St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 22
When it comes to Medicaid expansion, it's time for the Missouri Republicans who control the Legislature to play a high-stakes game of truth or dare.
If legislative leaders like Speaker of the House John Diehl, R-Town and Country, and Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, really don't believe that Medicaid expansion would be good for both the Missouri economy and the general revenue budget, then they should hold a hearing and prove Medicaid expansion advocates wrong.
One real hearing. One wide-open debate. One moment where the truth matters.
You would think that a party that is so convinced that Obamacare is the job-killing scourge of a nation that it must be stopped at all costs wouldn't be afraid to make its case, right?
You would be wrong.
Various Democratic proposals to expand Medicaid have been summarily ignored for the past three years. Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, gave it a good two-year try but his colleagues wouldn't listen when he laid out the financial reality: bringing in billions of federal dollars to Missouri's health care industry actually improves the state's budget picture.
And in the Senate? State Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, can't even get a hearing on his proposal to expand Medicaid, even if it is just to Missouri veterans and their families, who, for the record, have come strongly out in support of Mr. Silvey's plans.
So what are Mssrs. Diehl and Dempsey so afraid of?
This month, the office of Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, issued a report on his state's first year under an expansion of Medicaid to the working poor, as called for in President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. The report, prepared by Deloitte Consulting LLC found that everything promised by Medicaid expansion proponents came true. The same thing has happened in most every one of the 28 states that, unlike Missouri, have expanded Medicaid to cover people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
The Kentucky report should be particularly persuasive to Missouri lawmakers, as the two border states have so much in common economically, politically and culturally. Kentucky is a state with two Obamacare-hating Republican U.S. senators who realize that the Medicaid expansion part of the ACA has been good for their state.
How good? An increase in 12,000 jobs and a $1.6 billion economic impact in one year. Kentucky had the second-largest decrease in its uninsured population in the nation. It doubled projections of the number of people who would sign up for new insurance through its state-run marketplace, adding 310,000 insured through Medicaid expansion. Based on the first year numbers, the report projects that by 2021, Kentucky's budget will experience a net-positive impact of more than $900 million. The projected overall economic impact during that time? $30 billion.
... Missouri's Republican leaders are purposefully choosing fewer jobs, less revenue, a worse economy and poorer health outcomes for the state's citizens simply to appease anti-Obamacare know-nothings. These "leaders" don't have the courage to go where facts say they should go.
They won't help veterans who want health care for their families.
They won't admit that they are hurting the Missouri economy and costing real people their lives because they can't access the health care system.
They are afraid to allow an actual Medicaid expansion debate. They can't handle the truth.
Joplin Globe, Feb. 23
MDC in the crosshairs
Name one tax-supported agency that still has the overwhelming support of those who are footing the bill.
Not easy is it?
But the Missouri Department of Conservation, according to a University of Missouri poll conducted this past year, showed almost two-thirds of those questioned thought the Department of Conservation was doing either an excellent or good job. Now the department has become the target of a group that doesn't have near the approval rating — legislators.
Eight bills were introduced to the 2015 General Assembly that could impact the way the agency operates and the programs we all enjoy. And we're not sure why Missouri lawmakers would want to intrude upon one of the most successful operations in our state. In fact, the model used for the Missouri Department of Conservation is considered one of the best in the nation.
Missouri's Conservation Commission was established as an autonomous, nonpolitical entity, free of the control of the state House and Senate. Voters in 1976 approved a one-eighth cent conservation sales tax. The MDC's budget is also funded via the sales of permits. The sales tax generates about $110 million a year, and the permits bring in about $40 million. Its annual budget is the smallest of all state budgets, yet it boasts one of the largest volunteer bases of all agencies. Because it has to operate off its budget, the MDC has figured out how to supplant its programs by using experienced volunteers.
Among the bills in the state Legislature:
—A call for a constitutional amendment cutting the conservation sales tax in half, from one-eighth of a cent to one-sixteenth of a cent.
—A call proposing an amendment that would require the conservation sales tax to be approved by voters every 10 years.
—A bill that wouldn't touch the sales tax but would eliminate the cost for hunting, fishing and trapping permits for residents.
MDC administrators say if either the sales tax or the permit fees were cut, many of the services Missourians enjoy would be cut as well.
The Missouri Department of Conservation administers more than 975,000 acres located throughout the state. About 63 percent, or 615,000 acres, are forested. Its most important mission is to manage the forest, fish and wildlife resources of the state. But it doesn't stop there. The MDC also serves as that liaison between nature and those who want more ways to enjoy it, offering myriad programs for all ages.
There are a number of other agencies and departments in our state rife with problems that deserve deep examination and attention from our lawmakers. In our view, the Missouri Department of Conservation is not one of those. And we're not sure why it is a target for the 2015 Legislature.
(Cape Girardeau) Southeast Missourian, Feb. 18
Lenten season an opportunity to focus on God's gift
(Wednesday, Feb. 18 marked) the beginning of Lent, a period of time leading up to Easter Sunday, during which many Christians will participate in special church services, prayer and sacrifice — a form of fasting — to focus on God.
The origins of Lent date back to the early centuries following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. During the 600s, Gregory the Great called for Lent to begin on Wednesday (it previously began on Sunday), and today we refer to this day as Ash Wednesday.
Some (had) ashes in a symbol of the cross placed on their forehead. Others (did) not but may participate in other traditions aimed at encouraging Christians to focus more on their faith and prayer to God.
Despite the changes to Lent, the practice of fasting is biblical. You can find references in Scripture, including Mark 4, where Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights -- with which the modern timeframe of Lent is consistent.
In Matthew, Jesus is quoted in chapter 6, verses 16 through 18, on how believers should fast.
"And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
Though focusing on one's faith in God should be more than once a year, having these opportunities to dig deeper and grow in faith are important.
May this season of Lent draw you closer to the Creator as we lead up to the miracle of Easter Sunday.
Columbia Daily Tribune, Feb. 23
Schaefer on Uber
Other than his current plan for keeping himself squarely in the public eye now that he's running for statewide office, why would state Sen. Kurt Schaefer want the state to usurp local plans for regulating ride-booking services?
Schaefer has introduced a bill barring local communities from taxing or regulating "transportation network companies," his terminology for services such as Uber. He claims local governments are trying to prevent Uber from operating in Missouri by "balkanizing" regulation of the company.
Columbia Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser begs to differ. "It's no diferent than any other business licensing requirement we do," she says.
Most of us probably agree local government should not make it impossible for Uber to do business, but no such conspiracy is afoot and regulation of companies providing rides for hire is traditionally a local affair. Schaefer's sudden leap into this realm is surprising and, I think, unwarranted — surprising because Republicans typically like to defer to local government, and unwarranted because this foray is a step too far regardless of big-government skepticism.
Columbia law seeks to impose similar rules for Uber and existing cab companies. Schaefer's bill would leave Uber with substantially lower requirements. Maybe Schaefer just wants another moment in the headlines and does not expect, or want, his bill to become law. Surely he does not think the state of Missouri should make different rules for cab companies and what the senator calls "transportation network companies." If he has some sort of deep-seated worry about regulating rides for hire, you'd think he would want all providers in the same boat.
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