- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 21, 2017

St. Joseph News-Press, March 14

Support ‘Show It 2 Vote’

It is hard to envision the partisan debate over photo voter IDs lasting very far into the next decade - particularly in any state that does not lean heavily Democratic and is not dug in against this idea.

This requirement is becoming increasingly common and accepted by the public. A total of 11 states, including Kansas, required a photo voter ID for the first time in the 2016 presidential election.

Challenges continue, but the trend is to adopt this standard and make it work. And there is ample reason to believe a fair system - one that reasonably should disenfranchise no person - is possible.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and Hermann state Rep. Justin Alferman, both Republicans, and St. Louis state Rep. Bruce Franks Jr., a Democrat, recently made a bipartisan appeal for support of Missouri’s new photo voter ID law.

The measure takes effect June 1 following last November’s 63 percent voter approval of a constitutional amendment. Lawmakers currently are weighing the funding needed to ensure it is fairly implemented.

“The law has been passed and it’s important that we now bridge the divide over this issue to ensure that all eligible, registered voters are able to vote,” Franks said.

Ashcroft pledged to make this work for “every eligible registered voter.” He detailed voters’ options:

- Show a government-issued photo ID such as a driver license, nondriver license, passport or military ID.

- Sign a statement and show one of the following: a voter registration card, an ID from a Missouri university, college, vocational or technical school, a utility bill, a bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document showing the voter’s name and address.

- Cast a provisional ballot. If the voter’s signature matches the signature in the voter registry or if the voter returns to the polling place to show an appropriate photo ID, the vote will be counted.

Ashcroft, Alferman, Franks and others are promoting an educational campaign, “Show It 2 Vote,” including the website ShowIt2Vote.com and a toll-free help line, 866-868-3245 for any citizen with questions or needing assistance to vote.

This effort deserves bipartisan support.

___

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 19

Business friendly doesn’t have to mean worker unfriendly

The Missouri Senate has doubled down on discrimination, making it more difficult for employees who suffer workplace discrimination or lose a job because they blew the whistle to hold their employers responsible. Missourians can add this to the state’s long list of protracted efforts to be friendly to businesses and lawyers at the expense of workers.

Senate Bill 43, now before the Missouri House, would amend the state’s Human Rights Act, undermining civil rights protections and permitting retaliation against employees who report violations. It creates the cynically named Whistleblower’s Protection Act, which protects employers from whistleblowers by replacing existing legal protections for whistleblowers with a weaker version.

Missouri already has among the more attractive tax structures for businesses in the nation. It also has a newly enacted right-to-work law and is seeking to overhaul civil liability laws by limiting damages that plaintiffs can receive. Is the push to create an even less friendly environment for workers really necessary?

Raising even more eyebrows about this legislation is the personal stake its sponsor, Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, has in the law. Romine owns the Show-Me Rent-to-Own chain, which has been embroiled in a racial discrimination lawsuit the past two years. The suit alleges that a supervisor at the chain’s Sikeston store used racial slurs against a black account manager, who was later fired, and that Romine declined to address complaints.

The lawsuit specifically claims that “Plaintiff’s race was a contributing factor” to the account manager’s termination. Under existing law on workplace discrimination, if that claim is found true it might be enough to win the case. Romine’s bill would specifically change that so a plaintiff would have to show that discrimination was the primary cause of termination, and not just a contributing factor.

Romine’s legislation also would make it tougher to appeal complaints to the civil court system if the Missouri Commission on Human Rights finds for the employer. That, too, is from Romine’s personal playbook. He has written publicly about his frustration as a business owner at having to appear before the commission, and that their finding for him allowed the plaintiff to sue in the court system.

Under the whistleblower part of the legislation, Missourians who are fired because they reported wrongdoing could only sue for lost wages, medical bills related to the incident and liquidated damages, which are capped at twice the amount of lost wages.

It eliminates a jury’s ability to award significant compensatory damages, which is a way juries can tell companies to stop their bad practices, and to reward the whistleblower for bravery.

Missouri lawmakers need to expand their definition of business friendly. Good roads and schools and medical care are just as friendly, and don’t hurt workers in the process.

____

Jefferson City News-Tribune, March 15

MU takes step toward transparency

We commend the University of Missouri System for its pledge to stop giving performance bonuses to top administrators and pledging to be more transparent in the future.

The announcement comes in the wake of a critical audit that found the university paid $1.2 million in hidden bonuses through an executive incentives program over the past three years, according to a report by The Associated Press.

The AP reported that the audit said the bonuses were given without direct approval from the Board of Curators and without clear criteria for performance. MU’s new president, Mun Choi, said he will explore changes to make the program more transparent. He also called for a comprehensive review of executive compensation after the audit found that top officials had received inflated car reimbursements totaling more than $400,000 over two years.

The revelation about the hidden bonus payments comes as the university is using its reserve funds to plug a hole in a $20 million budget shortfall from less state funding.

The university’s pledge to own up to its lack of transparency and change its practices is refreshing, especially considering its first reaction. MU’s initial news release on the audit started: “An audit of the University of Missouri System released today by State Auditor Nicole Galloway confirmed that the UM System follows sound business practices and accounting standards in its operation of the state’s largest public university, while identifying no significant deficiencies in internal controls.”

Sounds like a swell audit, right?

In fact, the audit gave the university a “fair” rating. Of the four ratings, that’s the second lowest.

“These administrators appear to have forgotten that the university is a public institution and that they are accountable to taxpayers, students and their families,” Galloway said at a news conference.

Choi initially said the bonuses are needed to attract and retain “top leaders” in higher education.

Here’s another way of hiring and keeping the best and brightest - help MU earn a reputation of integrity, trust and transparency. Lead by example and expect your employees to follow.

The university’s latest announcement is a good step in this direction.

____

The Kansas City Star, March 17

Missouri governor pursues family-friendly policy; Washington should follow

This week Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens issued an order giving most state workers paid time off after the birth or adoption of a child.

“Paid parental leave will strengthen families and communities,” Greitens’ proclamation says. The order was rightly welcomed by state employees.

But it did contain an interesting clause: “Primary” caregivers get six weeks off, fully paid. “Secondary” caregivers get just three weeks of paid parental leave. That could provoke some interesting discussions in the nursery.

Still, the order reflects the growing understanding among politicians in both parties that family concerns must be taken into account by employers in the public and private sectors.

Businesses howled in the early 1990s when Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act. It requires businesses to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off for various family considerations, including birth or adoption, illness or to care for a close relative.

Well into the 21st century, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce claimed workers have abused the FMLA, causing headaches and morale problems for employers. Conservatives said even unpaid time off was an unacceptable burden on businesses and employers.

Those voices have largely gone silent. The Family and Medical Leave Act has proved enormously popular, and, since the time off is unpaid, the financial impact on companies has been relatively small.

President Donald Trump seems to understand this. While much of his administration is busily ravaging programs that help the working poor, his daughter Ivanka has been developing a proposal to provide 12 weeks of paid time off for the birth or adoption of a child.

In fact, The New York Times reports, the plan may extend to mothers and fathers. And the plan would be paid for by - gasp - a tax increase.

That’s not all. The Trump administration may pursue additional tax credits and savings programs to pay child care expenses. There would be subsidies for lower-income workers with children.

Most Republicans aren’t sure what to make of all of this. Their DNA requires opposition to such massive federal intervention in employer-employee relations, not to mention the added taxes and fees now on the table.

Yet as Greitens has shown in Missouri, there is likely widespread support in both parties for more family-friendly policies. The governor’s time-off policy for state workers will cost taxpayers money, but there were few objections from either side of the aisle when he announced the plan.

In Washington, Democrats can help. It’s in their DNA to reject all things Trump, yet constructive compromise on paid family leave should be possible. The party should pursue a deal.

Young families confront uncertainty wherever they look. Two-earner families are almost essential in the modern economy, but child care remains expensive, even if child care providers are underpaid.

The economy will not collapse if the public and private sectors show more flexibility in dealing with those realities. Greitens has taken a step in Missouri, but it’s only a step.

Washington should follow.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide