- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Springfield News-Leader, April 16

Health should come first with medical cannabis

Missourians suffering from cancer, seizures, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, debilitating pain and many other medical conditions often find themselves waiting for new treatments to be made available in hopes of getting relief. Without action from the Missouri legislature or by citizen petition, one proven treatment remains available only for those willing to work outside the law.

A bill proposed by Rep. Dave Hinson, a Republican from St. Clair, seeks to allow medical marijuana, and we believe his colleagues should get behind it.

There is plenty of research showing the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis to treat many conditions. Hinson’s bill is thorough in its explanation of which conditions would make people eligible for a medical marijuana card.

It also puts forth plenty of protections to ensure the legality and safety of medicinal marijuana use.

The products would only be sold from licensed centers, which would be limited and would require operators to pass background checks.

The bill would also keep centers far from schools and other protected areas, require them to collect sales tax and create misdemeanors to punish illegal operation.

If Hinson’s colleagues still have concerns, they can help craft changes.

What they cannot do is ignore this issue.

The stories of Missourians, including children, who are suffering every day continue to add up. Those people are leaving the state, choosing to skirt the law, or simply opting to suffer because we can’t authorize a somewhat simple solution.

Drugs very often have negative side effects, especially if used incorrectly. Used recreationally, powerful painkillers are dangerous and addictive. Prescribed by a doctor, they can be integral to a patient’s care.

There are petitions to put the question of medicinal cannabis to voters. The petition put forth by New Approach Missouri is the most reasonable, but it faces an uphill battle with the large number of required signatures.

As local Republic Rep. Kevin Austin said, a change by petition would change Missouri’s constitution. He said he would prefer the law change via statute.

That’s a fair point, and it’s another reason lawmakers need to take this responsibility.

Too often, Missouri waits for the rest of the country to move forward before it makes necessary changes.

The need is clear and the safeguards have been identified. Lawmakers must act now to give relief to our family members, friends and neighbors who are suffering.

The health of Missourians should not be a political issue. Legislators should work together to make this necessary change.

If lawmakers fail to pick up the ball, we encourage voters to sign petitions and get this issue on the ballot.

One way or another, we have to find a legal way to make marijuana available for medicinal use.

We cannot abide the tremors caused by multiple sclerosis, the excruciating pain of a spinal patient or the terrifying seizures of a child - not when there’s a solution so close to our reach.


The Monett Times/Cassville Democrat, April 13

The majority should rule in Missouri elections, but often doesn’t

“The people have spoken,” is a common phrase used once all the votes have been counted. But too often, what the people have actually said is, “We wanted someone else.”

Missouri allows candidates to be elected to office and earn party nominations with a plurality of the vote - no majority required.

With six candidates vying for the Republican nomination to replace Mick Epperly as Barry County sheriff, it’s a safe bet that August’s nominee will not earn a majority vote. In fact, it’s mathematically possible that a candidate could advance to November’s general election ballot despite 83 percent of voters casting ballots against him.

The situation would have been worse had Democrat Justin Ruark not entered the race during the last day of filing. Had he not, a nominee earning as little as 17 percent of the vote could have strolled into this highly-important office unopposed, barring an independent challenge.

Many states - including our neighbors in Arkansas and Oklahoma - require candidates to obtain a majority vote to win an election or party nomination. If no candidate wins a majority on the first ballot, a runoff election is held a few weeks later between the top two vote-getters.

In the sheriff’s race, let’s say the top two vote-getters receive 17 percent each. Under a runoff system, 66 percent of voters who cast their ballots for the bottom four candidates - as well as the 34 percent who advanced their preferred candidates to the runoff ballot - would get to choose between the last two candidates standing.

In short, the leading candidate would win the nomination because the voters made a clear choice, not by a mathematic anomaly.

In Arkansas and Oklahoma runoff elections, the second-highest vote-getter is often the favorite to win - especially when an incumbent is in the race. In races involving three or more candidates, the incumbent often places first, while the votes of people who want change are split amongst the challengers. If the incumbent fails to earn a majority on the first ballot, it’s a good sign that the will of the people will be behind the challenger in a runoff.

Many Missouri elections would have gone a different way if a runoff system were in place. Missouri elections involving three or more candidates stack the deck in favor of incumbents. Elections to office too often become de facto lifetime appointments. The system discourages citizens who could make a positive impact in government from taking part in a process that is set up for them to fail.

Furthermore, a plurality voting system encourages “tactical voting” in which people choose the best of who they perceive to be the two frontrunners - the “lesser of two evils” principle - even though they may strongly prefer a different candidate. No one likes throwing their vote away, and a runoff system would go a long way toward encouraging people to vote their conscience.

We are pleased that our local lawmakers are open to considering a runoff system in Missouri. Gary Youngblood, Barry County clerk, raised valid concerns about the cost of additional elections. But what better use of our tax dollars than to make sure the will of the people is represented in government?

Missouri owes it to its residents to make sure our values are represented in our leadership. If our neighbors in Arkansas and Oklahoma can do it, so can we.


The St. Joseph News-Press, April 16

‘Fight for $15’ is folly

Dream for a moment: You are in a minimum-wage job and someone decides to double your pay to $15 an hour.

Now, if you previously had qualified yourself for only minimum-wage work, this is a genuine boon to you and your household. No matter what other income is available in the home, if you work 40 hours a week then you can expect a wage of $31,200 a year.

This works out well for you. But what about everyone else?

The problems for everyone else are why the “Fight for $15” is at best a flight of fancy, and at worst a movement certain to harm small businesses, many of their employees and the growth of the economy.

Recognize that the federal minimum wage is but a floor on wages, and it’s widely regarded as immaterial to most wage discussions. More than 20 states already have a minimum wage higher than the federal standard of $7.25 an hour. In Missouri, the current rate of $7.65 is indexed to the cost of inflation.

A push to force businesses nationwide to dramatically hike their wages - without regard to their other expenses or profit margins - likely would force at least thousands of layoffs and many business closures.

This is the opinion of large organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which notes small businesses are responsible for two of every three jobs created in the United States, and individuals like Cheryl Cattan, owner of Hazel’s Gourmet Coffee and Tea in St. Joseph.

Cattan spoke for small businesses everywhere when she recently told the News-Press a $15 minimum wage would force her to close her shop. “You can’t get the prices to go up (with the minimum wage) without closing the doors,” she says. “People couldn’t afford the sandwiches and drinks.”

The current campaign focused on McDonalds nationally is led by the Service Employees International Union. You can draw your own conclusions about what is in this for the union. Whatever the motive, the sweeping campaign ignores the fact that 90 percent of McDonalds restaurants are owned by local franchisees who are competing in local economies across the country.

Is it right to insist the order-taker at a fast-food restaurant be paid nearly the same as many positions requiring college degrees and specialized education? Not in any free-market economy we can imagine.


The Kansas City Star, April 12

Single-terminal plan for Kansas City International Airport gains steam

The effort to build a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport has entered its “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” phase.

In 2013, the City Council tried to rush through a decision to plan for a single terminal at KCI, under the bullheaded leadership of Aviation Director Mark VanLoh. Outraged public criticism ensued.

Dutifully, City Hall put together a more rigorous evaluation of KCI’s future. Most recently, city staff members, consultants and airlines representatives have trooped before a special City Council committee to explain the ins and outs of improving the airport.

The experts have presented facts, drawings, photos, studies and other important information. The latest session Tuesday focused on how constructing a new, single terminal could be convenient in many ways for passengers. That’s a key consideration given how many people like the current KCI.

As the meetings have occurred, the airlines that initially seemed inclined to rehab the horseshoe-designed airport came around to say that a modern terminal made the most sense for them and their passengers.

Some skeptics remain unbowed.

Council member Teresa Loar sat through Tuesday’s informative session but at the end failed to offer one question of substance. Instead, Loar said condescendingly, she wanted to know why so much money was being spent on studies and consultants when no one had asked the public what it wanted to do.

The response to such a silly proclamation is straightforward.

If the city had not done its due diligence asking the airlines what they thought was feasible and what its customers might want over the next 20 years, City Hall would have looked downright stupid putting anything before the public - from something as big as a bond issue to something as simple as a questionnaire.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

If a new terminal is built, revenue from passengers’ tickets, parking, concessions and other airport charges would finance it. General tax funds would not be used, despite recent inaccurate contentions by U.S. Rep. Sam Graves.

Yet while the airlines support a new terminal, some detractors still are trying to shove upgraded horseshoe terminals down their throats.

The airlines are scheduled to present a final plan to the council later this month. The council should evaluate that proposal, and then decide whether the public will be asked to approve a large bond issue for a new, better KCI.

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