Missouri Editorials

Written by Muleskinner Staff

The Associated Press
St. Joseph News-Press, Aug. 17

Heroin poses threat to region
It’s easy to convince ourselves, in rural America, that we’re isolated from some of the worst problems afflicting big cities.
Time and again, however, that illusion is shattered.
The intrusion of illegal drugs to every community of Northwest Missouri and Northeast Kansas is one of these problems that represent an ongoing battle. Now, a new — or old — menace threatens.
Police in Des Moines recently made the largest heroin bust in the city’s history. The drugs — confiscated from a pickup on the interstate — amounted to 11 pounds of heroin and 3 pounds of methamphetamine.
For those not familiar with the illegal drug trade, this might not sound like much. It turns out the heroin seizure was 440 times as much of the drug as found in Des Moines last year. The haul had a street value of $1.3 million.
The heroin was believed to have originated in Mexico. It’s easy to imagine how it may have traveled to Des Moines — up Interstate 35, right through the heart of Northwest Missouri. The big-city problem posed by this dangerous drug is on our doorstep.
Heroin use is soaring in the United States, especially in rural areas. The number of people who say they have used the drug in the past year jumped more than 50 percent between 2002 and 2011, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Deaths due to heroin more than tripled in Missouri in just four years, according to a report this spring from the Missouri Recovery Network. Deaths rose from 69 in 2007 to 244 in 2011.
The disturbing spike in heroin use is driven in part because communities have effectively cracked down on illicit use of prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone, and manufacturers have made it more difficult to convert prescription drugs to illegal uses.
The battles against addiction and the illegal drug trade are expensive and draining, with victories too rare. Nevertheless, it is vital for our communities to embrace stepped-up education and prevention programs; participate in prescription drug take-back programs; and accept a higher level of monitoring of prescription drug purchases — both to catch criminals and to identify those misusing addictive painkillers.
Unchecked illegal drug use tears families apart, puts lives in danger and contributes to increases in other crimes, especially property thefts. We have no choice but to confront this threat.
The Kansas City Star, Aug. 16
Uphold Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of costly income tax bill
Gov. Jay Nixon is barnstorming Missouri, warning that an override of his veto of a controversial income-tax bill could cost the state $1.2 billion, devastate schools and services, and wreak permanent havoc with the state’s finances.
Republican leaders of the General Assembly accuse Nixon of carrying out a scare campaign. They say their bill contains safeguards, and the economic boost from lower income taxes would quickly make up for any budget shortfall.
The fight is in full throttle as a Sept. 11 veto session draws near. GOP leaders want their troops to vote for an override of the governor’s veto of House Bill 253, which cuts taxes on some business incomes and, to a lesser extent, personal incomes, over a period of time.
But Nixon’s objections are solid. Analysts with little political skin in the game agree that House Bill 253 is poorly drafted and underestimates the extent of the cuts on a number of fronts.
The biggest wild card allows for a cut of a half percent in personal income taxes if the U.S. Congress passes the Federal Marketplace Fairness Act, a bill making it easier for states to collect taxes on Internet purchases. Authors of House Bill 253 say new sales tax revenues of at least $343 million a year would offset the $300 million or so the state would lose from the tax cuts.
But Nixon and others point to academic studies that estimate Missouri would likely receive only about $212 million in taxes from online sales, and more than half of that would go to local governments. Plus, the new revenues would take some time to arrive, whereas the tax cut would take effect right away.
Compounding the problem is what appears to be one of several major drafting errors in House Bill 253. Language says the tax changes, including the half-percent cut triggered by passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act, would apply to “all tax years beginning on or before” the effective date of the changes.
Nixon and others think that makes the half-percent tax cut retroactive. A different state statute limits the window on collecting tax credits or refunds to three years. That means Missourians could claim a total of $300 million or more worth of tax cuts if Congress passes the federal law, and they would be entitled to claim the same amount for each of the three previous years. That accounts for Nixon’s projection that the state could quickly be out $1.2 billion.
Republicans hotly dispute that scenario, saying they didn’t intend to make the cuts retroactive. But intent may not be enough. A court is likely to be more focused on the bill’s actual language.
House Bill 253 is carelessly drafted and would have enormous negative consequences. Its risks greatly outweigh its rewards; there is no good evidence the proposed cuts would create jobs, and middle-income families would see very little lift. Lawmakers should be grateful Nixon’s veto gives them a way out of the mess they created.
The Washington Missourian, Aug. 16
Texting and Driving
The Missouri Legislature banned texting while driving for persons under the age of 21 in 2009.
Since that time, a number of other bills have been proposed that would expand the texting and driving ban to all ages and establish tougher penalties. None of them passed, including two which were introduced this year.
Missouri is one of only six states to allow drivers over the age of 21 to text and drive legally.
That is remarkable when you stop and consider the close calls all of us encounter on a regular basis with distracted drivers who are texting. You see it all the time. And it is not just young people.
Missouri legislators need to wake up. Texting while driving is one of the biggest concerns on the roadway today — it doesn’t matter who is doing the texting — it is still just as dangerous.
How dangerous? A growing body of evidence suggests that driving while texting is as dangerous as driving while drunk.
A study released earlier this summer conducted by New York’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center found that more teenagers now die annually from texting while driving than die from driving under the influence of alcohol.
The study said this makes texting while driving the leading cause of death among teens. That stands to reason, since teens text a lot more than they drink. The study’s author isn’t surprised. “The reality is kids aren’t drinking seven days per week — they are carrying their phones and texting seven days per week, so you intuitively know this is a more common occurrence.”
Other surveys show that a high percentage of teens and adults admit to routinely texting while driving even though laws prohibit it.
It’s time to crack down on texting and driving and make it illegal for persons of any age.
Moreover, we need stricter and broader laws that would, at a minimum, equate distracted driving, by definition, to careless and imprudent driving.
Repeat offenders should have their licenses suspended and, if necessary because of multiple violations, revoked.
Ignoring this problem is inexcusable.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Aug. 16
Here’s saluting the Party of No (for the veto session, at least)
Ever since the Tea Party hijacked the Republican Party and turned it into the Party of No, we have lambasted, lampooned and lectured Missouri Republicans, particularly members of the state House of Representatives, for their love affair with “no.”
No to health care. No to reasonable gun laws. No to cutting tax credits. No to equal rights. No to ethics reform.
No. No. No.
Well, today, we offer a refreshing reversal.
Maybe it’s because we’re feeling hospitable. The House Republican caucus chose the city of St. Louis for a little August confab to decide how they will handle the upcoming veto session. We’re glad they came to greater St. Louis, which generates about 40 percent of the economic activity in the state. Often, during the legislative session, we wonder if they know St. Louis exists.
We’re pleased they are gathering in a city in which a national teachers’ union and an improving public school district are working together for the benefit of children. We’re happy they came here so maybe they can see firsthand what happens because lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats alike, punted on fixing a school transfer issue. Because of their inaction, black children from north St. Louis County are spending up to two hours traveling to and from suburban districts just so they can have educational opportunity.
We hope while they’re here, they’ll talk to the president and CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber, Joe Reagan, who will give them an earful about how education and immigration need to be legislative priorities if they really want to attract businesses to Missouri.
So, back to the “no” thing.
Today, we salute the Party of No. Really. When Republicans return to Jefferson City in September for the veto session, they just need to double-negative their no’s.
No, don’t override the governor’s veto of House Bill 253, the dangerous and sloppily written tax-cutting fantasy of multi-millionaire political meddler Rex Sinquefield.
No, they should not override the governor’s veto of House Bill 436, the laughably unconstitutional pro-gun bill that would turn federal agents into criminals and would allow lawmakers to pack fully-automatic machine guns when they next return to St. Louis.
No, they should not override vetoes of bills that ban Sharia Law or the enforcement of United Nations resolutions on sustainability because “conservatives” shouldn’t waste their time on legislation that is meaningless or just plain stupid.
No, they should not override a bill that puts one business, Doe Run, in a special protected legal class so that it can maybe build a newfangled lead smelter that may or may not add to Jefferson County’s already considerable lead pollution problems.
In short, House Republicans should double down on the “no.”
There is not a single bill that Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed that is worthy of spending time in September overturning. We know that House Republicans can’t stand the fact that Mr. Nixon’s in the governor’s mansion. He’s almost as conservative as they are, but he’s not crazy conservative.
Nor are the elder statesmen in their own party, people like Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and former Sen. Jack Danforth, and even occasionally former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and, gulp, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri (when he’s not sipping from the tea cup). All of them are suggesting that the Party of No needs to come back to reality a bit. …
So here’s our advice to the Party of No. In September, go ahead and say no over and over again. Get it out of your system before you have to return in January and deal with the real world. In that world, school children need your help. Businesses need trained workers. And the great cities of Missouri need some attention. …