, China is already beating its carbon target. China said that by 2030 it would peak in CO2 emissions and double the amount of carbon-free energy it uses. It appears to be plateauing in CO2 emissions already. It has recently redoubled its war on coal and is exceeding all of its pledged targets for clean energy deployment.
Then again, this kind of nonsense on China and global warming should not surprise anyone given the bizarre conspiracy theory he tweeted in 2012:

The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012

In the end, Trump can’t force the other nations of the world to renegotiate Paris. But he could as President undermine the EPA’s Clean Power Plan which is needed to achieve our target — and he could block the “ratcheting down” of climate targets needed to avoid catastrophic warming. His threat to blow up the only process we have to avoid multiple irreversible catastrophic climate impacts must be taken as seriously as his candidacy.

(Excerpted from Think Progress 5/18/16)

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A Very White Supreme Court – Your Ultimate Guide To The People Donald Trump Will Consider For The Supreme Court

Earlier this year, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump pledged to release a list of potential Supreme Court nominees — all of whom he said would be very conservative — in order to allay fears that he may name someone to the Supreme Court who is insufficiently sympathetic to the GOP’s position on legal interpretation. On Wednesday, Trump released his list, and the list will not disappoint even the more hard-line conservatives.

Trump has, at various times, said that he was working with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank led by former tea party Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), and the Federalist Society, a conservative legal society that morphed into an incubator for lawsuits seeking to dismantle much of the federal government, in order to draw up the list. Five of the names on Trump’s list also appeared on a list of eight potential Supreme Court nominees that Heritage published at the end of March.

The list, which Trump has said will make up the entire universe of potential Supreme Court nominees in a Trump administration, is a testament to the work Republicans have done at both the federal and state level to stock the lower courts with ideologically reliable judges with resumes that make them plausible Supreme Court nominees. About half of the names on Trump’s list are federal judges, while five are state supreme court justices. Many clerked for some of the most conservative individuals to sit on the Supreme Court in their lifetime. Only three are women. All are white.

(Excerpted from Think Progress 5/18/16 )

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REALITY CHECK: Nothing, next to nothing, worse than nothing legacy of 2016 legislative ‘leaders’

Like fan blades revolving furiously against the heat of reality, some leading Republican lawmakers spun their list of “accomplishments” after this year’s General Assembly session ended Friday, but blew only hot air on issues that mattered.

Sometimes at odds with members of their own party, Republicans ended the session on the big issues – highways, campaign finance reform and public education – by being responsible for nothing, next to nothing and worse than nothing.

NOTHING: On highways, Republican Rep. Dean Dohrman in March explained to Warrensburg business leaders the reality of Jefferson City politics.
“We’ve got too many people running for too many offices,” Dohrman said, and deserves kudos for honesty.
In the meantime, road work continues to decline with the lack of revenue. At the same time, highway deaths have increased by more than 10 percent, with 861 people dying on state roads in 2015.

NEXT TO NOTHING: Republican leaders talked about a needed facelift for ethics reforms at the start of the session. Sen. President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, opposed campaign finance reform and throughout the session stayed true to what he told reporters about reform in February: “You all want it, we don’t, so it’s not going to happen.”
Lawmakers talked a good ethics game, but when the gavel fell Friday, they had delivered only a blush of reform – such as not allowing each other to become lobbyists for a whole six months after leaving office. GOP leaders tried to make a big deal out of a change that amounts to next to nothing.

WORSE THAN NOTHING: Under the education Foundation Formula, public schools for several years have gotten less money than needed to reach the measure for adequate funding. Rather than bear the shame of under-funding schools by $456 million this year, lawmakers are playing a shell game. They capped the funding. They dropped the hoped-for, full-funding total for public schools from the present $3.8 billion to about $3.4 billion. This means public schools across Missouri must lower expectations, and Warrensburg schools must lower expectations by about $1.8 million.

“This cheapening of the foundation formula results in a broken promise to our local schools and the students they educate,” Gov. Jay Nixon said.
The hypocrisy to the claim that there is not enough money to fund public schools is found in the fact that Missouri for several years has cut taxes to benefit special interest groups, including cutting the top income tax rate from 6 to 5.5 percent, which means little to nothing in savings for most Missourians, but millionaires will pocket more money, as if they really need that money more than public schools.
What lawmakers did to public schools is worse than nothing.

Lawmakers can spin their “accomplishments” in the legislative session – passing partisan issues, such as disenfranchising poor and elderly Missourians with a voter ID law; advancing anti-gay, anti-business legislation in the Senate that, thanks to two courageous Republicans, later failed to get out of a House committee; and bowing to other special interests – but on the key issues of highway funding, ethics reform and funding public schools, lawmakers did nothing, next to nothing and worse than nothing.

(Excerpted from Daily Star Journal 5/18/16)

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Fighting off evils that barely exist

In the closing hours, the legislature passed two measures related to Voter ID laws. Ballot box fraud has nationally become another popular expedition in search of horrors.

These bills are actually two parts of the same desired outcome; one puts voter identification requirements on the November ballot and the other spells out the specifics if voters approve the measure.

A document frequently called upon to support the Missouri legislation, a report by the Heritage Foundation, showed 17 voter fraud convictions in the state from 2005 to 2015.

Each of those convictions came from offenses of “false registration” … that is, a violation that requiring a photo identification at a polling place would not remedy.

During those years, Missourians voting in statewide general elections, not counting primaries or local contests, cast more than 11 million ballots.

Even one case of voter fraud diminishes the system, but you can’t view 17 convictions out of 11 million votes cast as a blossoming crime wave.

Far more people will be denied their legal right to vote with these new, overwrought requirements.

Limiting the participation of those most likely to lack a photo ID, those people poor or of color, seems the greater ill.

(Excerpted from St. Joseph New-Press 5/17/16)

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Chaos in House after GOP votes down LGBT measure

The House floor devolved into chaos and shouting on Thursday as a measure to ensure protections for members of the LGBT community narrowly failed to pass after Republican leaders urged their members to change their votes.

Initially, it appeared Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s (D-N.Y.) amendment had enough votes to pass as “yes” votes piled up to 217 against 206 “no” votes.

But it eventually failed on a 212-213 vote after a number of Republican lawmakers changed their votes from “yes” to “no.”

GOP leaders held the vote open as they pressured members to change sides.

“Shame! Shame! Shame!” Democrats chanted as they watched the vote tally go from passage of Maloney’s amendment to narrow failure.

Twenty-nine Republicans voted for Maloney’s amendment to a spending bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs and military construction projects, along with all Democrats in the final roll call.

“This is one of the ugliest episodes I’ve experienced in my three-plus years as a member of this House,” Maloney, who is openly gay, said while offering his amendment.

The amendment would have effectively nullified a provision in the defense authorization that the House passed late Wednesday night. The language embedded in the defense bill states that religious corporations, associations and institutions that receive federal contracts can’t be discriminated against on the basis of religion.

Democrats warn that such a provision could potentially allow discrimination against the LGBT community in the name of religious freedom. Maloney’s amendment specifically would prohibit funds to implement contracts with any company that doesn’t comply with President Obama’s executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers.

When asked about the vote-switching, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) denied knowing whether his leadership team pressured Republicans. “I don’t know the answer. I don’t even know,” Ryan told reporters.

(Excerpted from The Hill 5/19/16)

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Clinton v. Trump: Six months of surprises

One of the most complicated parts of polling in 2016 is going to be gauging turnout among key groups. The Quinnipiac pollsters assumed a higher turnout among whites and a lower turnout among minorities, compared to 2012. So the conflicting results demonstrate how important it will be for each candidate to persuade prospective supporters to vote on Election Day. (It also shows how difficult accurate polling can be, as pollsters seek a turnout model that they believe will reflect on Election Day.) Turnout is always important, but given the polarized nature of the current electorate, it is particularly crucial this year.

The Clinton team anticipates she will need to spend around $1 billion in the campaign. There will be a larger number of states in play in the fall due to Trump’s unusual coalition—a political reality that will cost both candidates more money. Trump’s anti-illegal immigrant stances and sharp rhetoric on building a wall along the Mexican border means that some states such as Arizona, Colorado, and Missouri may be within the reach of Democrats owing to the large Hispanic populations there.

However, Trump’s strong support among white, working class voters suggests that he may be competitive in Rust Belt states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota that have been hard hit by the loss of manufacturing jobs and that Democratic presidential candidates have carried in the last few election cycles. He likely will force Democrats to spend money in states they typically have taken for granted.

The fundraising challenge for Trump as a billionaire is pivoting from his self-funding stance in the primaries, where he consistently touted his independence from special interests and ability to be independent due to his personal wealth.

In the general election, he will need to match Clinton’s fundraising and that will force him to rely on the same financial interests he has been criticizing for months. Look for him to raise money through the Republican National Committee and to have supporters who will set up a super-PAC in his name. He will need about a billion to keep up with Clinton.

The question is how voters will react to that financing shift on his part. Will he be able to turn to special interests or ultra-wealthy individuals without compromising the independent brand that he has carefully cultivated? And can he set up the fundraising organization to raise that much money in a period of six months? Will the traditional moneyed interests in the Republican Party happily donate to his cause or will they exude the same skepticism some in the party establishment have expressed?

Messaging is important in any campaign and the two presumptive nominees already are rolling out their key messages. Trump will remind voters of every past and current Clinton scandal from Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky, and Vince Foster to Benghazi, the Goldman Sachs speeches, and her private email server. He will use these critiques to say she is unfit for office and cannot be trusted with America’s future at this volatile time in world affairs.

What could make this race (somehow) more unpredictable and volatile for each campaign is the possibility of several wildcards in the fall. The economy could weaken, which would cast doubt on Democrats’ stewardship of the issue that most concerns voters. A second wildcard would be an October terrorist attack in the United States or Europe. In fall 2015, Trump’s poll numbers were starting to drop and it looked like he finally would pay for his outrageous comments on many issues. However, after the Paris bombings and attacks in San Bernandino, Trump’s numbers came back and stayed strong on the Republican side. A third source of uncertainty is the Zika virus that has unfolded in South America. If it arrives in the United States and causes political havoc the way the Ebola virus did in 2014, it would be problematic for Democrats. It would be easy for Trump to play on public fears about foreigners and disease, which is the way many past American leaders criticized immigration policy. That kind of development would enable Trump to knit together his anti-immigration, global chaos, and neo-isolationism arguments under one tidy bow. A third source of uncertainty is the Zika virus that has unfolded in South America. If it arrives in the United States and causes political havoc the way the Ebola virus did in 2014, it would be problematic for Democrats. It would be easy for Trump to play on public fears about foreigners and disease, which is the way many past American leaders criticized immigration policy. That kind of development would enable Trump to knit together his anti-immigration, global chaos, and neo-isolationism arguments under one tidy bow.

(Excerpted from Brookings Institute 5/16/16)

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Trump’s bizarre, dangerous neediness

The Post reported that “some reporters found the calls from Miller or Barron disturbing or even creepy; others thought they were just examples of Trump being playful.” Put me firmly in the “creepy” camp.

I do believe that Republican presidential contenders Marco Rubio (who called Trump a con artist), Bobby Jindal (who called him a narcissist) and Ted Cruz (who called him a pathological liar) should feel vindicated. And I believe the nation should be deeply worried about what sort of person the GOP is about to nominate for president.

Does it really matter if Trump had a bit of fun at the expense of some reporters two or three decades ago? It wouldn’t if he were merely asking for another season of “The Apprentice.” He wants us to make him the most powerful man in the world, and the “Miller” and “Barron” episodes — along with the transparently untrue denials that they ever took place — betray a level of ambition and insecurity that voters should find deeply alarming.

In my experience, most successful people could be described as needy in some sense. Trump, however, takes neediness to a bizarre and frightening extreme.

I’m taking this seriously because Trump is asking to be taken seriously — which means he wishes to be taken at his word. Someone should explain to him how this works.

He has built a remarkable career on bluster, branding and relentless self-promotion. Self-regard bordering on self-worship and a willingness to bend the truth may have been assets that helped his rise. Insecurity and a need to be loved could have given him motivation. For a vainglorious mogul who lives to plaster his name across the New York skyline — and whose most consequential decision is whether to use travertine or Carrara marble — these are useful traits.

For a president of the United States, they could be catastrophic.

Excerpted from Washington Post 5/16/16)

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Conservatives make a deal with the devil

A prospective president needs to be morally and intellectually fit for the office. He or she can’t be guilty of demagoguery or mean-spiritedness, or talk nonsense all the time.

We have left the realm of half-a-loaf and you-scratch-my-back. We are dealing with a question of fitness for the highest office in the land. It is not enough for GOP partisans to assert Trump’s superiority to Clinton on this issue or that. They must justify that Trump has the experience, knowledge, temperament, judgment and character to be president of the United States. That is a more difficult task.

Republicans stand accused of disdaining immigrants; their nominee proposes to round up and deport 11 million people. Republicans are accused of religious bigotry; their nominee proposes to stop all Muslims at the border. Republicans are accused of a war on women; the Republican nominee, if a recent New York Times exposé is accurate, is the cave-man candidate.

(Excerpted from Gerson New York Times 5/16/16)

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President Obama makes his most forceful case yet against Trump

President Obama used his commencement address at Rutgers University on Sunday to make his most forceful case yet against the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee. Consider:

Obama took on the premise of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan:“When you hear someone longing for the ‘good old days,” take it with a grain of salt… [B]y almost every measure, America is better, and the world is better, than it was 50 years ago, or 30 years ago, or even eight years ago.”

He slammed Trump’s call for a border wall: “The world is more interconnected than ever before, and it’s becoming more connected every day. Building walls won’t change that.”

He criticized the presumptive GOP nominee’s Muslim ban: “Isolating or disparaging Muslims … that is not just a betrayal of our values; that’s not just a betrayal of who we are; it would alienate the very communities at home and abroad who are our most important partners in the fight against violent extremism.”

He ripped into Trump’s command of the facts: “Ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real, or telling it like it is.”

And he highlighted Trump’s lack of political experience in politics: “You know, it’s interesting that if we get sick, we actually want to make sure the doctors have gone to medical school, they know what they’re talking about… And yet, in our public lives, we certainly think, ‘I don’t want somebody who’s done it before.'”

(Excerpted from First Read 5/16/16)

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No bright side to sexual violence against women

As members of the Missouri House debated HJR 98 last week — a bill that would create a ballot initiative to assign fetuses full personhood — we’ve heard some of the most harmful rhetoric about women and rape that we have heard since Todd Akin’s run for Senate.

As practicing obstetrician-gynecologists, and representatives of the Missouri section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, we feel compelled to speak out about such language. Regardless of personal feeling about abortion, we hope that everyone could agree that violence against women is unacceptable.

However, during a House floor debate last week, Rep. Tila Hubrecht, R-Dexter, suggested that a pregnancy resulting from a rape is a “silver lining.”

We find the notion that good may come of such a violation to be dangerous at best. Rape is one of the most violent attacks against women, and any suggestion that there is a bright side to sexual violence is an offense to all survivors.

First of all, rape has clear medical consequences in addition to risk of pregnancy. Perpetrators of sexual assault may not use condoms, exposing victims to sexually transmitted infection. Acute traumatic injuries may range from scratches, bruises and welts to severe lacerations, fractures, head and facial trauma, and more.

There are also long-term physical consequences, including chronic pelvic pain and sexual dysfunction, which can impact women throughout their lives.

But let’s not forget the extreme, debilitating psychologic and mental health consequences associated with sexual assault. These consequences are very real, and they should not be diminished by the claim that any rape has a silver lining.

Without question, any woman who has survived sexual assault knows full well that there is no silver lining. It is a crushing, massively traumatic experience.

That’s why forcing a pregnancy on a woman who has been a victim is literally adding injury to injury. For many women, a pregnancy is indeed something to celebrate. But this is highly unlikely for survivors of rape, who under this legislation could be forced to carry their assailants’ “silver lining” to term.

(Excerpted from St. Lousi Psot Dispatch 5/10/16 )

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Photo ID an unnecessary, partisan ploy

Requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls — which has more to do with partisan politics than ensuring fair and honest elections — has been sent to Gov. Jay Nixon.

Some variant of the proposal has occupied lawmakers for years, but Republicans on Wednesday advanced a diluted version to the Democratic governor.
We have two problems with the bill — one constitutional, the other political.

Presenting a photo ID at a polling place is not among qualifications outlined in the Missouri Constitution, which says properly registered Missourians are “entitled” to vote. Previous legislative approval of a photo ID bill was struck down by the state Supreme Court in 2006.

This year’s bill is accompanied by a separate proposal, pending in the Legislature, which would require voters to amend the constitution in order for the bill to take effect — but the amendment only says voters “may be required by general law to identify himself or herself with a form of identification, which may include valid government-issued photo identification.”

Remaining hurdles, therefore, include action by Nixon and the outcome of a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment. Our quarrel with the proposal is, its focus is more on political advantage than honest elections.

Supporters of photo ID, largely Republicans, contend the proposal is designed to prevent voter fraud. Opponents, largely Democrats, counter that voter fraud traditionally has not been a problem in Missouri elections. They maintain the motivation for the bill is to impede and/or disenfranchise minority and poor voters who historically have favored Democrats.

The preferred strategy to win elections is developing a platform that gains support from a majority of voters. A devious strategy is to obstruct and/or eliminate voters who support competitors.

Diluted provisions in the measure advanced to the governor are designed to make the bill more palatable but, in reality, they simply muddle the election process.
Missouri’s election process outlined in the constitution has served voters well for many years. We are open to improvements, but the voter ID proposal is an unnecessary partisan ploy.

(Excerpted from New Tribune 5/8/16)

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Donald Trump sets a new record for economic recklessness

AMONG THE many misconceptions fueling Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, one of the most stubborn, and most pernicious, is this: Government should run like a business, ergo Mr. Trump, a businessman, is especially qualified for the White House. As evidence that this is a dangerous fallacy, we would cite Mr. Trump’s CNBC interview Thursday, in which he mused about getting control over nearly $19 trillion in federal debt.

After rambling about how he is a “low-interest-rate person,” in part because cheap interest makes the federal debt manageable, which is true enough, he added that, as president, “I would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal.” He separately hypothesized that the United States “can buy back [debt] at discounts. You can do things with discounts.”

If these phrases mean anything, they contemplate at least partial repudiation of the U.S. government’s obligations, sacrosanct since the time of the founding. The “full faith and credit” of the United States, established over centuries and embodied in its debt, is the glue that holds global finances together. The minute the United States tried to reduce its debt load by offering creditors less than 100 percent of principal and interest — i.e., by “discount,” or “making a deal,” like Argentina or Greece — every institution that had taken this country at its word would be instantly destabilized.

To be sure, this is the way Mr. Trump has often operated in the private sector: borrowing to finance a high-risk venture, then aggressively seeking relief from creditors if his plans didn’t pan out, including via bankruptcy court. “I have borrowed knowing you can pay back with discounts,” he told CNBC. Playing that game with bankers, who, as Mr. Trump has repeatedly noted, are not “babies” but sophisticated profit-seekers, is one thing. Doing it with, or to, ordinary savers and investors the world over is quite another.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 5/6/16)

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Report shows more Missourians experiencing hunger, biggest increase in country

The percentage of households experiencing hunger in Missouri has more than doubled in the last decade, the highest increase in the country, according to a report released Wednesday by the University of Missouri.

The 2016 Missouri Hunger Atlas shows that 8 percent of households — or about half a million Missourians — went hungry at some point during the last year. An additional nearly half a million are “food insecure,” meaning they worry about not being able to put enough food on the table. They avoid hunger by eating a less nutritious diet and relying on assistance programs.

“Missouri households are the hungriest they have been in decades,” said Sandy Rikoon, director of the MU Interdisciplinary Center for Food Insecurity and co-author of the report.

In total, nearly 17 percent of Missouri households were food insecure last year, compared with 14 percent nationwide, placing it among the top 10 worst states.

The highest levels of food insecurity are seen among persistent high-poverty areas in southern Missouri and in St. Louis, where it’s estimated that nearly 26 percent struggle, the report found. However, areas in northern Missouri are experiencing increasing levels of poverty and people in need of food.

The economic and social costs of not having enough to eat are high. Studies of children show that food insecurity and hunger are big predictors of chronic illness, lower school performance and developmental problems.

“One in five children in Missouri live in food insecure households,” said MU doctoral student Darren Chapman. “We know these kids are much more likely to face health issues, miss school and have difficulty concentrating when they are in class.”

Adults face income loss, missed days at work, increased health costs and higher demand for public benefits and social services.

 (Excerpted from St. Louis post Dispatch 4/27/16)

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LGBT groups gird for battle against religious-based legislation in Congress

The country’s largest LGBT rights group on Thursday went to battle against a religious-based amendment tacked onto the annual defense policy bill that advocates say would strip away gay rights in federal contracting.

The Human Rights Campaign called it the first legislation to pass a congressional committee that would roll back expanded rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people at the federal level since the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry.

We see this as social conservatives in the House trying to push what they view as a religious liberty exemption and use it as a sword rather than a shield,” David Stacy, the HRC’s director of government affairs, said in an interview.

The measure, introduced by freshman Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) at 12:30 a.m. as the House Armed Services Committee prepared to pass the defense bill, would require the government to give religious organizations it signs contracts with exemptions in federal civil rights law and the Americans Disabilities Act.

Those laws do not ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. So the legislation would effectively override the executive order President Obama issued in 2014 prohibiting federal contractors from such discrimination.

The amendment provides an exemption for “any religious corporation, religious association, religious educational institution or religious society” contracting with the government. It quickly prompted heated exchanges between Russell and committee Democrats, who said it was purposefully unclear.

Stacy said that defeating the amendment on the House floor and in the Senate is now one of Human Rights Campaign’s top priorities. By late Thursday, a coalition of 42 civil rights groups called the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination had sent the committee a letter opposing the amendment.

It “would authorize taxpayer-funded discrimination in each and every federal contract and grant,” the letter said of the measure. “The government should never fund discrimination and no taxpayer should be disqualified from a job under a federal contract or grant because he or she is the ‘wrong’ religion.”

Stacy said the language in the amendment also would apply to organizations that receive federal grants. “If the government says, we’re going to fund a homeless shelter, they can refuse to hire an LGBT person to staff it even if 40 percent of the people they’re serving are LGBT,” he said.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 4/29/16)

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For one group of women, the gender wage gap keeps getting worse

Pay disparities between men and women start earlier in their careers than frequently assumed and have significantly widened for young workers in the past year, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute.

Paychecks for young female college graduates are about 79 percent as large as those of their male peers, the think tank found — a serious drop from 84 percent last year.

The sudden change follows a more gradual shift. In 2000, women ages 21 to 24 with college degrees earned 92 percent of their male counterparts’ wages on average, which was unchanged from 1990.

Regardless of their education, young women typically earn less money than young men in the United States. Female high-school graduates, ages 21 to 24, now earn an average of 92 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.

Some have argued that the wage gap, at any stage of a woman’s life, starts with her choices. Women are more likely than men to scale back at work when they start a family, for instance. (Employers are also more likely to reward fathers and penalize mothers.) But EPI’s data shows that the gender wage gap cracks open right after college graduation, well before decisions like maternity leave can affect women’s earnings.

The gender wage gap in the broader labor force has steadily declined since the 1980s.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 4/28/16)

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Legislature wants to extend gun rights to guests, parking lots and admitted felons.

Yet another dangerous and unnecessary gun bill is clogging up proceedings in the closing weeks of the Missouri Legislature’s session. House Bill 1468 passed the House this week after Republican leaders shut down a Democratic filibuster. It’s now awaiting action in the state Senate, where it should be allowed to die quietly. Missourians would be the safer for it.

HB 1468, sponsored by the reliably gun-happy Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, would do several bad things. It would extend the“castle doctrine” — you can use deadly force to defend yourself in your home — to invited guests. It would remove the ban on carrying concealed firearms in public areas that aren’t posted with signs prohibiting it. It would allow anyone who doesn’t contest or pleads guilty to a felony charge to get a concealed carry permit. It would give firefighters a pass on certain “unlawful use of weapons” violations. And it would allow employees to keep weapons in cars at their employer’s parking lot regardless of company rules against it.

What could possibly go wrong?

The worst provision in this very bad bill is the one about the castle doctrine. Say you invite a bunch of friends over to watch a Blues game or “Desperate Housewives.” Unbeknownst to you, someone is upset with one of your guests and barges in to confront the person.

You try to calm things down, but your friend “reasonably believes” that he or she is in imminent danger of “unlawful force,” which can be something as innocuous as being pushed. So out comes the gun and down goes the intruder.

If HB 1468 passes, your friend can cite Missouri’s castle doctrine, and the burden is on the state to prove that his fears were unreasonable.

The part about the felon who cops a plea is also terrible. Right now felons can’t get concealed-carry permits, but Burlison wants to limit that to “convicted” felons, who he apparently believes pose less of a danger to society. Memo to inmates facing felony charges: If this bill passes, go ahead and plead out. Once you’ve done your time, you can get a carry permit.

(Excerpted from St. Louis Post Dispatch 4/27/16)

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SJR 39 fails the constitutional test of balance

he debate over Senate Joint Resolution 39 in the Missouri Legislature has been emblematic of the state of political discussion in America today.

Supporters of the proposal, which would make it legal for certain businesses to discriminate against gay people if they had a religious opposition to same-sex marriage, say they are standing up for religious freedom. If you’re against the bill, they say, you are attacking Christians.

Opponents of the resolution (and I am one) point out that same-sex marriage is the law of the land and that allowing discrimination by certain businesses opens a constitutional Pandora’s box. We sometimes use words like “hateful” to describe the motivations of those on the other side.

There is very little middle ground.

But a group of law professors may have cut through the noise.

Thirteen law professors with expertise in constitutional law, religious freedom and civil rights sent a 10-page memo to Missouri House Democrats that carefully, and with nuanced language, explains how SJR 39 tilts the existing balance between constitutional rights too far in one direction. The Democrats, including the House’s only openly gay member, St. Louis attorney Mike Colona, shared the legal analysis with their Republican colleagues. Enough of them on the House committee considering SJR 39 were influenced by the arguments that a vote on the resolution was delayed.

The memo doesn’t question the motivations of the Republicans who are pushing SJR 39; it doesn’t talk about potential devastating economic consequences as a result of business boycotts. Instead, it asks them to consider the Constitution that so many members of the GOP suggest is their guiding document.

“In the name of promoting religious diversity and freedom of conscience, SJR 39 disrupts the careful balance set forth in the U.S. Constitution, a balance between private religious practice, nonendorsement of religion by the state, and other fundamental rights such as rights to equality and liberty,” wrote the professors, who hail from Washington University, St. Louis University, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Columbia University.

“It substantially oversteps the limitations on state action set out by the Establishment Clause by privileging religious believers and immunizing them from compliance with laws generally applicable to all other citizens of the state.”

SJR 39, the professors said, “essentially creates an immunity from liability and a license to discriminate in the name of religion.”

Missouri clergy already have rock-solid First Amendment protections in place, the law professors argue. But extending such protections to certain private businesses using overly broad language disrespects the intent of the balance struck by the Founding Fathers.

“By exempting certain religious entities and believers from an obligation to treat all Missourians equally, SJR 39 sacrifices the equality rights of many in order to accommodate the religious preferences of a few,” the professors write.

 (Excerpted from St. Louis Post Dispatch 4/25/16)

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