- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Columbia Daily Tribune, May 17

Legislative revelations:

We always learn a good deal about accomplishments - or not - in the final days and hours of each year’s legislative session. With no more time to waste posturing and postponing, a number of bills reach final disposition as the owl begins to hoot at midnight.

Of course, there is no owl in the Capitol, and midnight came at 6 p.m. Friday, but in the late innings several decisions became clear.

Abortion. It was obvious all along that lawmakers would pass an onerous additional restriction on the constitutional right of women to choose abortion. And so they did, increasing the waiting time from 24 to 72 hours after a woman sees her doctor before the procedure can be performed. Conservatives contend they are protecting the rights of the unborn, but in fact they continue to go as far as possible in the direction of de facto prohibition. This year’s bill contains other hurdles, in all a package of obstruction that might threaten the bill’s constitutional status and draw a veto from Gov. Jay Nixon. Supporters seem to have a veto-proof majority. At the end of the day, Missouri is likely to become one of only three states with a 72-hour waiting period, putting us in rare and disappointing company.

The bill declares “life begins at conception” and that abortion will terminate “the life of a unique living human being.” These are controversial statements better suited for philosophical rather than legal context. Millions of people believe in the concepts expressed in this bill, and millions do not. Better for believers to preach at individual women than officially mandate what action they should take. Is this latest hurdle in the way of abortion choice too high to meet constitutional standards?

Transportation sales tax. It was a hard decision, but lawmakers finally did the right thing in deciding to ask voters to approve a statewide three-quarter-cent sales tax for transportation expected to produce some $540 million each year, with 10 percent remitted to city and county governments.

The need is desperate, but the fix was not obvious. Traditional motor fuel taxes have run out of gas, so to speak, as increasing efficiency and conservation restrict revenue production. Raising the state’s 17-cent-per-gallon tax is a losing proposition. The sales tax is the only alternative. It produces the most revenue, including quite a bit from visitors using the state’s roads and bridges.

But city leaders have reason to worry as overall sales tax rates keep rising. Sales taxes are the primary revenue source for cities, and local leaders wonder when taxpayers will say “enough.”

Medicaid. As expected, Medicaid expansion failed. The coup de grace was delivered by a GOP filibuster. Full health care coverage for low-income people will come sooner or later as part of comprehensive reform, but not yet in the reddest states, like our own.

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The Kansas City Star, May 17

Missouri session ends high on the hog, low on progress:

Behind the curtain: The just-completed 2014 session of the Missouri General Assembly brought into sharp focus the undue influence that wealthy donors and outside groups bring to bear on lawmaking.

Consider the controversial income tax cut, which was passed despite a veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and once fully phased in will cost Missouri at least $600 million a year.

Story Continues →