- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jefferson City News Tribune, July 10

Veto removes threat to deer posed by inane bills:

We would need to dig deep into the pile of legislation approved by Missouri lawmakers to find a proposal more inane than those reclassifying deer as “livestock.”

Gov. Jay Nixon commendably struck a blow for common sense on Wednesday when he vetoed these proposals.

We will watch to see if the lawmakers who promoted this nonsense attempt to override the vetoes, an override that could jeopardize the deer population and deer hunting in Missouri.

Some background may be helpful.

Management of Missouri’s deer population is directed by the Conservation Department, which also regulates hunting.

Missouri is home to a growing captive deer industry, which offers hunting within a fenced perimeter. The fledgling industry balked at Conservation regulations - notably a double-fence requirement - designed to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease, which is fatal to deer.

Claiming the rules would be costly and detrimental to the industry, they proposed reclassifying captive deer as “livestock” and transferring oversight from the Conservation to Agriculture departments.

We wrote in this forum on June 17: “Although fledgling industries deserve to be nurtured, they do not deserve to be exempted from the rules,” particularly when that exemption might jeopardize Missouri wildlife, as well as the economic contribution of traditional hunting.

Nixon cited, among the reasons for his vetoes, that the bills “clearly violate the Missouri Constitution.” If his vetoes are overridden, the courts likely will be asked to address that constitutional question.

We hope the question of whether captive deer are livestock never makes it to the courts. Frankly, we were astounded such a preposterous concept could pass both the House and Senate.

Nixon said: “Redefining deer as livestock to remove the regulatory role of the department (of Conservation) defies both its clear record of achievement as well as common sense. White-tailed deer are wildlife and also game animals - no matter if they’re roaming free, or enclosed in a fenced area.”

We concur.

Deer are not livestock. These bills are a travesty that threatens wildlife and insults Missourians, particularly hunters.


St. Joseph News-Press, July 11

Casino parlays bets into solid record:

As the St. Jo Frontier Casino celebrates its 20th anniversary this summer, managers are pondering two recent reports - one good and one not so good.

A new study by the American Gaming Association contends public support for legalized gambling is at an all-time high, thanks in part to the roles casinos play in job creation, economic development and community involvement. “I think it’s more acceptable,” says St. Jo Frontier Casino general manager Craig Krabiel. “It’s a form of entertainment.”

A report by the Missouri Gaming Commission, however, notes revenues at the local casino fell by 4 percent in June, and have fallen 6 percent for the year. “I think the Midwest market continues to be down,” Mr. Krabiel says, noting summer especially can be a slower time due to the abundance of other activities available to residents.

Make no mistake: In the past two decades, St. Joseph’s casino has undergone a dramatic transformation - from an authentic riverboat plying the Missouri’s waters to a land-accessible structure, and from a casino with a $500 loss limit to a venue with no limits.

Many of the original fears associated with a local casino - for instance, that it would attract Bugsy Siegel-type mobsters - seem laughable today. The restaurant/buffet offers a family-style atmosphere, while class reunions and similar events are booked in the conference rooms. We know people who visit the casino regularly and don’t gamble at all.

As much as anything, the casino has proven itself as a reliable source of tax revenue for the city and county - more than $30 million total over the past two decades. The city has used its share for activities and expenses such as the July 4th and Trails West! celebrations and to buy mobile computers for police cars. The county has used the money to support the Social Welfare Board, the Missouri Extension Council and the Soil and Water Conservation District.

Through these allocations, the casino no doubt benefits many people locally, plus the 230 who work there. There also is the matter of the state gaming industry’s contribution to education that officials say has exceeded $5 billion since 1994.

On the flip side, the issue of gamblers who can’t stay away from the tables and slots can’t be overlooked. The problem, however, has been dealt with openly and responsibly by the industry, which provides multiple avenues for gamblers to access help and submit to a self-ban from the gaming floor.

While diehard opponents will disagree, the record of the local casino over the last two decades favors this development as a positive contributor to the community’s tax revenues and economy, and as a welcome expansion of local entertainment options.


Springfield News-Leader, July 12

Our Voice: ‘Think policy, not politics’

Gov. Jay Nixon signed a handful of child care-related bills last week in southwest Missouri. One gives Children’s Division caseworkers more time to investigate claims of child abuse and neglect. Others created a method for parents to compare day cares and require small day cares to comply with safety codes.

Later, in a meeting with the News-Leader Editorial Board, Nixon hailed that effort as “a good, solid step forward, done in a bi-partisan way.”

We would like to see more of that bipartisan cooperation between the Democratic Nixon administration and the Republican-majority General Assembly.

This year’s legislative session provided many more examples of partisanship at its worst, leading to bad law in some cases and failure to get necessary work done in others.

We have taken the governor to task on more than one occasion for what we have characterized as bullying and shenanigans, so we appreciate his willingness to meet with us.

We stand by those positions. But that does not mean the legislature isn’t culpable in this latest dysfunctional session of the General Assembly.

Balancing the budget is the governor’s job. Passing a budget that is in sync with spending and tax cut bills is the legislature’s job.

We don’t like the heavy-handed methods the governor has used, but we are also distressed by the lack of financial restraint on the part of our legislators.

Every householder knows that you can’t spend more than you take in and still make ends meet. In the case of the state, the law requires that those ends do meet.

Legislative leaders have insisted that their effort to cut taxes is a sure-fire way to bring in more revenue. We have argued against that point of view. We believe that wise spending - on important things, such as infrastructure and education - is a better draw to business than cutting the resources to ensure those amenities.

During the last day of the session - a day Nixon calls the “Friday Follies” - a flurry of bills was passed. Many had been introduced at the beginning of the session, but, as the governor is quick to point out, changes were made that created new economic impacts.

If our Republican legislature would truly uphold its conservative economic philosophy, tax cuts would be matched by spending cuts - just as conservatives insist liberal Democrats must do when they add spending.

It is unfortunate that the governor is left with the dirty job of cutting the state’s budget in order to meet the balanced budget requirement.

If the low-tax philosophy pans out, as it has not done in neighboring Kansas, the governor will have to open those coffers. It would be a nice turn of events.

In the meantime, the governor has vetoed what he calls those “Friday Favors.” While his earlier veto of the income-tax cut failed to hold, we believe that these vetoes just may succeed as legislators begin to take a closer look at the serious financial fallout of all those bills.

But this last-minute grandstanding has got to stop being the modus operandi. The governor calls it “a failure of the process.”

If we focus on places where the process succeeded, we might find some answers. Here are just a few examples:

When it became clear that the Children’s Division needed some flexibility on its time limit for investigating child abuse and neglect cases, the legislature - Republicans and Democrats - and the administration worked together to ensure that happened.

Democratic Sen. Jolie Justus and Republican Sen. Bob Dixon worked tirelessly to get a seriously needed new criminal code written that would satisfy the needs of the state and the governor’s office.

This month, Speaker Tim Jones announced a House committee on Missouri Military Impact and Sustainability, a great step following Nixon’s appointment of State Treasurer Clint Zweifel to oversee a newly formed “military partnership” aimed at keeping defense spending in our state.

Those issues were resolved because people from all sorts of political persuasions put politics aside to do the right thing for Missouri.

Nixon has expressed his confidence that the likely new leadership, John Diehl (R-Town and Country) in the House and Ron Richard (R-Joplin) in the Senate, are “smart, capable guys.”

With those smart guys in leadership, we look forward to a new era of bipartisanship and cooperation. The governor also seemed convinced.

Nixon offered a clear way to proceed. “To effectively govern this state … you’ve got to think policy, not politics.”


The Joplin Globe, July 13

Our View: Vote no on Amendment 1

Proponents of Amendment 1 - the Right to Farm Act - have not made their case. We’ve met with advocates of this amendment to the Missouri constitution and listened to their arguments, but we don’t believe they have adequately answered the central question: Who is it protecting, and from what?

We understand that many small farms are struggling, but threats to their livelihood aren’t going to go away because of the vague wording in the proposed amendment. In fact, this amendment could hurt them.

Darvin Bentlage, a Barton County farmer, made a compelling case in this newspaper that what’s threatening small, independent family farms is big ag - corporate ag - which is what some critics think this amendment is designed to protect.

“I remember our right to farm when we didn’t have to sign a grower’s contract to buy seed, a document telling us what we could and couldn’t do with what we grew on our farm,” Bentlage argued. “I remember when family farmers could load their own feeder pigs in their truck and go to the local auction and sell their livestock in an open and competitive market. So who’s taken this right to farm away from us? It is the same corporate factory farm supporters, corporations and organizations that have pushed this constitutional amendment through the Missouri Legislature.”

The ballot question asks, “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranging practices shall not be infringed?”

Infringed by whom? What practices? And who qualifies as a farmer in Missouri?

Smithfield Foods, for example, owner of Premium Standard Farms? How about Tyson Foods? Both of those are Fortune 500 companies that count their revenue in the billions.

Which Tyson practice “shall not be infringed,” the one that left more than 100,000 dead fish in Clear Creek this spring?

It’s Missouri that may need protection from big ag.

Proponents of the amendment point to environmental and animal rights organizations - “radical, out-of-state groups,” they call them - but most of the family farmers we know don’t fear laws aimed at protecting Missouri’s water and air. They already behave as good stewards of the environment because they live on the land they farm and drink the water from their own wells, and they treat their livestock humanely.

We suspect critics of the amendment are on to something when they say this is a measure designed to protect corporate agriculture rather than the traditional family farm.

In fact, we’d be better off making sure that public ownership of water, for example, and the right to clean water and clean air are enshrined in the state constitution.

That’s an amendment we can get behind, but we can’t get behind Amendment 1

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