Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Anti-abortion legislation clears House

The Missouri House passed an anti-abortion measure earlier this week. Both sides of the issue are covered in the accompanying video:

Father of dead soldier ordered to pay for Westboro Baptist Church's legal expenses

(The following is my column for this week's Newton County News.)

The judicial system has administered another slap in the face to the father of a dead soldier.

In 2006, members of the Westboro Baptist Church, a band of hate mongers masquerading as people of faith, picketed the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who died in Iraq, carrying signs proclaiming "You're going to hell," "God hates you," and "Thank God for dead soldiers."

Church members have picketed soldiers' funerals for the past few years, saying that these men and women who died for their country, deserved those deaths because the United States is too tolerant of homosexuals.

Cpl. Snyder's father, Albert Snyder, sued the church, claiming invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress. A jury awarded Snyder $10.9 million, including $8 million in punitive damages. The award was reduced to $5 million, and then the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the verdict, and to add insult to injury, has now ordered Snyder to pay the church $16,000 in legal fees. The U. S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Snyder's appeal.

Naturally, church members, buoyed by the decision, are trumpeting those same First Amendment rights cited by the court in its decision to overturn the jury verdict, to rub salt in Snyder's wounds.

From CNN's account:

Margie Phelps, the daughter of (Westboro Baptist Church pastor) Fred Phelps and the attorney representing the church in its appeals, also said the money that the church receives from Snyder will be used to finance demonstrations. But she also said that the order was a consequence of his decision to sue the church over the demonstration.

"Mr. Snyder and his attorneys have engaged the legal system; there are some rules to that legal engagement," said Phelps, a member of Westboro who says she has participated in more than 150 protests of military funerals.

"They wanted to shut down the picketing so now they're going to finance it," she said.

While freedom of speech and freedom of religion are cornerstones of the American system, and rightfully so, is there not some point where compassion and common sense can be added to the mixture. The Westboro Baptist Church employed its First Amendment rights to ruin a solemn observance of the death of a man who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

Snyder, using his right to address that grievance in court, received a monetary award from the jury. Citing the First Anemdment, the appellate court overturned that verdict, a decision that sickened those who respect and admire the contributions of men like Matthew Snyder, and heartened those who despise the church, but hold the freedoms of speech and religion sacred.

But to tell Albert Snyder that he has to foot the bill for these people to picket the funerals of other men's sons, that is a gratuitous decision that should not have been made.

The Constitution says people like Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church have the freedom to spit in the face of the people who have died for their right to legally spread hate.

The Constitution says nothing about fathers of dead soldiers having to make it easier for them to do so.

We know the members of the Westboro church have no sense of shame. It is sad to think some of our judges are no better.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Goodman makes last minute push

Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, sent the following call for contributions as the quarter nears its end:

Conservatives have said for years that Washington is out of touch, but over the last year the Obama Administration has shown us just how out of touch they can become.

In less than 15 months of Democrat leadership, liberals have taken over our healthcare system and private companies like GM; forced Cap & Trade, the largest job-killing tax increase in our nation's history, through the House; and added trillions of dollars in new debt that even our great-grandkids will not be able to pay off.

The federal government dramatically displayed its aggressive appetite for power by passing the recent healthcare legislation, encompassing 1/6 of our nation's economy. Government now controls 50% of our nation's output! If we continue down this path our country will not be able to economically sustain itself.

Their change has been a disaster for our families. It is our duty as citizens to change course.

At what point do we say enough is enough? Will you help me take the fight to Washington and stop Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her radical regime?

Now is the time to act.

Your contribution of $10, $100, $1,000 or whatever you can afford will help us take on the radicals in Congress and fight for the values we share in southwest Missouri. I do not have deep pockets or special interests financing our race. We are raising our money one dollar at a time from real southwest Missourians, the folks I hope to work for.

We are building a wave of momentum across this district with over 1,300 volunteers signed up and more than 1,000 different donors - many of them donating to a candidate for the first time. I have been to almost 300 campaign events and have visited every county in the district almost weekly since I announced my candidacy last year. We are continuing our "Listening for Solutions Tour" in which I am doing something unusual for candidates these days-LISTENING TO THE PEOPLE-instead of always talking.

As Americans, we face unprecedented challenges today. I want to hear how these challenges are affecting you and your ideas to make things better. I would welcome a chance to hear from you as the tour continues throughout the campaign.

We truly are running a grassroots campaign that is poised to win in August.

And we can win - with your help. Please consider giving whatever you can to help us in this fight for the future of our country. Time is running out for this financial quarter so we need your help by midnight tomorrow, Wednesday, March 31.

Thank you for your support,


Ruestman explains anti-abortion law

I have to admit that even though I have always been pro-life, I was not aware that there are evildoers lurking in the night coercing young women into having abortions against their will. Thanks to Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, and those who voted for HB 1327, this epidemic should be quelled and the coercers put behind bars:

In the past two weeks, some troubling events have unfolded in Washington. The current majority, through its unwanted takeover of healthcare, overturned a 30-year law preventing federal funds from being spent on elective abortions. They’ve tried to patch this up with an executive order that does not carry the full force of law. I believe they should and will be held accountable in the November elections.

In the mean time, here in Missouri we are fighting to pass even stricter pro-life legislation to protect expecting women and the unborn. Last Monday we perfected House Bill 1327 which creates the crime of coercing a pregnant mother to abort. Many times, women are being forced or pressured to seek an abortion by their husband, boyfriend or parents. If someone is found guilty of this horrible act, he or she will face a class A felony with a maximum prison term of ten years. Anyone who knowingly performs an abortion on a coerced woman is guilty of a class C felony.

Additionally, mothers must be able to make informed decisions when seeking an abortion. Under this bill, the physician must provide the following information both orally and in writing:
· The physician’s name;
· The gestational age of the unborn child;
· The anatomical and physiological characteristics of the unborn child;
· Medically accurate information regarding the procedure, the risks involved, alternatives to abortion and follow-up care; and
· The state law regarding coercion.

One of the keys to reducing abortions is accurate and timely information. House Bill 1327 will make a difference. This legislation is vital to saving lives of the unborn and improving the lives of expectant mothers. This legislation could not get passed without the continuing support of voters who have sent a Republican majority to Jefferson City. As the recent politics in Washington, D.C., have shown us, we must be ever vigilant to protect the lives of our unborn and the health of mothers-to-be.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Nexstar Broadcasting stock continues to rise

After falling as low as 57 cents per share at one point, Nexstar Broadcasting stock has been on the upswing ever since and took a big jump Friday.

Nexstar stock closed at $4.86 per share Friday, up 57 cents from Thursday's close, and at one point Friday came within two cent of the five dollar mark.

Nexstar Broadcasting owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield and operates KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.

Gutless GateHouse puts bottom line ahead of public service

The main argument for having a Shield Law to protect reporters has always been to protect the free flow of information.

If reporters are subject to harassment from vindictive or lazy prosecutors attempting them to reveal their sources it lessens the probability that those sources will feel comfortable talking to reporters. All it takes is a handful of reporters who refuse to go to jail to protect their sources and no one will ever again come forward to provide information on corruption or ongoing crime investigations.

That makes for a compelling case for a Shield Law, but it is becoming more and more evident that the main reason such a law is vital is to protect reporters from those who may be their biggest enemies...the gutless penny-pinchers who pay their salaries.

Take the case of Claire O'Brien, who until earlier this month was a reporter for the Dodge City Daily Globe. Ms. O'Brien refused to give up her source and that eventually led to her firing by the Globe's owners, the good folks at GateHouse Media, who, of course, refuse to give a reason for the firing, saying only that it falls under that all-purpose escape valve- "it's a personnel matter."

According to The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:

Reporter Claire O’Brien was terminated last week from her position at the Dodge City Daily Globe after a subpoena battle last month that ended when a criminal defendant accepted a plea deal. County prosecutors had been seeking testimony about O’Brien’s interview with the defendant and the identity of a source she quoted in her story about the case.

The company that owns the Globe, GateHouse Media, and O’Brien appealed the subpoena up to the Kansas Supreme Court and lost. After O’Brien was held in contempt for failing to appear in court, which she said today was “a stupid mistake,” the confidential source revealed his identity to the prosecutors, which allowed her to not testify about him in a private court proceeding known as an inquisition.

When Ms. O'Brien returned from a leave of absence necessitated by the ongoing legal battle, she found that all of the locks had been changed (and she was not given a key) and that the order had been given to arrest her if she showed up at the newspaper building over the weekend."

In its article, Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy Dalglish commented that Ms. O'Brien's dismissal from the Globe was "unusual."

You would think that someone who is the head of such an organization would have a clue as to what is happening across the United States. When I heard about the way Ms. O'Brien was treated, it reminded me of my unexpected departure from the newspaper business in 1999. In the summer of 1998, Terry Reed, author of the anti-Clinton book Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA,sued me for libel, asking for $750 million from me and $750 million from The Carthage Press. This was not even a case of protecting sources. On May 17, 1999, the day the judge dismissed the case against me, noting that my column was constitutionally protected opinion, I was fired.

The company that fired me was Liberty Group Publishing, the same company that now calls itself GateHouse Media.

I am curious as to how many GateHouse editorial department employees survived after they become involved in legal action.

Of course, my situation has nothing to do with the Shield Law and it would not have helped me. We still live in a society where anyone can sue over anything. But perhaps a Shield Law can protect reporters from bosses like those at GateHouse Media, who have no trouble putting the bottom line ahead of public service.

GateHouse Media is the largest owner of small community newspapers in the United States, publishing more than 300 of them. If reporters in 300+ communities know that their bosses are not going to back them all the way when they attempt to expose corruption and provide readers with information they need to know, then we eventually will no longer receive that kind of reporting.

In part because of the opinion column I wrote in 1998, plans to establish a survivalist compound three miles from Carthage were thwarted (that information was in the court records). I have absolutely no regrets about writing that column and would write it again in a heartbeat.

Would Claire O'Brien have taken the same stance if she knew she would lose her job over it? From what i have read, I have every reason to believe she would have.

Claire O'Brien has integrity, a quality sadly lacking in her former bosses at GateHouse Media.


Another note: a few days after Claire O'Brien was fired by GateHouse Media, she received four awards from the Kansas City Press Association, including a first place for best news story for the story that got her fired.

Salazar to be arraigned today in death of eight-month-old son

Eddie Salazar will be arraigned on second degree murder charges at 9 a.m. today in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Salazar, who is being held in jail, is accused of killing his eight-month-old son Eddie Salazar Jr.

Tax credits untouched by House budget

In his latest report, Rep. John Burnett, D-Kansas City, laments the House's refusal to eliminate $600 million in tax credits from the budget:

State Government, unlike the Federal, must balance the budget. The Feds can print more money and create more deficit but Missouri can only spend money we have and like everyone else the State is having a very hard time. The budget process is that the Governor recommends a budget then the House, through the committee system, creates and votes on a budget which is then sent on to the Senate. The Senate then changes it as it sees fit then the two versions have to be agreed upon. So the budget then set can spend only what money is available. The process and debate is very complicated and time consuming but the outcome is clear this time. The budget we sent on to the Senate will not fly. There is not enough money to cover it. We did cut but cutting expenses alone will not balance the budget.

Unfortunately, House Republicans will not even discuss any change of the money MO gives away each year in tax credits. These tax giveaways now total $600 million of the 23 billion. Some of the credits do things to create jobs. But we should evaluate which of the programs work and which do not and tighten our belts on these giveaways just like we do with expenses. We cannot cut our way to a balanced budget. There are over 60 tax credit programs that should be looked at. But the Repubs refuse to even discuss it.

We are cutting education in the budget that passed. The Governor recommended an $18 million dollar increase. First the House Budget Chair bumped that figure by 87 Million to make a total of 105 million increase to Education. Dems warned that this level would not fly and sure enough the entire increase was stripped out on the floor and now there is zero increase for education.

The MO Constitution requires that the first obligation is to the pay the public debt then fund education. But that is not what is being done. What is happening is that the $600 million dollars in tax credit giveaways comes off the top before a dime is spent. So the top priority for MO is to fund tax giveaways. Small wonder that tempers flare in this discussion.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cleaver: The ties that bind us together are fraying

In his weekly EC from DC newsletter, Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver lamented the lack of civility in our nation's discourse:

There has been a great deal of press surrounding the events of last week, and I have attempted to stay off of the air and keep a distance from the circus that the actions of a very few have thrust upon our nation.

Let me be clear about a few things. The behavior of a handful does not reflect the vast majority of those protesting health care legislation. While I do not appreciate the events that transpired, I know they were not personal. The man who spit on me did not know me from Adam. It was inappropriate but not personal.

There is a larger issue of concern involved here. Our ability to have a civil conversation is at a crossroads. That is the real harm. The ties that bind us together in a common patriotism are fraying. This is the real danger. We face many difficult days ahead. If we cannot find a way to find solutions as a national concerned community, we may not rise to the challenges before us.

This is not about politics. It is about treating one another with respect.

In my faith tradition, the coming days represent Holy Week. For me it is a time of reflection and celebration of a common tie, a sacrifice and a rebirth.

As many of you who read this newsletter weekly know, I rarely get in to theology. My role as pastor and my role as Congressman are so often intertwined, but I try to respect the diverse readership we are fortunate to have.

As I have been thinking about the events of the last week one very simple and very pertinent lesson from my faith tradition keeps arising.

Next Thursday will be Holy Thursday. On that night, in my tradition, we celebrate Christ’s Passover meal with his apostles. As recorded in John 13:34, after carefully washing each of his disciple’s feet on his hands and knees, Jesus said: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you…"

I am not going to preach here. I am not going to make some grand pronouncement. All I will say is that in this week of contemplation, and regardless of your faith, perhaps we could try to hate a bit less and love one another a bit more.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tilley: We made the difficult decisions on budget

House Majority Leader Steven Tilley, R_Perryville, offers his take on this week's passage of the budget, noting that his chamber made :"the tough decisions."

Tim Jones: House took the lead in tackling the budget

In his weekly video report, Rep. Tim Jones, R-Eureka, taking time away from his pugilistic hobbies, provides information on the House's passage of the budget this week:

House passes budget

The accompanying video offers a review of Missouri House action this week including passing the budget:

KOAM dominates February sweeps

KOAM News continued its ratings dominance during February sweeps.

The station's morning, noon, 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m. newscasts all finished first by a wide margin, according to the Nielsen ratings.

The number of viewers for each program is listed below:

6 a.m.- KOAM 15,000, KSNF 5,000, KODE 4,000

12 noon- KOAM 20,000, KSNF 4,000

5 p.m.- KOAM 26,000, KODE 10,000, KSNF 9,000

6 p.m.- KOAM 38,000, KSNF 15,000, KODE 13,000

9 p.m. KFJX 11,000

10 p.m - KOAM 38,000, KODE 15,000, KSNF 11,000

Cleaver explains how health care bill will help U. S.

In his latest EC from DC column, Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver explains how the health care legislation passed this week will help Americans:

When I was a young man, I participated in the civil rights movement, and felt like I contributed to passage of landmark legislation that fundamentally made our nation more fair, just and equitable. This week I was able to participate directly, in the passage of a measure that will rank along side those great laws of civil justice.

Despite the acrimony, the animosity and anxiety and in an environment of vitriol and venom the likes of which I have not seen in decades, I proudly voted Sunday to make health care in America a right, not a privilege. For over 100 years, since Teddy Roosevelt was in the Oval Office, our government has attempted to secure this right for its people. This week, we joined the rest of the industrialized world in stating clearly: basic health of all our citizens is an issue of equity. In the greatest country on earth, the difference between living and dying will no longer be determined by the size of your wallet.

There were those who said that the sun would not rise Monday after the vote and that the End Times would be upon us if this bill became law. I have rarely heard the Book of Revelations quoted so often. But, we have seen this kind of demagoguery before. Many predicted ruin if slaves were freed of their shackles. Men in Congress predicted the extinction of the nation should women be allowed to vote. And in my lifetime, in the not so distant past, there are those who believed that extending equal rights to all Americans regardless of color would destroy the republic.

This new law of the land will help far more than it hurts, will right many wrongs left for generations and represents a responsible way to care for our people and reduce costs. The world did not end upon passage, and I believe Americans will look back on this legislation as an achievement alongside Social Security and Medicare. As Dr. King said, “the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.” This week we bent the arc a little more.

Grand talk of history aside, many Americans are trying to cut through the chatter and punditry and get to the substance of reform with a simple question: "What does health insurance reform actually mean for me?" To help, I would like to pass along this list of some key benefits every American should know.

Let's start with how health insurance reform will expand and strengthen coverage:

This year, children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health insurance coverage. Once the new health insurance exchanges begin in the coming years, pre-existing condition discrimination will become a thing of the past for everyone.
This year, health care plans will allow young people to remain on their parents' insurance policy up until their 26th birthday.
This year, insurance companies will be banned from dropping people from coverage when they get sick, and they will be banned from implementing lifetime caps on coverage. This year, restrictive annual limits on coverage will be banned for certain plans. Under health insurance reform, Americans will be ensured access to the care they need.
This year, adults who are uninsured because of pre-existing conditions will have access to affordable insurance through a temporary, subsidized high-risk pool.
In the next fiscal year, the bill increases funding for community health centers, like Swope and Sam Rodgers Health Centers, so they can treat nearly double the number of patients over the next five years.
This year, we'll also establish an independent commission to advise on how best to build the health care workforce and increase the number of nurses, doctors and other professionals to meet our country's needs. Going forward, we will provide $1.5 billion in funding to support the next generation of doctors, nurses and other primary care practitioners -- on top of a $500 million investment from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Health insurance reform will also curb some of the worst insurance industry practices and strengthen consumer protections:

This year, this bill creates a new, independent appeals process that ensures consumers in new private plans have access to an effective process to appeal decisions made by their insurer.
This year, discrimination based on salary will be outlawed. New group health plans will be prohibited from establishing any eligibility rules for health care coverage that discriminate in favor of higher-wage employees.
Beginning this fiscal year, this bill provides funding to states to help establish offices of health insurance consumer assistance in order to help individuals in the process of filing complaints or appeals against insurance companies.
Starting January 1, 2011, insurers in the individual and small group market will be required to spend 80 percent of their premium dollars on medical services. Insurers in the large group market will be required to spend 85 percent of their premium dollars on medical services. Any insurers who don't meet those thresholds will be required to provide rebates to their policyholders.
Starting in 2011, this bill helps states require insurance companies to submit justification for requested premium increases. Any company with excessive or unjustified premium increases may not be able to participate in the new health insurance exchanges.
Reform immediately begins to lower health care costs for American families and small businesses:
This year, small businesses that choose to offer coverage will begin to receive tax credits of up to 35 percent of premiums to help make employee coverage more affordable.
This year, new private plans will be required to provide free preventive care: no co-payments and no deductibles for preventive services. And beginning January 1, 2011, Medicare will do the same.
This year, this bill will provide help for early retirees by creating a temporary re-insurance program to help offset the costs of expensive premiums for employers and retirees age 55-64.
This year, this bill starts to close the Medicare Part D 'donut hole' by providing a $250 rebate to Medicare beneficiaries who hit the gap in prescription drug coverage. And beginning in 2011, the bill institutes a 50% discount on prescription drugs in the 'donut hole.'
This is a good law for America and moves us closer to the ideal of our forefathers written so many years ago: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Romney supporting Blunt candidacy

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a leading contender for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination has endorsed Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt's candidacy for U. S. Senate.

As if he had any plans of supporting Robin Carnahan.

Shields offers lame reason for opposing campaign contribution limits

Senate Majority Leader Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, is up to his old tricks.

Shields, an architect of the removal of campaign contribution limits in Missouri, said a House bill which would set the limits at $5,000 would not go over in his chamber:

"We in the Senate believe that contribution limits work against transparency because they cause contributions to move through various committees before reaching the candidate," Shields said.

That is a bunch of nonsense. Create legislation banning the committee laundering system and the problem goes away. If Sen. Shields simply does not care what Missouri voters overwhelmingly said they wanted, he should just say so and drop the pretense.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Racism is thriving in America

I do not remember much about the day Martin Luther King was assassinated. It was just another day to someone attending an all-white school in the southwestern corner of Missouri.

I vaguely knew that Dr. King was important, but I had no idea why.

I was an adult when I discovered the civil rights movement and I remember thinking, “Why have I never heard anything about this? “ And I quickly began devouring books on the subject, immersing myself in the stories of the Freedom Riders, the Birmingham church bombing, Freedom Summer, and the murder of Emmett Till.

Today, I teach an eighth grade English class that was made possible by the U. S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision and each year my students spend almost the entire third quarter writing a research paper over some aspect of the movement.

One thing I have been able to tell my students is that the civil rights movement changed the way the United States thinks of race. Because of the sacrifices of so many during the 1950s and 1960s, I tell them, even though racism still exists, we have made great strides toward a more harmonious society.

Recent events make me wonder if I have been mistaken.

While the election of Barack Obama was undeniably a step forward for the United States, it has also served to expose the dirty little secret that has been there all along- there is still a significant racist component in this country.

How can we say otherwise when one of the heroes of the movement, John Lewis, is attacked with racial epithets as he approached the House to cast a vote on the most significant bill since the civil rights legislation of the ‘60s.

How can we say that when protesters have no qualms about spitting on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, an African American Congressman from Missouri.

How can we say otherwise when so many in the Tea Party contingent boldly wave signs with racist caricatures of our president, and when the “N” word slips so casually from their lips?

How can we say otherwise when we see venom directed toward Barack Obama that goes far beyond simple disagreement with issues?

The election of Barack Obama has exposed a cancer that has been there all along, but appears to be far greater than we ever realized.

While the majority of those protesting different policies of the Obama Administration most likely are simply those who oppose the expansion of government in our lives, it is becomingly increasingly evident that racism is playing a key role, especially among those who appear willing to use violence and who are willing to brazenly sling racial epithets in public.

My students have completed their research project for this school year. Next year, I may have to rethink how I teach the subject. Those great strides that I have proudly pointed out to my students each year for the past 11 years may have been just a fleeting illusion.

Schoolchildren's visit to capital marred by fight between legislators

Apparently some of the venom that has become evident in Congress has carried over to the state level. In the accompanying video from KRCG, Jefferson City, Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, accuses Republicans of grandstqnding on the budget and Tim Jones, R-Eureka, screams "You're a liar, you're a liar, you're a liar," at him:

It was quite an education for the school children in the upper gallery, especially when House Speaker Ron Richard threatened to throw people out.

“You will act with respect from both sides of the aisle or I will have members from both sides of the aisle removed,” Richard said.

Thank goodness we have the most powerful man in the state at the helm of the House of Representataives or those schoolchildren might have thought they were back on the playground.

Stouffer explains vote against autism insurance bill

Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, a candidate for the Fourth District Congressional seat currently held by Democrat Ike Skelton, explained his vote against the autism insurance bill today. The text of his latest report is printed below:

You will often hear me talk about the need for tough decisions from lawmakers. This is the case as we start on the fiscal year 2011 Missouri budget. But, it is also the case for many of the decisions we have to make in the Missouri General Assembly.

Recently, the Missouri Senate passed Senate Bill 618, which would require health insurance companies to cover autism. A similar measure has also been passed by the Missouri House. We have heard quite a bit about autism over the past few years and how it is affecting more children each year. While my heart goes out to those who are affected by autism, be it the children themselves or their family, I had to vote against this particular bill.

This was a tough vote for me, but it is one I have to stand by. At the same time the federal government is shoving health care “reform” down our throats, I cannot vote to let state government dictate what coverage insurance companies can offer. The free market system works. Letting government in, so they can tell insurance providers who they can and cannot cover, is not a good fix to a situation.

History shows us that insurance rates rise when government mandates are enacted. This will be the case with the federal health care law and it would also happen if the autism mandate became law in Missouri. This is government messing with the private sector. In my opinion, there has to be one mindset on this. If someone is against the federal government regulating businesses to the point they can no longer function, then the same principle should be held in relation to government interference at all levels.

Granted, the demands the federal government is making with its so-called reform is not a part of the autism bill. The state is not forcing autism coverage on everybody and also will not fine you or send you to jail for not having it. However, I cannot — in good conscience — vote to allow state government to order insurance companies to do something that will result in raising rates for everybody. That is the unfortunate truth. Despite the good intentions autism legislation has, it will result in higher insurance rates for everybody.

These are the tough decisions lawmakers have to wrestle with every day. I am certainly not opposed to education and health care. These are both very important issues for people of all ages throughout rural Missouri. This having been said, I also have to stand by my principles. It would not be right for me to steadfastly oppose the federal health care bill and turn around and vote yes on a bill that forces insurance providers to do something they know will raise rates universally. It would not be fair to the people I serve in the Missouri Senate.

Nodler supports lieutenant governor in challenge against federal health care plan

In his weekly report, Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, a candidate for Seventh District Congress, expresses support for Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder's decision to join the challenge against the federal health care plan:

I joined many of you this week in disbelief as Congress voted to support a healthcare bill that forces all U.S. citizens to purchase healthcare. It violates the personal freedoms that our great nation was founded on and ignores the cries of outrage from citizens throughout the country. On a state level, however, we are working to ensure that Missourians have a voice with Senate Joint Resolution 25, legislation I co-sponsored, that would provide Missouri citizens with a line of defense against this federal mandate.

The federal healthcare bill that was signed into law this week institutes government mandates that will only increase costs and bureaucratic red tape in the healthcare system. It hurts businesses by mandating that they cover their employees. Consumers are the ones who will have to foot this bill as businesses pass on the costs of this coverage to their customers. An unprecedented individual mandate will force citizens to face serious fines if they are not insured. It saddens me that the implications of this $940 billion plan will be felt by our children and grandchildren as federal costs increase and the quality of healthcare in this nation declines.

Heightening costs will also create a serious funding dilemma for states. The healthcare plan forces a massive Medicaid expansion that would cost Missouri taxpayers $1.34 billion over the next 10 years. The federal government has tried to sway states by offering to foot the bill or the expansion until 2017, when the state would pick up 5 percent of the cost. Ultimately, the burden to pay for the expansion is still on the shoulders of you, the taxpayer, whether the check is signed by the state or by the feds.

We took time this week to fight these actions and protect the rights of citizens in this state. We debated SJR 25, a constitutional amendment that, upon voter approval, would provide that no federal law can compel a patient, employer, or healthcare provider in our state to participate in any government or privately run healthcare system. It protects the right of patients and employers to pay directly for legal healthcare services.

Last week, I discussed the importance of protecting our state’s sovereignty. Our country’s Constitution does not give the federal government the power to make citizens enter into private contracts against their will. At this writing, 13 other state attorneys general have filed a lawsuit to try to protect their states and challenge the federal healthcare mandate. The lieutenant governor announced that he will seek to join them, and I support his efforts and hope that Missouri can successfully challenge this misguided attempt at healthcare reform

Teachers must take the lead in removing bad apples

(The following is my latest Daily Kos post.)

Bad teachers must be fired.

That message was printed numerous times on the cover of last week’s Newsweek and it is a sentiment with which all of us, especially teachers, can agree.

Unfortunately, that cover, and the articles that accompanied it, gave the impression that subpar teachers are the cause of every problem that faces education today.

And in an effort to tackle this problem, we have the Obama administration’s simplistic solution- if schools have problems, fire all of the teachers. When it was done in Rhode Island, first Education Secretary Arne Duncan and later the president himself praised the “courage” of the school board that took this step. I might add that the board was following the recommendation of a superintendent, who only a few months earlier had been singing the praises of the same teachers that she put on the unemployment line without a moment’s hesitation.

Now that shows courage.

The problem is that it is much easier politically to go after so-called “bad teachers” than it is to deal with some of the other problems that are preventing students from receiving a quality education:

-Students who do not care and do not invest anything in the learning process. Through television and movies, we have had this myth of the self-sacrificing teacher who keeps knocking his head against the wall with recalcitrant students until somehow he manages to make the big breakthrough that sends the students on his way to a happy and productive life. Sadly, that does not happen as often as we would like. Even the most gifted teachers are going to have problems finding the “on” switch with a student who has tuned out education.

-Parents who have little or no interest in their children’s education. Teachers can make their best efforts, and do, but are thwarted by students who come from homes where education has no value.

-Students who are subjected to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. When our children have these problems in their home lives, it is easy to see why algebraic educations and the works of Shakespeare and Dickens have no meaning.

-The teach to the test mentality. By constant drill of test-taking skills at the expense of learning, we may achieve some short-term gains, but in the long run we are turning off students by robbing them of the chance of becoming engaged in learning.
Much of the blame for this demonization of teachers rightly should go to politicians, such as Missouri State Senator Jane Cunningham, who has proposed a bill that would eliminate teacher tenure in my state, and others who file one bill after another designed to make the public think the educational system is a 2010 version of Sodom and Gomorrah.

But the blame can also be placed on teacher unions that have not taken proactive steps to get rid of the deadwood that does, from time to time, find its way into our classrooms.

It is the teacher unions, not the legislatures, who should take the lead on getting teachers who can’t teach and teachers who break the laws out of the classroom. Instead, union leaders throw roadblocks in the path of the removal of teachers who have had improper relations with students, or teachers who have resorted to violence, or who simply do not have any idea of how to teach.

As long as we show no inclination toward policing our own ranks, we are throwing the doors wide open for demagogues like Jane Cunningham in Missouri or Arne Duncan in Washington to turn the ranks of American teachers into a shooting gallery.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

War against public education continues

The first step in the attack against tenure for Missouri teachers came during the 2009 legislative session when a bill was passed granting merit pay in St. Louis schools to teachers who were willing to sacrifice their tenure rights.

Anyone who thought that would be the end of it was sorely mistaken, and did not take the hatred of Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, into consideration.

During her eight years in the House of Representatives and her first term in the Senate, Mrs. Cunningham has offered one bill after another designed to cripple public education. As a House member, she notoriously, and successfully, lobbied former Speaker of the House Rod Jetton for the chairmanship of the Education Committee, offering only one qualification- her ability to corral large amounts of campaign cash for House members from All Children Matter, a national group dedicated to putting public money into private schools.

And now, with SB 1024, Jane Cunningham has declared all-out war on tenure for Missouri teachers. Her bill would eliminate it altogether and not put any brake on vengeful administrators who want to eliminate teachers for personal disagreements or other petty reasons.

It would also create a paperwork nightmare for public schools, which normally would be something Mrs. Cunningham would frown upon, unless, of course, it involves public schools.

The bill calls for the following:

-The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education must "prepare a report on the effectiveness of the graduates of state-approved teacher preparation programs. The report must include an analysis of public school student learning gains on statewide assessments. The first report must be prepared by March 1, 2011, and then every two years thereafter."

-"The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education must annually prepare a report by December 31 on the number of classroom teachers, by school district, whose students' declining academic performance indicates educational insufficiency."

-Instead of tenure, teachers who have taught for five years would be eligible for "professional performance contracts," which would be limited to no more than five years. After that time, if a school board wishes to fire a teacher, it can do so, without cause, according to the bill.

-Superintendents will be required to send to the state commissioner the names of teachers who are fired due to "educational insufficiency." That will go on the teacher's permanent record.

-Each district must establish procedures to evaluate all educators, which will include parent input.

And, though the bill says that items other than test scores should be considered in evaluating teacher performances, there is no doubt that the scores are meant to be the final factor in whether teachers continue to be employed.

On the face of it, that sounds like a sensible approach. After all, if the students are not doing well on standardized tests, it would certainly seem like the teacher should be held accountable. Of course, that is a simplistic approach that does not take into consideration some important factors.

-No one ever talks about the serious problem we have with students who simply do not care and put no effort into their education.

-Many students have no support structure at home. With homes where the parents do not see the value of education, and in homes where children undergo physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, how well they bubble in a standardized test is the last of their concerns.

-Scores are not just affected by the quality of education students are receiving from their current teachers, but also from the quality of education they received from their past teachers.

-Schools (and teachers) are held responsible for the test scores of students who move into their school district well into the school year, many times right before the standardized tests are given. (Some school districts are notorious for "encouraging" low-achieving students to transfer to other districts so their scores will not affect the districts' performance.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to basing employment strictly on the results of standardized tests.

Of course,the opponents of teacher tenure have made it seem like there is no way to get rid of a poor teacher. That is simply not true. While we see the admittedly horrid cases in New York, Los Angeles and other major cities of teachers who remain on the public dollar despite low performance because union rules make them almost impossible to remove, that is not the way it is in most United States school districts and nearly all Missouri school districts. Teacher tenure laws do not say you cannot remove a teacher, they just require that the teacher be given due process.

Proposed laws like this one are part of a continuing effort to undermine public schoolteachers, most of whom are performing well at what can be a thankless job. Teachers continue to be the major target, simply because we are a convenient target.

I know of no good schoolteacher who wants to see bad teachers remain in the classroom. This, however, is not the path Missouri should be taking. This is a bill that needs to be shelved immediately.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Blunt, Carnahan on Westboro Baptist Churh witness list

Former Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan and infamous preacher Fred Phelps are on the witness list submitted today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri for the July 19 trial in the lawsuit filed by Phelps's sister Shirley Phelps-Roeper and the Westboro Baptist Church against the state of Missouri.

Ms. Phelps-Roeper filed her lawsuit after a law was enacted in Missouri preventing protests at funerals. She and her fellow church members have made a practice of protesting at servicemen's funerals, saying God wanted them dead because America is too tolerant of homosexuals.

The Eighth District Court of Appeals ruled in October that church members could continue picketing at funerals until the case is decided.

Missouri legislators vow to stop federal encroachment on health care

Though the federal health care bill passed Sunday night, let's not forget that Missouri has come out four square against it with the so-called Health Care Freedom Act. In the accompanying video from last Wednesday's rally in Jefferson City, such GOP stalwarts as Tim Jones, Jim Lembke, and Jane Cunningham boast of their victory over the all-powerful, ever-encroaching federal government.


Carnahan slams Blunt on banking reform

In the accompanying video, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for U. S. Senate slams her Republican competitor, Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt for his connections with big banking interests:

Ruestman explains School Construction Act

In her latest Ruestman Report, Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, explains her School Construction Act:

This week the Missouri House of Representatives goes to work on the budget bills. We are making every effort to find the least painful cuts in order to balance the budget. The Republican majority is still maintaining its struggle to fully fund the education formula. The price has not been determined yet, but there will be programs affected. Your local counties, municipalities and school districts have found themselves with a shortage as well. We must all have consideration for each other.

This year, I am once again sponsoring the School Construction Act. This is a bill to lower the cost of labor on school construction, remodeling and maintenance. This could save you, the taxpayer, up to 25% on much-needed new school buildings. It allows local school boards to opt out of the prevailing wage requirement which inflates wages significantly above the local rate.

The fiscal note provided for the bill estimates that it could save the state between $600 million and $1 billion. I remind you that these are YOUR TAX DOLLARS. You could certainly spend that money yourself rather than paying it toward an inflated cost of new schools. If we are able to get a public building using less taxpayer money, why wouldn’t we? Quality is not jeopardized because the same architect serves as an inspector for the job no matter what the cost or who provides the labor.

Last week this bill, House Bill 1960, passed out of the House Workforce Development Committee. It is now headed to the Rules Committee for final clearance before heading to the Floor for debate. I’ll be busy building a solid coalition to support schools.

Skelton joins Missouri republicans in voting against health care plan

Missouri's Congressional delegation voted 6-3 against the health care bill, which passed by a 219-212 margin Sunday night.

Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton, a Democrat, joined Roy Blunt, Todd Akin,Jo Ann Emerson, Blaine Luetkemeyer, and Sam Graves, in casting no votes. Voting for the bill were Emanuel Cleaver, Lacy Clay, and Russ Carnahan, all Democrats.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Boehner: Shame on us

In the accompanying video, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, takes a final stand against the health care bill, which was passed moments later:

And this is ethics reform?

The next hearing on HB 2300, the so-called ethics reform bill offered by the Special Standing Committee on Government Accountability and Ethics Reform, is set for 12 noon Tuesday, and hopefully somebody will take a look at this watered down legislation and realize it does nothing to address the two biggest ethical problems facing Missouri's elected officials- the effect of oversized campaign contributions and the gifts from lobbyists.

Instead of banning gifts from lobbyists, an idea which has proposed numerous times in the past by Democratic legislators and was the hallmark of the bill offered by Majority Leader Steve Tilley. the committee, which is chaired by Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, is proposing that legislators be limited to accepting $1,000 worth of gifts from lobbyists.

Of course, every legislator you talk to says that he or she cannot be bought for a sandwich and a drink, and perhaps that is true, but there has to be some reason, other than the goodness of their hearts, that lobbyists continue to pay for meals and drinks (and tickets and trips, etc.). If it was not paying off for them, they would save their money.

As for campaign contributions, again, if special interests are not getting their money's worth out of them, they are not going to be giving these exorbitant amounts. Missourians wanted limits, passed a law requiring them, then had to watch as legislators ignored them in a naked grab for the almighty dollar.

Though there will be ethics legislation this session, it appears we will continue to have business as usual in Jefferson City.

Hartzler: We aren't stuck with this tragic mistake

Fourth District Republican Congressional candidate issued the following response following the passage of the health care bill tonight:

Republican Vicky Hartzler, seeking the nomination to challenge Democrat Rep. Ike Skelton, today addressed the narrow and wholly party-line passage of the President’s government takeover plan for America’s health care.
Hartzler said: “If we weren’t free and self-governing people, we would be stuck with this destructive left turn into more deficits and deeper insolvency, the loss of so much health care freedom, and the waste and ineffectiveness associated with ‘made in Washington.’ But we aren’t stuck with this tragic mistake by liberal Washington. The polls will be open this fall! I think people are winding up to send a very strong message to reckless and liberal Washington, and write them a brand new set of orders.
“If America delivers a ringing vote for change, the new Congress can begin rolling back this tragedy immediately. I would be honored and proud to help restore the best health care in the world. I will stand up to Nancy Pelosi and her radical agenda across the board. Mr. Skelton has fallen into voting with ‘San Francisco Nancy’ more than 90 percent of the time.
“My opponent will be saying that he voted ‘no’ today. But he voted ‘yes’ only three days ago, to help Pelosi get this bad thing accomplished on her terms and timetable. On Thursday, he and Pelosi joined hands to block a bipartisan conservative effort to keep ObamaCare off the House floor. The conservative goal was to set a roadblock for the Pelosi-run Rules Committee.

MSSU board member's rudeness to media is nothing new

When Gov. Jay NIxon appointed Vernon County prosecuting attorney Lynn Ewing to the Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors, it appears he chose someone who has a grudge against the media.

Not only did Ewing start off his tenure on the board with a rant against the campus newspaper, The Chart, Friday, but he recently showed little regard for the press or the public in his handling of the murder of two Nevada girls. Apparently, when Ewing does not want to deal with the media or the public, he just takes the phone off the hook, as noted by Joplin Globe Editor Carol Stark in a May 28 blog post. After the police and coroner referred all calls to Ewing, the prosecutor took the easy way out, according to Mrs. Stark's blog:

We have certain questions about the stabbing murders of 14-year-old Kylie Leyva and Anne Reed that the autospsy might answer and readers have been calling wanting more details. Officials have been particularly close-mouthed about this case in which Garrett Mason, a 17-year-old male teen has been arrested and charged with two murders.
Finally, late Thursday, (reporter Jeff) Lehr gets through to a clerk in another office, trying to get a message to Ewing. That’s when we learn that in the middle of one of the more horrific murders in recent history in Vernon County, the prosecutor’s office has had its phone off the hook.

And this is the man Jay Nixon appointed to the board. The last thing the university needed was another lawyer with visions of grandeur.

Video provided for Pelosi's speech on health care proposal

Nodler: This cannot stand

Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, a candidate for Seventh District Congress issued the following statement concerning Congress' passage tonight of the health care bill:

Tonight the Democrat Congress made clear its contempt for the people of the United States.

Despite overwhelming opposition from citizens at town hall meetings and tea parties; despite overwhelming opposition in public opinion polls; despite clear signals from voters in actual elections in Virginia, New Jersey; Connecticut and Massachusetts; despite all this, the Democrats voted to impose their will over the objections of the people.

We cannot let this action stand! If I am elected to Congress I will make every effort to repeal this law.

I need your help, please join my campaign. Together we can work, not only to correct this, but to restore America's promise and rebuild hope and opportunity for the future.

We must not give up. The future is in our hands and we must take the initiative. If we join together with patriots all over the country we can and will restore America's promise.

Missouri GOP: Democrats will pay for abusing their power

Lloyd Smith, Executive Director of the Missouri Republican Party, released the following statement regarding passage of the Democrats’ health care bill:

“After months of secret backroom deals and arm-twisting, Nancy Pelosi has pressured enough Democrats into forcing massive, costly, and ineffective government-run health care onto an unwilling nation. The Democrats’ bill does nothing to control costs; in fact, it was raise taxes, raise premiums, slash Medicare, and force a one-size-fits-all health care mandate on more than 300 million people.
“Americans have consistently made their opposition to the bill known—at townhall meetings, massive rallies, and at the ballot box in states like Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia—but Democrats have ignored their wishes. Russ Carnahan, Lacy Clay, and Emanuel Cleaver have ignored the pleas of Missourians, instead siding with Nancy Pelosi to make her reckless bill the law of the land.
“Make no mistake: in November, Democrats across the nation and in Missouri will pay for abusing their power and thumbing their noses at the American people.”

Blunt: It's not over

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt says the health care battle is not over despite the 219-212 vote in favor of the Senate bill a few moments ago.

In a tweet posted about five minutes ago, Blunt said, "The fight is not over. I’ll keep working to repeal this colossal government takeover of health care & replace it with real solutions."

BIlly Long: The American people will suffer because of this bill

Seventh District Congressional candidate Billy Long issued the following statement followed the House's passing of the Senate's healthcare bill:

In a highly debated action the House of Representatives today passed health care legislation. The widely unpopular government seizure of the medical care industry, which represents one sixth of the U.S. economy, is expected to be swiftly signed into law by the President.

“Every part of this health care proposal has been outrageous from the very beginning,” Billy Long said. “Not only is the bill itself a nine inch thick tangle of bureaucracy, the manner in which it was passed is one of the most out of touch displays of power politics ever seen in Washington. Lifetime politicians decided that they knew better than the American people and used every trick in the book to cram this bill down our throats.”

“We need true health care reform that takes into account the realities of the market,” Billy continued. “Health care needs to be portable, insurance companies should not be able to escape their contractual obligations, tort laws should be reformed, and competition should be reintroduced to the system by allowing insurance policies to be sold across state lines. That is the only way to get costs under control while retaining quality. The bill passed today won’t control costs or maintain quality and the American people will suffer because of it.”

Goodman: I will fight to repeal this disastrous piece of legislation

Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, a candidate for Seventh District Congress, issued the following news release moments after the House passed the healthcare bill 219-212:

“ It is an outrage that President Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressional Democrats have defied the American people and have chosen to pass a Healthcare Bill that does nothing to make healthcare better or more affordable, but will continue to weaken an already sick economy by raising job-killing taxes, stifling competition, and massively increasing federal spending. The people want real reform—and that is not what happened.

One thing is for sure, Congress will hear the American people loud and clear this November. I have committed to fight for repeal of this disastrous piece of legislation if I am elected to serve the people of Missouri’s 7th Congressional District.”

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Despite over-confidence, Obama goes down in defeat

What made President Obama think was an expect. Though he had many people who agreed with him it was still up to the people in the game to get the job done.

The president had better hope Nancy Pelosi does a better job tomorrow than Bill Self did today:

Obama to Democratic caucus: The time to pass health care reform is now

Northern Iowa upsets number one seeded Kansas

For those who were waiting for KU to take a fall, it did not take long. The accompanying video shows highlights of the ninth-seeded University of Northern Iowa's win over Kansas today:

Arrest warrant issued for Roy Blunt

An arrest warrant was issued Friday for Seventh District Congressman and U. S. Senate candidate Roy Blunt, but I don't anticipate him losing much sleep over it.

The warrant, which cited Blunt's support of the war in Iraq as a crime, was delivered to his office by one of his opponents in the Senate race, Midge Potts, a transgender candidate who is running on the Progressive and Green party tickets.

Blunt should give a gold star to the office worker who had to deal with the theatrical delivery of the arrest warrant, as shown in the accompany video:

News release issued on Hancock endorsement of Long

The following news release covers the announcement made earlier today that former Seventh District Congressman Mel Hancock is supporting Billy Long's Congressional campaign:

Earlier today at Greene County Lincoln Day former Congressman Mel Hancock endorsed local auctioneer Billy Long for Congress. Congressman Hancock served the people of Southwest Missouri in Congress for eight years from 1989 to 1997. He also championed limitations on government’s ability to raise taxes with an amendment to the Missouri Constitution which bears his name, the Hancock Amendment.

“I am honored and humbled to have the support of Congressman Mel Hancock,” Billy Long said. “Congressman Hancock is a great Missouri statesman who believes strongly in the cause of liberty. I too believe in the overriding importance of the individual freedoms that are enshrined in our Constitution.”

Billy continued, “In order to keep free society from being overwhelmed by the government it has become clear that the federal government must be restrained in its ability to tax and spend the people’s money. That is why I support the principle of a Constitutional amendment limiting government’s taxing and spending authority in the same spirit of the Hancock Amendment. The lifetime politicians in the national government can no longer restrain themselves so it is up to us, the free citizens of the United States, to restrain them.”

Mel Hancock endorses Billy Long

I am a bit behind on this one, having spotted it from numerous sources, including im Lee and Chad Livengood,as well as from Billy Long's tweet, but former Seventh District Congressman Mel Hancock has endorsed Springfield auctioneer Billy Long.

Hancock served from 1989, following the retirement of Gene Taylor until 1997 when current Congressman Roy Blunt was elected.

Forty-one percent pay hike for Gannett CEO

When the Springfield News-Leader's parent company Gannett lifts its company-wide pay freeze in April, does anyone want to bet that employees will not receive 41 percent pay increases?

That's what an Associated Press analysis shows Gannett CEO Craig Dubow received a 41 percent pay increase in 2009, including pay, bonuses, and perks, which would seem to call for an end to the company's efforts to make it look as if Dubow was suffering along with his employees, when he cut his base pay from $1.2 million to $1 million.

At the same time Dubows pay increased 41 percent, he was firing more than 6,000 employees and requiring all other employees to go through two weeks of unpaid furloughs.

Skelton: Health reforms are needed, but Congressional proposal falls short

In his latest News and Views, Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton explains why he will vote against the health care proposal Sunday:

The American people are privileged to have access to some of the best health care in the world. We have good doctors, good hospitals, and good private and public health insurance plans, like Medicare, that work well for many Americans.

But, as good as health care is in the United States, there are aspects of the system that most experts believe ought to be altered. I agree that improvements are necessary to contain costs, to make the private insurance companies work more fairly for the American people, and to improve access to health care for the uninsured. But the question is how to best make these improvements and at what cost to the taxpayer.

Over the past year, I have met with rural doctors, hospital administrators, pharmacists, nurses, and the people of the Fourth District about health insurance reform. As a result of these meetings, I have come to see that building consensus around smaller, incremental improvements to the nation’s health system is the best way forward. Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress agree that insurance companies too frequently stand between patients and their doctors, too frequently deny coverage for necessary medical procedures, and too frequently impose unreasonable premiums on those who need coverage most. Addressing these issues one at a time with bipartisan legislation, allowing for careful consideration and review by the public and within Congress, is the best approach to achieving sustainable change that has the support of the American people.

In November 2009, I voted against H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, because it did not represent the right balance for the rural Missourians I represent. I feared the legislation would cost far more than predicted and would have serious unintended consequences, especially for rural health care.

My concerns about the bill were affirmed when the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported, soon after the House passed H.R. 3962, that the bill’s proposed Medicare reimbursement formulas would result in annual pay cuts to hospitals. In its report, CMS concluded that hospitals might stop accepting Medicare patients or force Congress to spend additional money not budgeted in the bill to keep Medicare afloat. This report is not good news for health care in rural Missouri.

In reviewing the bill passed out of the Senate on Christmas Eve and the President’s proposal, I have not seen anything that eases my concerns over the direction of health insurance reform legislation. At the end of the day, each of these proposals still could have serious unintended consequences for those with private insurance and could negatively impact rural health care. Therefore, I will not vote for them. It is time for Congress to focus on the true challenges facing this nation: getting Americans back to work and protecting the United States from dangerous enemies abroad.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Stouffer: Skelton thinks we're all stupid

A spokesman for Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, a candidate for Fourth District Congress, criticized actions taken by Rep. Ike Skelton during the health care battle. From a news release issued today:

Ike Skelton today had the chance to help force an up or down vote on Healthcare. Instead, he chose to back Nancy Pelosi and allow her to execute a parliamentary trick to pass the bill without a direct vote on it.

"Apparently, Ike Skelton thinks we are all stupid," said Christian Morgan, a spokesman for Bill Stouffer's campaign for Congress in Missouri's 4th Congressional District. "Why else would he say he's against the bill, then vote to support a legal trick to ensure its passage? Skelton is consistent in only one thing these days - and that's voting with Nancy Pelosi 95% of the time. Rural Missouri's voice is no longer being represented in Washington."

Chart offers coverage of Ewing attack

Missouri Southern State University's newspaper, The Chart, has posted its coverage of rookie Board of Governors member Lynn Ewing's rant against it at Friday's meeting.

July 19 jury trial set for Westboro Baptist Church lawsuit against state of Missouri

A July 19 trial has been set in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri in a lawsuit filed by Shirley Phelps-Roeper of the Westboro Baptist Church against the state of Missouri.

Ms. Phelps-Roeper filed her lawsuit after a law was enacted in Missouri preventing protests at funerals. She and her fellow church members have made a practice of protesting at servicemen's funerals, saying God wanted them dead because America is too tolerant of homosexuals.

The Eighth District Court of Appeals ruled in October that church members could continue picketing at funerals until the case is decided.

Tim Jones: Missourians concerned about federal health care takeover

In his weekly video, Rep. Tim Jones, R-Eureka, talks about the passage of his Health Care Freedom Act:

Health Care Freedom Act passes, tough budget decisions coming

The House returned after Spring Break to pass the Health Care Freedom Act and began to deal with the state budget:

MU advances in NCAA

MU, inconsistent the past few weeks, picked the right time to put things together, dropping Clemson 86-78 today. The accompanying video features highlights of the game:

New MSSU board member picks fight with Chart

Any hopes that Lynn Ewing, recently appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon, would add a voice of reason to the Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors went by the wayside today when the thin-skinned Vernon County attorney launched a rant against the campus newspaper, The Chart, during his first meeting.

It was nothing new for veterans of MSSU Board meetings to hear a lawyer go off on a tangent and begin raving when things don't go his way, but this was the first time in recent memory that it was not done by someone with double initials.

The transcript of Ewing's soliloquy is printed below:

"My work presently as county prosecutor is driven by facts, by data and by evidence. So too will my work on this board be driven by facts, data and evidence and it has to be so because good decisions can only be made with accurate information.

I have a couple of things that I’d just like to comment on that have caused me a little bit of concern that appeared in the 26 of February edition of The Chart newspaper. On the front page below the fold…the executive editor noted my appointment to the board and then the last sentence of the article reads, “Board Chairman Rod Anderson, when notified of the appointment Tuesday by The Chart, said ‘no comment’ and hung up.”

Well, of course, my first thought is, “Okay, I don’t know Rod, is this a comment on my future status on the board?” But I called Rod and I visited with him and I understand now the circumstances that are being addressed possibly and a grievance directed at recent conduct between the press and the chairman and so I was pleased to know your ‘no comment’ was not a reflection of your opinion on me, definitely.

Now, that said, I was disappointed to learn of at least the appearance of a lack of civility on the part of certain members of the press when dealing with the board and it’s my hope that this will not be the case going forward when I’m on the board and we can talk civilly and communicate openly.

Now, on your opinion page of The Chart, several comments were printed regarding my appointment to the board and one of the comments suggests- maybe someone who had a vested interest in the university and actually cares about what is going on there- would have been a more appropriate pick. I’d be interested in seeing if Ewing actually submitted an application for the position or if it’s done off the buddy system. And it’s signed “MSSU Alumni.”

First, let me say I’d be very interested in know who you are. Unfortunately your identity is hidden by a “nom de plume" or a username. And I’d like to have the opportunity to know the facts on which you had offered such an opinion and to test any assumptions you have made based on those facts and then I can also have the opportunity to assess and test your motivations for making that kind of statement because I don’t know who you are.

My point is this to The Chart and to people in general. You have a right to free speech and to say anything you want. But put your name on it and be prepared to defend it. The Globe doesn’t publish letters to the editor without a signature, The Chart recites a similar letter to the editors policy, but apparently it didn’t apply or didn’t apply in this case to the publication of online posts so I would encourage The Chart to print real identities of those whose opinions it chooses to post.

Yes, I did submit an application for this position last year. I’ve been interested in an opportunity to serve on this board since Jane Wyman served on this board. I’ve known Jane for a couple of years and discussed the possibility clear back in the mid-90’s about starting on this.

And I’d also point out that this particular opinion was written in the first person and appeared to be singular. And if you are an individual you are an alumnus, not an alumni.

Now, at the end my comments, Mr. Ben Hinkle had a post and kudos to you Ben for putting your name on your post. It is incorrect where it states that the “composition of this board is governed by 174.060 in Missouri by statutes.” That’s not accurate. The board’s composition is governed by Missouri by statutes 174.450 and 174.453.

I don’t raise this point to be critical of Ben’s legal research, but the point to be made here is, to The Chart and others: check your facts, check your facts and check your facts. And when you are certain you have it right, check your facts again. If you print it, whether one of your staff wrote it or it appears in a letter to the editor or an online post, you are responsible as journalists for assuring that the facts stated there are accurate. And so I challenge you to challenge those inaccurate facts that are presented to you for publication. Check your facts. "

And now a message for Lynn Ewing- Grow up!

Speck administration stonewalls media efforts to uncover truth about medical school plan

It appears that Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck's administration has set up roadblocks in an effort to deter the campus newspaper, The Chart, from obtaining copies of e-mails between Speck and fired Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences President Karen Pletz.

The e-mails are public records.

The Chart filed a Freedom of Information request asking for copies of the correspondence between Speck and Pletz, and between Speck and Pletz' successor, Danny Weaver. Chart reporters were told that the incredible amount of work it would take to put together the material would cost hundreds of dollars, obviously putting it out of the range for the newspaper (and the public, for that matter).

Fortunately, the Joplin Globe has stepped forward to pay the cost, though the Chart reporters have been told it could take weeks for the information to be put together.

It must be an extremely antiquated e-mail system Missouri Southern has when it cannot find e-mails within minutes by searching for the sender or the recipient.

Since the firing of Pletz, it has become apparent that the former KCUMB president was on her own as far as her dealings with Speck and MSSU officials and did not bother to tell her university board about the agreement.

Hartzler: Skelton crumbled like a cookie

Fourth District Congressional candidate Vicky Hartzler continued her attack on incumbent Ike Skelton today, continuing to say Skelton is following Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's marching orders:

Republican congressional candidate Vicky Hartzler today exposed Rep. Ike Skelton’s double-dealing vote Thursday to open the door for Nancy Pelosi’s plan to impose government run health care through procedural trickery, against the strong and clear wishes of a majority of Missourians.

Hartzler also endorsed the growing push to reclaim for Missourians the constitutional authority to make health care decisions for the Show-Me State without federal controls, job-killing taxes and federal mandates.

A former state legislator, Hartzler said she will back repeal if elected to Congress, should the liberal Pelosi House approve this weekend the widely-opposed plan rammed through the Senate last Christmas Eve on a party-line vote. As to Skelton, a long-time Democrat House member who is voting more than 90% of the time with Nancy Pelosi and the President, Hartzler said:
“Ike Skelton voted Thursday to be Nancy Pelosi’s willing accomplice in forcing ObamaCare on every one us. He voted with Pelosi’s deceitful plan, which faces immediate challenge as against the Constitution. In a key test vote, Skelton joined hands with Pelosi again, to turn aside a conservative motion to block their slippery plan for a final vote that would claim to pass the Senate ObamaCare bill without voting on it, and then cram it down our throats. This procedural move already faces legal challenge as unlawful under the Constituton’s standards for passing news laws.

“Our liberal-voting congressman promised us he would stand against Obama’s government-controlled health care, with its massive cuts in Medicare, job-killing tax increases, phoney bookkeeping, and special-deal scandals that keep spilling out of this terrible legislation. He just broke this promise. Instead, Ike Skelton crumbled like a cookie the first time Pelosi wanted his vote to help her jam through ObamaCare. His promise was a flat lie. He voted to save the Speaker’s sleazy plan for the final vote. After voting to protect the Pelosi design for passage, Skelton raced to issue a deceptive statement of opposition -- to the bill he is helping Pelosi jam through to final passage.”

Pelosi’s plan is widely-reported as an effort to pass the unpopular ObamaCare bill without voting on the bill, through an obscure procedure to claim “automatic approval” for the scandal-plagued Senate version. The Senate bill – full of one-state kickbacks and special deals – then could be signed.

The Missouri Sovereignty Project is canvassing support for all needed action by the state to establish Missouri’s authority to make its own health care policies, by enforcing the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which reserves to states and people powers that are not specifically delegated to the federal government. For further information on this effort:

Cleaver makes case for health care proposal

In his latest EC from DC report, Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver makes the case for the healthcare legislation, which is now expected to pass this weekend:

This weekend, the U.S. House of Representatives will accomplish something first proposed by Harry Truman in 1947. We will take a historic vote on health care reform legislation. This legislation will make health care affordable for the middle class, provide security for seniors, and guarantee access to health insurance for the uninsured – while reducing the federal deficit by over $138 billion over the next decade.

The Congressional Budget Office, our national independent, non-partisan “referee” that by law examines each bill considered by Congress to assess the cost, released its “scoring” of the bill we will vote on Sunday. Based on an analysis from CBO, the legislation the bill:
Cuts the deficit by $138 billion in the first ten years (2010 – 2019).
Cuts the deficit by $1.2 trillion in the second ten years.
Reduces annual growth in Medicare expenditures by 1.4 percentage points per year—while improving benefits and lowering costs for seniors.
Extends Medicare’s solvency by at least 9 years.
Expands health insurance coverage to 32 million Americans.
Helps guarantee that 95 percent of Americans will be covered.
$940 billion over a decade. (Americans spend nearly $2.5 trillion each year on health care now and nearly two-thirds of the bill is paid for by reducing health care costs).
But, let’s get specific to what this bill will do in our District. If passed the bill will:
Improve coverage for 369,000 residents with health insurance.
Give tax credits and other assistance to up to 171,000 families and 14,300 small businesses to help them afford coverage.
Improve Medicare for 98,000 beneficiaries, including closing the donut hole.
Extend coverage to 58,500 uninsured residents.
Guarantee that 12,200 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.
Protect 1,500 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs.
Allow 49,000 young adults to obtain coverage on their parents’ insurance plans.
Provide millions of dollars in new funding for 7 community health centers.
Reduce the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and other health care providers by $68 million annually.

Affordable High-Quality Health Care for the Middle Class

Essential health insurance reforms. Approximately 59% of the District (369,000 residents) receives health care coverage from an employer or through policies purchased on the individual market. Under the legislation, individuals with insurance can keep the coverage they have now, and it will get better. The insurance reforms in the bill prohibit annual and lifetime limits, eliminate rescissions for individuals who become ill while insured, ban coverage denials for pre-existing conditions, and reduce the cost of preventive care. To rein in soaring insurance costs, the reforms also limit the amount insurance companies can spend on administrative expenses, profits, and other overhead.

Historic health care tax cuts. Those who do not receive health care coverage through their employer will be able to purchase coverage at group rates through new health insurance exchange. To make this insurance affordable, the legislation contains the largest middle-class tax cut for health care in history, providing middle class families with incomes up to $88,000 for a family of four with tax credits to help pay for coverage in the exchange. For a family of four making $50,000, the average tax credit will be approximately $5,800. There are 171,000 households in the District that could qualify for these credits if they purchase health insurance through the exchange or, in the case of households with incomes below 133% of poverty, receive coverage through Medicaid.

Coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions. There are 12,200 uninsured individuals in the District who have pre-existing medical conditions like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Under the bill’s insurance reforms, they cannot be denied affordable coverage.

Financial security for families. There were 1,500 health care-related bankruptcies in the District in 2008, caused primarily by the health care costs not covered by insurance. The bill caps annual out-of-pocket costs at $6,200 for individuals and $12,400 for families who purchase insurance through the exchange or who are insured by small businesses. It also eliminates annual and lifetime limits on all insurance coverage. These reforms ensure that no family will have to face financial ruin because of high health care costs.

Security for Seniors

Improving Medicare. There are 98,000 Medicare beneficiaries in the District. The legislation improves their benefits by providing free preventive and wellness care, improving primary and coordinated care, and enhancing nursing home care. The bill also strengthens the Medicare Trust Fund, extending its solvency from 2017 to 2026.

Closing the Part D donut hole. Each year, 9,300 Medicare beneficiaries in the District enter the Part D donut hole and are forced to pay the full cost of their prescription drugs. Under the bill, these beneficiaries will receive a $250 rebate in 2010, 50% discounts on brand name drugs beginning in 2011, and complete closure of the donut hole within a decade. A typical beneficiary who enters the donut hole will see savings of over $700 in 2011 and over $3,000 by 2020.

New Coverage Options for Young Adults

New lower-cost health care options for young adults. The legislation will allow young adults to remain on their parents’ policies until they turn 26. There are 49,000 young adults in the District who could benefit from this option. For individuals under age 30, the bill creates new, inexpensive policies that allow them to obtain protection from catastrophic health care costs.

Helping Small Businesses

Helping small businesses obtain health insurance. Under the legislation, small businesses with 100 employees or less will be able to join the health insurance exchange, benefiting from group rates and a greater choice of insurers. There are 16,400 small businesses in the District that could benefit from this provision.

Tax credits for small businesses. Small businesses with 25 employees or less and average wages of less than $50,000 will qualify for tax credits of up to 50% of the costs of providing health insurance. There are up to 14,300 small businesses in the District that could qualify for these credits.

Covering the Uninsured

Coverage of the uninsured. The legislation would extend coverage to 95% of all Americans. If this level of coverage is reached in the District, 58,500 residents who currently do not have health insurance will receive coverage.

Relieving the burden of uncompensated care. In 2008, health care providers in the District provided uncompensated care to individuals who lacked insurance coverage and were unable to pay their bills.

Under the legislation, these costs of uncompensated care will be reduced by $68 million.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hartzler: Ike Skelton lied

In a news release issued this evening, Vicky Hartzler, a Republican candidate for the Fourth District Congressional seat currently held by Democrat Ike Skelton, accused the incumbent of lying to his constituents:

Ike Skelton today voted for Nancy Pelosi’s plan of deception, to impose ObamaCare on Americans by trickery. Mr. Skelton voted with Pelosi against stopping the constitutionally suspect scheme to use Rep. Slaughter’s proposed scheme to pass ObamaCare without voting ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on this terrible legislation. He believes this transparent trick has a chance of fooling people in Missouri, which shows how far out of touch he is. If Pelosi and the President succeed in the critical vote that may occur on Sunday, Skelton now is their willing accomplice, by his vote today for government by trickery.

Vicky stated, “Ike Skelton flat out lied to his constituents in saying that he would stand against ObamaCare. His vote today allowed Nancy Pelosi to sneak this bill by as having been passed without a vote. This sort of backroom wheeling and dealing is wrong and unconstitutional, and I am disappointed that our congressman has sided with liberal Washington politics rather than the people of the Fourth District.”

No mention of Gannett executive bonuses in AP report

Associated Press apparently just printed the news release and did not bother to read the proxy statement in its coverage of Gannett today.

Most of its report was filled with projections for future earnings from officials, who painted a rosy picture for the company which owns the Springfield News-Leader. Buried at the bottom of the story was this paragraph:

Gannett notched its largest profit of 2009 in the fourth quarter, helped by cost cutting and a slower ad decline. It earned $133.6 million on revenue of $1.49 billion.

Nowhere is it mentioned that CEO Craig Dubow, who is in fact not mentioned in the article, and other top Gannett executives received millions of dollars in bonuses earned by the elimination of more than 6,000 jobs and the requirement that all employees take two weeks of unpaid furloughs.

Accused child killer waives preliminary hearing

Eddie Salazar waived his preliminary hearing Wednesday in Jasper County Circuit Court and was bound over for trial on a murder charge.

Salazar is charged with the murder of his eight-month-old son, Eddie Salazar Jr.

McCaskill defends amendment to cap discretionary spending

In the accompanying video, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. defends her amendment that would cap discretionary spending, and breaks with her party's leadership in Congress, which has proposed a less effective alternative amendment:

Blunt to House: Let's vote healthcare bill down

Nodler continues dancing the 10th amendment mambo

In his latest report, Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, a candidate for Seventh District Congress, reaffirms his belief in the 10th Amendment:

When our forefathers created our great nation, they designed the country to function as a compact of states with the federal government being the creation of these states. They included the 10th Amendment when writing the Constitution, which says that, “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated.” At the time, the federal government’s power included federal taxing, federal police, and federal regulations. Over the years, however, the power of the federal government has expanded to the point where many fear that the federal government may be overreaching its bounds and violating the sovereignty of the states.

In recent years, and particularly with the current administration, the federal government has expanded significantly, especially in its costs. Throughout the country, states are becoming increasingly interested in the issue of state sovereignty and federal infringement. It is a concern of mine as well, which is why I proposed Senate Bill 587.

This legislation, which was discussed on the Senate floor this week, would give the voters of the state of Missouri the opportunity to create a commission that would review the actions of the federal government to see if the state’s sovereignty has been violated. The governor, President Pro Tem of the Senate, and Speaker of the House would each appoint two members of the commission and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court would appoint one member of the commission. If the commission finds that the federal government violated the 10th Amendment, the findings would be sent to the attorney general to allow him to pursue the state’s rights in federal court.

While several resolutions have been proposed this year to express the state’s disapproval of federal actions, SB 587 is more than that because it helps the state to take action. The state has always had the power to challenge the federal government in federal court, but SB 587 would allow our state to truly have an organized system to identify when our state’s sovereignty is being threatened.

One of the strengths of SB 587 is that it puts the issue to the people of the state. If the General Assembly approves the bill, the voters would have the opportunity to decide that this commission is necessary, making it truly a reflection of the people of Missouri’s desire to reestablish out state’s constitutional rights. When our forefathers wrote the constitution, they did so with very specific principles in mind, and SB 587 makes sure those ideals are respected and recognized.