Missouri Editorials

Written by Muleskinner Staff

The Associated Press
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Aug. 4

Note to Missouri lawmakers: The constitution is not a Chinese buffet
T.J. McKenna should re-read his oath of office.
Mr. McKenna is a Democrat state representative from Festus who last week told Associated Press reporter David Lieb that he was prepared to cast a vote in September that he knew would violate the U.S. Constitution.
Last session, Mr. McKenna was one of 11 House Democrats and two Senate Democrats to join nearly the entire Republican delegation of the Missouri Legislature in passing House Bill 436, which seeks to nullify every federal gun law ever passed or that ever will be passed. The law would make criminals of federal agents who tried to enforce federal laws. It would legalize fully automatic machine guns in Missouri.
Besides being dangerous, stupid and frivolous, it is plainly unconstitutional, violating both the First Amendment and the Supremacy Clause, which gives priority to federal laws when they are in conflict with state laws.
That’s why Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill. It’s why even if the Legislature overrides his veto in September it will never actually become law. The courts will toss it in a New York minute, but only after the state wastes a lot of time and taxpayer dollars preparing to defend it.
Mr. McKenna knows this. Here’s what he told Mr. Lieb:
“We love our guns and we love hunting. It’s not worth the fight for me to vote against it. . The bill is completely unconstitutional, so the courts are going to have to throw it out.”
We’re not insensitive to Mr. McKenna’s plight. He represents an area of Jefferson County that is increasingly Republican. Many of his friends, neighbors and constituents truly believe the fantasy that President Barack Obama is coming to get their guns. Mr. McKenna lives in one of the few House districts in the state that is competitive.
Too bad.
Here’s the oath of office Mr. McKenna and every other state lawmaker took in January:
“I do solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will support the Constitution of the United States and of the state of Missouri, and faithfully perform the duties of my office, and that I will not knowingly receive, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable thing for the performance or nonperformance of any act or duty pertaining to my office, other than the compensation allowed by law.”
You can’t support the U.S. Constitution by passing laws that trash it.
Remarkably, only one Republican in the House had the courage to live up to his oath when the unconstitutional gun law vote came to the floor.
Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, was the sole GOP “no” vote on the bill.
Why? Because the constitution matters.
“Our Constitution is not a Chinese buffet,” said Mr. Barnes, who happens to be an attorney.
For months now, we’ve chided Republicans for their moral ineptitude in treating the gun debate like a joke. It’s nearly incomprehensible, for instance, that three Republicans who are interested in running for attorney general (Sens. Kurt Schaefer and Eric Schmitt, and Speaker of the House Tim Jones) think so little of the Constitution that they would vote for the bill. Lawyers are officers of the court; they should resign from the bar if that’s how they feel.
But Mr. McKenna’s contempt for the Constitution might be even worse. He’s willing to trade his oath of office for a meaningless vote because he thinks it might inoculate him from an electoral challenge.
That’s just cowardice. It’s also a waste of time. …
Jefferson City News Tribune, Aug. 4
Lottery’s new self-exclusion program aids problem gamblers
Problem behavior more often elicits denial rather than admission.
But for problem gamblers who recognize the consequences of their actions, the Missouri Lottery has started offering a self-exclusion program.
Similar to a Missouri Gaming Commission program that lets gamblers ban themselves from casinos, the Lottery self-exclusion program is voluntary and lasts a lifetime.
Gambling is a twin temptation. A winning streak invites continuation and, when it turns into a losing streak, the attraction of winning it all back remains.
Gambling also may escalate into an addiction — a powerful compulsion to continue a risky activity, despite negative consequence.
“As a gambling provider in Missouri, we have an obligation to our players to operate in a socially responsible manner,” said May Scheve Reardon, Lottery executive director. “Our hope is that those with a gambling problem will sign up for the voluntary program.”
Under the Lottery’s program, self-exclusion applies to prizes of $600 or more, which must be claimed at one of the Lottery’s four regional offices. Logistics thwart extending the program to the 5,000 retailers where smaller prizes may be claimed. Self-exclusion also removes people from the Lottery’s loyalty program and from mailing or promotional lists.
Will it work?
Time will tell. With the casino program, 13,800 have banned themselves. Nearly 3,900 people, however, have rescinded the ban on themselves.
The self-exclusion program is a useful tool for people who recognize they have a gambling problem.
It is not the only available tool, but problem gamblers may find it a valuable first step to change a pattern of behavior that invariably leads to unfavorable consequences.
St. Joseph News-Press, Aug. 3
Rural projects get needed boost
A change in Missouri’s prevailing wage requirements is good news for our region.
Public works projects — like schools and community centers — have been required for years to pay a state-mandated prevailing wage. For most rural areas, however, the way this “minimum wage” was calculated increased the cost of government construction far above rates for private projects.
In some instances, school trustees and town boards have had to scale back, delay or cancel needed improvements because the wage costs put the projects out of reach.
We draw attention to an example cited on this page Saturday by Darryl Wilkinson, editor and publisher of the Gallatin North Missourian. In a recent editorial, Mr. Wilkinson recalled how his community built a municipal swimming pool a number of years ago. The project got done, mostly with donated dollars, but the pay scale required meant the community’s dollars did not go as far.
Rep. Casey Guernsey of Bethany introduced legislation this year to modify the wage requirement. The bill approved by legislators applies to rural areas and divides the current system of voluntary wage surveys between union work and non-union work. The wage is set by whichever group, union or non-union, reports more hours of work in the county during the year.
If there are no reports for a given year, then the wage is set by an average of reports in the county from the last six years. If contractors don’t turn in surveys, then the wage is set by an average of reports from the previous six years in adjacent counties.
The change means local governments will pay rates in line with local conditions. More significant is that non-union rates can be included in the wage determination. While unions are active in many parts of Missouri, it is not appropriate for union rates to solely determine pay rates for a pool in Daviess County or a school in Atchison County.
The legislation was approved by the General Assembly in May and Gov. Jay Nixon recently allowed it to become law without his signature.
Throughout the state, the new policy will be closely monitored to see the potential impact on construction rates and public works projects. Proponents’ claims that the prevailing wage change will spur a boom in school buildings are likely inflated. However, future projects may be able to proceed more quickly than under the old restrictions.
This is one case where local needs should take precedent over statewide regulations.
The Kansas City Star, Aug. 2
Gun vote is a test of allegiance: Firearms lobby or U.S. Constitution?
In September, Missouri lawmakers could be asked to decide whether their allegiance to, or fear of, the gun lobby is stronger than their respect for the U.S. Constitution.
If it is, they unfortunately will vote to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that seeks to declare federal gun laws invalid in Missouri and authorizes the arrest of federal agents who attempt to enforce U.S. law.
That would be a sad day for Missouri. States don’t get to pick and choose which federal laws they wish to follow. The U.S. Constitution empowers federal courts, not state legislatures, to nullify acts of Congress.
Some lawmakers have told reporters they recognize the bill is unconstitutional but they may vote for it anyway, because their districts are “pro gun.”
But it is entirely possible to support responsible gun ownership without defying the Constitution.
Nixon, a Democrat, has pointed out that the vetoed bill carries the added baggage of limiting free speech. It would make it a crime to publish the name or other information of someone who owns a firearm.
So much for the First Amendment. And lawmakers apparently failed to contemplate the scope of that ban. Newspapers couldn’t publish a name or photo of a hunter.
And how will politicians boast about what great gun owners they are if they make it a crime to publish that information?
It’s notable that some of the legislature’s most strident gun rights advocates are lawyers who are mulling a run for state attorney general.
We’ll be watching closely to see if politicians who envision themselves in that office respect the law enough to vote against passage of a patently unconstitutional bill.