- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 24, 2017

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 22

Missouri is a slightly better place for women now than it was two years ago, with more women having health insurance and fewer women 65 and older living in poverty, but other benchmarks of success are still lagging, according to a new study by the University of Missouri’s Institute of Public Policy.

What’s not working so well for women is that their numbers have shrunk in the Missouri Legislature compared to 2014, when the Women’s Foundation released its first study on “The Status of Women in Missouri.” Only 19 percent of state prosecutors are women and only two women serve as sheriffs in Missouri.

The study shows that as Missouri is increasingly identified with low achievement in areas such as educational attainment, health care availability for poor citizens and opportunities for good day care and jobs, women bear the consequences of these shortcomings more than men. Older women have it tougher than younger women, and a significant percentage of female-headed households with children under 18 live below the poverty line.

This scenario can improve, and a male-dominated Legislature can make the needed changes just as easily as one with more women in it. To that end, Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson pledged in December to work on initiating paid family leave for Missouri workers, and to help create a new occupational licensing board or commission to eliminate unnecessary barriers for citizens entering into entrepreneurial roles.

The health care gain is threatened by GOP pledges in Washington to repeal the Affordable Care Act though there’s no plan to replace it. About 60 percent of Missouri’s uninsured are women. Repeal would likely result in increased numbers of women without coverage. The study shows that 9.8 percent of Missourians had no health care in 2015, compared to 13 percent in 2013. Nationally, 9.4 percent of Americans are uninsured.

If the state expanded Medicaid access, nearly 73,000 uninsured women would be eligible for health care coverage.

An area in which women have lost ground since the earlier study is in accredited child care centers. Accessibility and quality of child care was the top concern for most Missouri women in 2014, and the new study finds that 38 percent of Missouri counties do not have an accredited child care center. That figure was only 27 percent in the earlier study.

Since the last study, the wage gap has narrowed, even though it remains sizable. Full-time working women now make 78 cents for every dollar a full-time working man makes. The prior gap was 77 cents.

The Women’s Foundation intends to use the study to establish benchmarks and help shape policy solutions moving forward to give more women economic advantages. Improving the state’s economy for women will work to the advantage of all Missourians.

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Springfield News-Leader, Jan. 22

The hazing described by a former Drury swimmer is ugly.

The swimmer, Evan Petrich, described forced nudity and alcohol consumption, being pelted with dodgeballs while naked and being forced to watch pornographic movies.

Some of the hazing is violent. All of it is degrading. None of it should be tolerated.

Drury officials have outlined plans to handle future incidents of hazing. Those plans include a modest increase to a first-offense punishment.

A first-time offense now carries a community service requirement of 40 hours and a $200 fine. The policy states those are minimums, so we hope serious offenses can be punished more severely if needed.

Athletic Director Mark Fisher said he believes people will look at that punishment and some will think it’s too lenient while others will think it’s too strict.

We would support Drury if the university decided to increase these punishments, but if the current punishments are levied consistently when hazing occurs, they’re adequate.

There is, however, a larger missed opportunity here, and that comes with how this community and others perceive Drury’s seriousness about hazing.

University leaders say they’re dedicated to making sure this doesn’t happen again, but there are some mixed messages.

At one point Fisher called hazing “disappointing.” A student-athlete skipping a class or being late to a practice is disappointing. Hazing is terrible.

He was more on the mark with the rest of that statement which said the university wants to “uphold our students’ dignity” and “protect them.”

However the conversations Petrich describes with the athletic director and his coach don’t fully support that idea of upholding dignity and protecting students. Without knowing the specifics of the conversations, Petrich left those meetings feeling like he was being asked to get over it, or even transfer.

Drury is one of many schools across the country that occasionally sees hazing. There’s no reason to believe there’s a particular hazing culture at Drury.

But with this, a second set of allegations surfacing since 2009, Drury should see this as an opportunity.

It’s clear that college programs around the country need leadership on this issue, and though Drury’s not a nationally known school or program, we believe Drury could show the integrity to be a leader in the fight against hazing.

That might mean increasing punishments. It certainly means using stronger language and developing robust programs to educate student athletes.

This is a tall task. Hazing has a long history with athletics, and with college life. It’s seen as a way to make teammates tougher, to suppress egos of young athletes or to promote bonding.

Coaches know there are much safer ways to shape strong, humble and cooperative student-athletes.

We hope Drury can lead the charge on eliminating hazing.

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St. Joseph News-Press, Jan. 21

Missourians looking to new leadership in Jefferson City for tax relief may have to put that thought on hold.

The same goes for those who hope to see a boost in spending on their favorite programs, including education.

The budget reality is Missouri’s rate of tax collections is falling far short of projections. Former Gov. Jay Nixon had estimated state revenues would grow 4.1 percent this year. Legislators cut that to 3.4 percent when building the budget, but now both they and new Gov. Eric Greitens have lowered that expectation to 3 percent.

Growth is a positive for a budget, but this amount is not enough to cover the rising costs of programs like Medicaid or to offset previously enacted changes in the tax code that are lowering corporate taxes.

This is why Nixon cut about $200 million from planned current-year spending before leaving office, and why Greitens reduced planned spending by another $146 million earlier this month.

And what about next year? Without more adjustments, the projection for the fiscal year starting July 1 is for the budget to be about $450 million out of balance.

Given this outlook, we have no problem with Greitens, in office only since Jan. 9, breaking from tradition and taking a few more days to propose his budget. He has promised to deliver that to the General Assembly by early February.

We also think House Budget Committee chairman Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, is on the right track. He is sending early signals that additional tax cuts are unlikely to win legislative support unless they are offset by other budget adjustments, such as an end to some tax credit programs.

Greitens’ State of State address hit upon several themes important to him: passage of the right-to-work proposal barring collection of mandatory union fees, an improved legal climate for businesses, restoring trust in government, support for law enforcement and first responders, reform of tax credits and improvements to the welfare system.

At the heart of these proposals is an understanding we cannot spend or tax our way out of our problems.

It is increasingly clear that what Missouri needs most now is a focus on stimulating economic growth and private investment. This will spread the tax burden more broadly while providing the funds government needs to operate and require a smaller percentage tax from everyone.

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Joplin Globe, Jan. 20

Whether Mother Nature has a sense of irony or is sending us a warning is unclear.

But it’s worth noting that just before a changing of the guard in Washington, scientists reported the Earth had its hottest year on record.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, globally averaged temperatures in 2016 were 1.78 degrees higher than the mid-20th century mean, and the planet’s average temperature has risen by 2 degrees since the late 19th century. NOAA said, “Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001.”

Now 1.78 degrees may not sound like much, but it belies the fact that in parts of the world the change is much more extreme. In the Arctic, according to news reports, temperatures were 20 to 30 degrees above normal across much of the region, affecting everything from sea ice to Arctic communities.

“A single warm year is something of a curiosity,” Deke Arndt, chief of global climate monitoring for NOAA, told The New York Times. “It’s really the trend, and the fact that we’re punching at the ceiling every year now, that is the real indicator that we’re undergoing big changes.”

Gavin Schmidt, who directs NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, told The Washington Post. “We don’t expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear.”

Contrast those statements with some of Donald Trump’s comments in recent years, saying “global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive,” and labeling it “an expensive hoax!”

To be fair, Trump also has called climate change an “urgent problem” and has said he will keep an open mind on the science. He also appointed a leading skeptic of climate change to head the Environmental Protection Agency, who recently said climate change is no hoax. Other cabinet appointees have favored honoring the Paris climate treaty (Rex Tillerson, secretary of state) and spoken about the impact of climate change in his home state (Ryan Zinke, secretary of interior, speaking about melting glaciers in Glacier National Park, which some predictions show disappearing within 25 to 30 years.)

Trump is as unknowable as the weather regarding this topic.

That Trump is the legitimate president is beyond doubt, legally and constitutionally. He is as legitimate as any other president. But not every president has been the leader the United States needed at that time. Trump has to prove that he can be such a leader - someone willing to listen to evidence, someone willing to cast aside political expedience and face the truth, someone willing to do the right thing even when it comes at a personal and political cost.

Recognizing the reality of climate change might be a great place to start.

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