Joplin’s Ron Richard And Why Missouri Is Headed “South”

All you need to know about the state of politics here in Missouri is found in this lede today from the Associated Press:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Federal agents would be sent to jail for enforcing some federal gun control laws under legislation endorsed by a Missouri House panel.

The ridiculous and unconstitutional quasi-secessionist legislation passed the state senate last month. In the mean time, Joplin’s Ron Richard, who is the Senate Majority Leader and who helped craft this revised version of a bill that he voted against last year, said this recently:

We’re the poster child for the second amendment in the country. 

No, we’re the poster child for stupidity, legislative malfeasance, and wasting government resources, since many millions will be needed to defend this nutty idea in court, if it ever becomes law.

In the mean time, to give you a further idea of what it is like here in regressive Missouri, made so with a lot of help from Joplin’s most important state legislator since Moses was floating on the Nile, try this:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Senate Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said Thursday he support using a rarely used Senate procedure to force a vote on legislation that would triple the current 24-hour waiting period for abortions.

Richard’s response to those who thought that Democrats, what few there are, in the state senate might not like his use of this procedural tactic—which hasn’t been used since 2007, and then, too, on an anti-choice bill—was a classic authoritarian impulse:

We’ve gotten along very well. We’re just in the majority, and I want to do what I want to do.

Some day, God or Allah or demographics willing, the reactionaries won’t be in the majority here in Missouri. But they are in the process of winning the race to the bottom and help better arrive real soon.

Would Jesus Expand Medicaid In Missouri? I’ll Let Him Tell You (UPDATED)

“Missouri’s low income and vulnerable citizens will have access to excellent health care in order to maximize their quality of life and independence.”

—The “vision” statement of Missouri’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet Division

I swear the following story is in your Bible:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But the expert in the law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said, “A man was going down from Jefferson City to Joplin, when he found out his job was being outsourced to China. All in one moment he lost his income and along with it his health insurance, which he needed because his wife had a serious health condition. A Religious Right preacher happened to be going down the same road on his way to vote for a Republican, and when he saw the uninsured man on the side of the road in much distress, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Teapartier, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side, as he was also on his way to vote for a Republican.

But a Samaritan, a man who believed in the social safety net, came by where the man was, and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and told him not to worry. He told him that he was voting for someone who would make sure that he and his wife had affordable health insurance, whether he had a job or not. He told him that he was voting for someone who would make sure his unemployment benefits wouldn’t dry up before he had a fair chance to get another job. Then he put the man in his car, registered him to vote, and brought him to the polling place. 

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who lost his job and his health insurance?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Here in Missouri, Republicans have blocked the expansion of Medicaid, which would have been fully paid for by the federal government for the next three years. After that the state would eventually pay no more than 10% of the cost, as the program is fully phased in by 2020. The point is that it wouldn’t cost the state a dime—not a dime—until 2017, and even then it wouldn’t cost much. It is estimated that in 2015 Missouri would receive $1.7 billion to help expand the program and bring insurance to more people who can’t now afford it, which could be somewhere between 260,000 and 310,000 Missourians.

Here is a look at just who would benefit if the program were expanded today, again at no cost to the state:

medicaid expansion in missouri

Right now, without Medicaid expansion in this Jesus-loving state, if you are a parent or parents in a family of four and can’t afford private health insurance but have an income over $4,475 a year (19% of the 2013 Federal Poverty Level), you aren’t eligible for Medicaid. Yes, you read that right. If you preside over a family of four and make over $4,475 a year (a bleeping year!) but don’t make enough to buy health insurance, as a parent you are not eligible for Medicaid in Missouri. If you’re wondering, that cutoff for eligibility is the lowest allowed under the federal law that initially established the national program.

Under expansion, your family situation wouldn’t matter. Neither would your disability status. If you were parenting a family of four and earned up to $31,322 a year (based on 133% of the federal poverty level for 2013), you would be eligible for help if you didn’t otherwise have health insurance. If you were a single adult, you could earn up to $15,282 a year and qualify for health insurance under Medicaid. And as a comprehensive study indicated, the expansion is not only good for the entire state (it would actually bring in more dough to the treasury), but it is especially good for folks who live in places like where I live here in the southwest corner:

medicaid expansion map

See that? Just in our part of the state more than 60,000 of our New Testament-toting neighbors would get health insurance. Hallelujah!

Except that here in this Jesus-loving town of Joplin, here in God-fearing Southwest Missouri, lives the Majority Floor Leader of the Missouri Senate, Ron Richard. I don’t know if he loves Jesus or not, but I do know he is opposed to Medicaid expansion and voted against it last week, as did every single Republican in the Senate. Here are the duties of his august position:

The Majority Floor Leader sets the schedule of bills up for consideration by the full chamber, the time spent on floor debate for legislation, and the meeting times and dates of the Missouri Senate, among other duties.

As you can see, Ron Richard is a powerful man. He can change the dynamics of the debate on the expansion of Medicaid in Missouri in less time than it would take a House Republican to say, “Impeach the socialist in the White’s House!” Below are ways to contact him:

Jefferson City Office, Pattie: 573-751-2173

Joplin Office, Gwen: 417-623-0022

Or send him a message:

http://www.senate.mo.gov/D32WebApps/Contact.aspx
http://ronrichardmosenate.com/contact.php

You can use one or all of the above methods in order to a) ask him if he loves Jesus, or b) ask him if he wants to treat his fellow Missourians like a good neighbor, or c) do what I did and send him a message like this:

ron richard websiteI respectfully ask that Sen. Richard lead the charge on expanding Medicaid in Missouri and bring some relief to hundreds of thousands of Missourians who need health insurance. We are leaving billions of dollars on the table, money that is needed here in our state to care for our own. Do the right thing, please.

_________________________________

UPDATE: Here is the email response I received from Sen. Richard. Based on this response, it wouldn’t hurt for all of you who are interested in this issue to let him know where you stand:

Thank you for your email. This was brought up on the Senate Floor for debate. This was just the first discussion on the floor and I believe there will be a lot more before we have a chance to vote on the bill. I will keep your thoughts and comments in mind as this bill becomes perfected and we vote on the measure.

Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Ron Richard
Senator District 32

Why I Know Ron Richard Will Run For Missouri Governor In 2016

Joplin’s Ron Richard, I guarantee it, will run for Missouri governor in 2016, after the departure of Democrat Jay Nixon.

Right now he is doing time in the Missouri Senate, after being elected to a four-year term in 2010.  He previously served as the speaker of the Missouri House until term limits forced him to jump, and jump rather easily since he had exactly no opposition, into the upper chamber, where he now holds the number two leadership post for the Republicans.

Some of you may recall that more than three years ago, Tony Messenger of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Richard, who started his now permanent political career on the Joplin City Council, had his long-term eyes on Missouri’s top prize:

Speaking to the Political Fix at Lincoln Days, Richard said that he has pondered a possible run for governor in 2016. That would be midway through a possible second term in the state Senate, and the scenario assumes that current Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, wins a second term in 2012, where he is likely to face Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican.

“I’d like to be on the short list and see what happens,” Richard said.

Even though Richard later denied being interested in running for governor in 2016, Messenger stood by his reporting, saying that Republican Lt. Governor Peter Kinder “was a little miffed when he read of Richard’s political plans,” which led to Richard backing away from what he said. Today, though, Peter Kinder’s political stock in the state has fallen considerably, mostly at the hands and, uh, other body parts, of an exotic dancer.

So, it appears Richard can run conscience-free in 2016 for the vacant governorship. But that’s not why I am certain he will run. It was the nice and cozy piece I saw in the Joplin Globe today that convinced me. It began this way:

State Sen. Ron Richard on Thursday said he has started drafting a new gun rights bill to replace a controversial measure that failed Wednesday when it fell one vote short of a veto override in the Missouri Senate.

Richard, R-Joplin, the Senate majority floor leader, was one of two Republican senators who voted against the override in the Legislature’s veto session. 

Obviously, even though Richard was stupidly in favor of the bill before he was wisely against it, no Republican candidate can be caught voting against a “gun rights” bill—even a machine-gun rights bill—and live to tell about it, so Richard is fast at work on repairing the damage:

His goal in the new legislation, Richard said, will be a bill that “protects the First and Second amendments, doesn’t hinder law enforcement in doing their jobs, and doesn’t end up challenged in court as soon as it’s enacted.”

The would-be governor also noted to the Globe that the National Rifle Association—yep!—has offered to help write the new version of the bill.

I rest my case.

Missouri Is Only One Vote Shy Of Insurrection Insanity

I’ve tried to avoid talking about it, but I can’t anymore.

Missouri, the state I’ve called home for more than twenty years now, the state that is in a tax-cutting, service-reducing race to the bottom against my old home state of Kansas, is an embarrassment to anyone with an IQ that exceeds air-conditioned room temperature.

And that embarrassment comes at the hands of extremist Republicans who, because there is a lot of apathy and even more electoral laziness in this state, overwhelmingly control the state legislature, even though, for now, we have a Democratic governor.

I speak of a successful vote—I said: successful vote—by the Missouri House to override Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of one of the most obviously unconstitutional and one of the stupidest bills in the history of governance by otherwise sane members of the Homo sapiens species.

As the Associated Press summarized the bill—which late Wednesday night failed by only one vote—one bleeping vote!—to get the needed two-thirds margin in the Missouri Senate to override—it is breathtaking in its affront to our federalist system of government and in its indifference to the Civil War in our past, not to mention a profound indifference to civilization:

The legislation declares any federal policies that “infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms” shall be invalid in Missouri. It allows state misdemeanor charges to be brought against federal agents who try to enforce those laws or against anyone who publishes the identity of a gun owner.

The AP continued:

Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, also raised concerns last week about the ramifications of a potential veto override. He said a court likely would strike down the nullification provision but could leave intact other sections of the bill that could potentially prevent local police from cooperating with federal authorities on crimes involving guns. He said the bill also could open Missouri police to potential lawsuits from criminals if they refer gun-related cases to federal authorities.

CNN opened a story on this nuttiness like this:

The Missouri state legislature is one step closer to accomplishing something that’s never been done: passing a law that will technically not only let residents own a machine gun, but also arrest federal agents if they try to take it away.

The Springfield News-Leader added this:

Democrats who spoke in opposition said the bill would “shred” the First Amendment, criminalizing the actions of journalists involved in the publication of the names of gun owners.

Locally, where all of our state legislators are rabidly right-wing and thus out of their minds, I suppose we can sort of praise Joplin senator Ron Richard—the Republican Majority Floor Leader in the Missouri Senate—who voted against overriding the governor’s veto on Wednesday night, except that Ron Richard, stupidly, voted for the bill originally. Here’s how the Joplin legislator, who wants to be governor of the state someday soon, explained his unexplainable position on this ghastly piece of legislation:

“The attorney general made some valid points about its constitutionality,” he said. “And after reflecting, reading it again, and talking to a lot of people including those in law enforcement, I’m not sure Missouri needs to be the only state in the union to impose this unconstitutional bill.”

He’s “not sure”? Oh, I guess that means if other states join us, Richard would have no problem with machine guns all over the place, and putting FBI agents and journalists in the hoosegow. But he wasn’t done explainin’:

Richard said officials in law enforcement with whom he talked were uneasy with a law that would nullify federal gun laws in the state and would make it a crime for federal agents to enforce them in Missouri.

“They said, ‘You’re going to force us to arrest an FBI agent,’” he said. “That’s not going to work.”

You think? You don’t think state cops arresting federal cops for being federal cops is going to work? Brilliant, Senator Richard. What a brilliant insight. You should be Missouri’s governor with a brain like that. More:

The senator, who earlier was speaker in the House of Representatives, said he did not regret votes to pass the initial measure, which he said “makes a statement the feds need to stay out of state business.”

Yeah, that’ll show those meddlesome feds! Dammit, if you come near Missouri again, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll let citizens shoot you with their machine guns! And the senator, who earlier noted the bill was “unconstitutional,” nevertheless said “he did not regret” voting for it in the first place. Wow.

It’s insanity.  I feel like I’m living inside of Franz Kafka’s worst nightmare. This state is falling into a black hole of right-wing reactionary ridiculousness and every single one of my local representatives is contributing to it. And there isn’t a damn thing that can be done about it as long as Democrats, and other sane and civilized people, sit at home in large numbers on election day and let these people ruin our state.

By the way, a supporter of this insanity, Senator Brian Nieves, says “we’ll be back to visit it again”:

This fight ain’t over, it ain’t over, it ain’t over.

Kafkaesque, I tell you.

One vote, people. We’re only one vote away.

The Joplin Globe: A New Low, Indeed

Perhaps because its bread is mostly buttered by conservative readers and advertisers, or perhaps because all of our local legislators are Republicans and it wouldn’t do to make them mad, but there really is no excuse for what the Joplin Globe did—really, what it didn’t do—in today’s otherwise excellent editorial.

The piece rightly criticized the move in the Missouri legislature to force anyone wishing to vote in our state to present,

either a valid Missouri driver’s license or state-issued identification card, a passport, a military ID card or an unexpired state or federal photo ID card.

The Globe pointed out that,

The legislation would end the use of other forms of ID, including student ID cards, utility statements and expired Missouri driver’s licenses. A county-issued voter registration card wouldn’t even be good enough. If the bill is passed, Missouri would rank with Indiana for the strictest voter ID law in the country.

The paper mentioned the cost to the state of issuing the ID cards and also made the incontrovertible point that all of the fuss is over nothing. Missouri’s Secretary of State Jason Kander, according to the Globe, said in a report that,

no cases of voter impersonation fraud have been reported since the state’s current voter identification requirements were put into place in 2002.

That bears repeating: there is no fraud to fight with this new voter ID law. Nothing. Not one single case has come up in more than ten years. That is why the Globe asks,

Why are Missouri legislators so eager to invent problems that aren’t there?

Now, that is a very good question. The problem is that the Joplin Globe is in a position to answer it—and it didn’t. It failed Journalism 101.

First, the paper used the term “Missouri legislators” to describe the perpetrators of this scheme. While technically correct, the term manages to hide the truth: it is only Missouri Republican legislators who are inventing problems that aren’t there. Why didn’t  the Joplin Globe tell its readers that?

Second, the paper knows full well what is behind the scheme: disenfranchising Democratic voters. Couldn’t the paper have found a Democratic legislator to make that obvious claim and report that in its editorial? Sure it could have. I found a Democrat willing to call this for what it is on my first Google attempt:

“Jim Crow is alive in this room today,” said Rep. Chris Kelly, a Democrat from Columbia who served in the Legislature in the 1980s and ’90s before returning in 2009. “This is the single most immoral act that I’ve ever seen happen in my time in the General Assembly.”

Would it have been too much to ask that the editorial—which after all is expressing an opinion—present to readers at least what Democrats believe—and what the editorial writer actually knows—is behind the voter ID bill? But we must remember, again, who butters the Globe’s bread and the ultimate objective of bottom-line journalism: don’t piss off your subscribers or the people they put in political office.globe logo

Third, the paper has a very cozy relationship with area Republican legislators and we are often treated to favorable coverage in the paper of their mostly reactionary legislative exploits. Thus, since the offensive voter ID legislation has already passed the Missouri House, a reader of today’s editorial might wonder: How did our local representatives, like Bill Lant and Bill White and Charlie Davis and Tom Flanigan and Bill Reiboldt, vote? The paper doesn’t mention them.

Further, the bill is now before the Missouri Senate and a reader might want to know what our local senator, Ron Richard—the majority floor leader and recipient of many puffy pieces in the local paper—thinks about it. But the reader is left to wonder.

The Globe offered us nothing in the way of discovering what our local representatives think about this bill, this bill the Globe calls in the headline of its editorial,

A new low

A new low? That’s pretty strong language. Yet the paper doesn’t bother to call out Republicans in general for what they are doing nor does it bother to name names locally.* Again, think about the butter and the bread.

I guess I should be satisfied that at least the Joplin Globe is on the right side of the issue, but it would help much more if the paper used its clout to call out our local legislators for their disgusting attempt to disenfranchise large numbers of Missouri citizens, uh, Missouri Democrats.

__________________________________

*For the record, all of our local House members (except an absent Bill White) voted for the bill the paper called “A new low.”

I also called state Sen. Ron Richard’s office in Jefferson City and asked what his position on the pending legislation was. The nice lady who answered the phone told me that he had supported voter ID bills in the past but she couldn’t say for sure what his position was on this present legislation. She took my number and said she’d get back to me.

Oh, she also told me that lots and lots of voter fraud is going on, including buses full of folks hauled into the polls to vote illegally. I asked her to send me the evidence for this startling claim. I’ll let you know what I get, if anything.

A National Popular Vote?

Chuck Todd did a 10-minute segment this morning on an important issue: The Electoral College and the popular vote.

Todd’s guest was Dr. John Koza, originator of a proposal to move to a national popular vote in presidential elections (nine states with a total of 132 electoral votes have signed on so far).  Koza deftly defended his proposal, as Todd asked him all the relevant questions.

Interestingly (I did not know this) here in Missouri, Joplin’s own Sen. Ron Richard introduced a bill last month that would, if passed, ratify Koza’s proposed legislation, which essentially is a compact among the states to agree to certify electors (thus the Electoral College remains intact) who would vote only for the winner of the national popular vote.

A bipartisan National Popular Vote bill was also introduced in the Missouri House in February, as reported by the St. Louis Beacon:

In a rare bipartisan move, the Missouri House’s top Republican and Democrat have signed on as cosponsors to a bill — part of a national movement — that seeks to commit the state to awarding all of its presidential electors to the candidate who wins the national popular vote.

House Speaker Steve Tilley, (far right) R-Perryville, and Democratic Minority Leader Mike Talboy, (near right) D- Kansas City, are among the co-sponsors of the bill, filed this week. The chief sponsor is Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-Eureka.

Called the “National Popular Vote bill,” national supporters say it “would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the entire United States. The bill ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election.”

During the segment on MSNBC, John Koza pointed out that under our present system, 200 million voters are essentially disenfranchised. Yikes.

In the Missouri House the bill has been referred to the Elections Committee and no hearings have been scheduled. In the Senate, the bill has been has been handed to the Financial and Governmental Organizations and Elections Committee and no hearings appear to be scheduled.

I urge everyone to watch the informative segment below and if so inclined, contact Senator Richard at (573) 751-2173 or email him. If you live outside the Joplin area but still in Missouri you can contact your own state senator (or representative) by going here.

In the House,

Joplin representative Bill White’s phone is (573)-751-3791 or 417-623-0038 and his email address is Bill.White@house.mo.gov or wew@cableone.net

Bill Lant’s phone is 573-751-9801 or 417-623-5286. His email address is Bill.Lant@house.mo.gov or lantsfeed@netins.net

Webb City/Duquesne rep Charlie Davis can be reached at 573-751-7082 or 417-825-1193.  You can email him at Charlie.Davis@house.mo.gov or charliedavis@cableone.net


“Citizens For A Republican Environment”

Citizens for a Decent Environment.”  That sounds like a group of left-wing tree-huggers, no?

Except it’s not.

The identity of the organizer of the group gives it away: John Putnam, Chairman of the Jasper County Republican Party and a local cheerleader for a right-wing nanny state. 

Mr. Putnam is galloping giddy over a ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court upholding a 2010 law restricting sexually oriented businesses. In a Joplin Globe article today on the court ruling, Putnam is quoted as saying:

“We’ve largely stopped adult businesses from coming to Missouri,” he said. “In Jasper County, no more have come in, and one has closed. One that stayed open has closed its video viewing operation.”

Imagine that.  A right-winger’s right-winger, John Putnam, is boasting that his efforts—along with area legislators including a possible candidate for Lt. Gov., Joplin’s Ron Richard—have “stopped” businesses “from coming to Missouri.” 

Reporter Susan Redden, who wrote the front-page story, described how Putnam and his legislator friends pulled off this big-government caper:

Part of the law targets operations that market adult videos shown in viewing booths. Putnam said the key to the measure is not trying to regulate what is being shown, but the manner in which the showing takes place.

Get that?  The key is to “regulate” the businesses out of business.  Now, I happen to know, because I’ve attended all three Joplin Tea Party rallies—organized by John Putnam—that Mr. Putnam is no fan of regulation.  He’s a small-government kind of guy.  Except when he isn’t.

You see, Putnam is all too typical of the kind of Republican in vogue today. These Republicans pledge fealty to the Constitution, pledge to rein in the reach of government, pledge to get government off the backs of the people and businesses. But they don’t mean a word of it, when it comes to their own moralistic goals or their own vision of the Great Society. 

This stuff is nothing but big-government bullying, whatever one thinks of the morality of the sex business.  I want to be clear: I don’t necessarily dislike the use of government to clean up our environment. In fact, I could today join Mr. Putnam’s “Citizens for a Decent Environment,” if it now, after its great victory, focused its efforts on other things that would make for a decent environment.

How about our tax laws?  How about making things more decent for the country, John, by insisting that your Republican friends raise taxes on the wealthy, so we can begin to get a grip on all this debt pollution?  Or, surely you can see that the large disparity between the richest Americans and the rest of us is mucking up our national neighborhood—maybe even more than peeking at nekkid women at a sex shop? Let’s do something about that, okay?

Or, how about demanding that the Republican party clean up the dysfunction fungus it has been culturing in Washington, D.C?  Urge them to join President Obama in his modest quest to create jobs, John. How about it?

But, no, Mr. Putnam doesn’t have much time to worry about silly issues like how income inequality is damaging America. He’s fast embarking on more efforts to run businesses out of the state:

Putnam said he has questions about a men’s spa that operates in conjunction with Vegas Video on County Road 100. [Capt. Derek ] Walrod [with the Jasper County Sheriff's Department] said deputies also raised questions, and have been told that the operation does not come under the law because it is being run as a private club.

“Scott (Bergthold) thinks there is a bill that could address that, and it could be passed on a county level,” Putnam said.

Mr. Bergthold is an attorney Putnam’s group enlisted to draft airtight, nanny-state legislation that courts wouldn’t strike down.  So, stay tuned for more big government from our local Republican leaders, even as they attack the “socialist” Barack Obama.

Joplin Globe Focuses On Right-To-Freeload

The Joplin Globe, undoubtedly because it doesn’t have the resources to assign a reporter full-time to the goings-on in Jefferson City, doesn’t often feature stories on what is happening in state government.  But Sunday’s edition was an exception.

A front-page story by Susan Redden brought readers up to date on the right-to-freeload legislation percolating in the Missouri legislature.

I doubt too many locals knew that Bill White, Joplin representative in the Missouri House, is sponsoring his own right-to-freeload bill. From Redden’s article:

White said current Missouri laws are seen by those involved in economic development as the reason some manufacturers choose neighboring states such as Kansas or Oklahoma.

White’s bill specifies that no worker, to be hired or to keep a job, will be required to join a union or pay union dues. White said his bill “is a freedom-of-association issue.”

“Why should someone have to join a union and pay dues to be able to work? I don’t think that’s what this country’s about,” he said.

“Only 11.9 percent of the work force is union. I don’t think they can make the case that the other 88 percent can’t have a good job, or do a good job.”

I’ve dealt with this nonsense before, but I find it amazing that White, a former attorney who is married to a doctor, fails to bring to his argument any examples of businesses that did not locate in Missouri, or businesses that relocated to other states, because of our state’s anti-freeloading statutes.  Not one example.

Joplin’s representative in the Missouri Senate, business-owner Ron Richard, also favors the right-to-freeload legislation, although he concedes it’s not going to pass.  Here’s his reasoning, such as it is, for supporting efforts to further weaken labor unions in Missouri:

“I’ve always been told (right-to-work) makes the state more attractive, particularly to manufacturers,” he said.

I’ve always been told“? How about a little evidence, Mr. Richard? What can you provide us to support your view? One would think before you simply accept such claims you would ask for some examples of businesses that made decisions based on the right-to-freeload status of the various states and then share those examples with the rest of us, your constituents.

As Michael Kelsay, writing in the Globe‘s Sunday Forum, said,

Employers uniformly report that right-to-work is not an important factor in their location decision. In 2009, Area Development magazine’s annual survey of small manufacturers found that right-to-work was ranked 14th as a factor in location decisions; in 2010, right-to-work had fallen to 20th as a factor in location decisions. Over the past several years, right-to-work has never ranked in the 10 of the most important factors that influence manufacturers’ location decisions. Those factors that are consistently ranked in the top 10 of importance are factors such as highway accessibility, availability of skilled labor, state and local tax incentives, tax exemptions and construction costs.

And Kelsay provided the most succinct description possible of the right-to-freeload bills pending in Missouri:

The legislation will lower wages and benefits and will have no impact on job growth.

______________________

Finally, again in the paper’s Forum section, a frequent commenter on this blog, William Gerald Malan, wrote a nice piece on what our Missouri legislators are proposing in regards to tax policy (eliminating the corporate franchise tax at a cost of $85 million, while simultaneously modifying tax credits in ways that hurt the poor), and whether Missouri will continue to receive extended federal unemployment benefit funds (thousands of Missourians will be eligible for the benefits beginning next month, but three Republicans are delaying passage in the Senate).

Gerry ends his column:

Missourians need help now.

Indeed.

Charles Dickens Call Your Office

Most of the civilized world has evolved to the point where it is no longer debatable whether children ought to be sent off to work each day.

But not in neo-Victorian Missouri, if State Senator Jane Cunningham has her way.

Via FiredUp!Missouri, I learned that Mike Hall, at AFL-CIO Now, had written a post detailing what Sen. Cunningham has in mind for Missouri’s youth.  Mr. Hall commented on her proposal by calling it “insane.”  No, no, no.  It’s not insane in the context of Republican politics these days.  It fits perfectly.  Sure, it’s insane in the context of normal, civilized thinking.  But conservatism has devolved into a senseless, insensate, tasteless collection of absurdities.

And adding one more senseless, insensate, tasteless absurdity is perfectly compatible with a disordered political philosophy.

Here is SB 222 in all its glory, copied exactly from an official summary of the bill:

This act modifies the child labor laws.

It eliminates the prohibition on employment of children under age fourteen.

Restrictions on the number of hours and restrictions on when a child may work during the day are also removed.

It also repeals the requirement that a child ages fourteen or fifteen obtain a work certificate or work permit in order to be employed.

Children under sixteen will also be allowed to work in any capacity in a motel, resort or hotel where sleeping accommodations are furnished.

It also removes the authority of the director of the Division of Labor Standards to inspect employers who employ children and to require them to keep certain records for children they employ.

It also repeals the presumption that the presence of a child in a workplace is evidence of employment.

Hoping that Joplin’s own Ron Richard, newly elected to the state senate, was not a part of this manifestly Dickensian nightmare, I  phoned his local office and talked with a very nice woman named Gwynn.  I identified myself as a Democrat and she very quickly assured me that my politics didn’t matter; she would try to help me.

I mentioned SB 222 and she said she had heard something about it.  She asked me what I thought of the bill and I told her.  At one point I ask her if she had ever read any Dickens.  Yes, she said, and she remarked that she thought about that when I was reading the official summary to her.  Good.  Then she said she would call the Jefferson City office and have someone get back with me.  She was true to her word.  She phoned me about 15 minutes later and said someone from Jeff City would be calling within about 45 minutes.

Sure enough, Kenny Ross, chief of Richard’s two-person staff, called me and assured me Mr. Richard “Doesn’t like” the bill and “doesn’t agree” with it.  “Ron’s all in favor of job creation,” Ross explained, but not in the way SB 222 does it.

Thank God and Charles Dickens for that.

___________________________

Political Fix relates the inevitable Jay Leno joke last night:

Missouri Statehouse received a nod Tuesday night from comedian Jay Leno, who mocked a Senate bill that would significantly weaken child labor laws.

And in Missouri, Republican state Sen. Jane Cunningham has introduced a bill that would eliminate her state’s child labor laws,” Leno said at the conclusion of his monologue on “The Tonight Show.”

Well, yeah, I mean, why should the 10-year-olds in China be getting all the good factory jobs?

Slimy Republican Politics In The Name Of Jesus

Yesterday’s Joplin Globe carried a story on the issue of fake caller IDs used during this year’s election by the Missouri House Republican Campaign Committee.

Known as “spoofing,” the idea is to use reputable caller IDs—say, from hospitals—as a disguise to get people to answer the phone.  People then find they are listening to a recording saying nasty things about Democrats. Most folks obviously are more likely to answer a call when the ID reads “St. Luke’s,” as opposed to reading, “slimy Republican political operative.”

One such slimy political operative, Tom Smith, works for the state of Missouri as the legislative director for Joplin’s own, Ron Richard.  Mr. Smith owns Survey Saint Louis and Survey Missouri.  A victim of stolen identity, St. Luke’s Health System, alleged that one of Mr. Smith’s companies was the source of the automated calls and sued to have the practiced stopped, four days before the election.

Although Mr. Smith eventually settled the lawsuit by paying St. Luke’s attorney’s fees, he claims he didn’t know anything about the bait-and-switch practice until he read about it in the media.

Yep, that’s what he said.  But, if so, why settle the suit?

One thing Mr. Smith can’t deny, though, is the content of the robo calls.  His company produced the following attack on Democrat Courtney Cole (which I posted last month):

Female voice: This is an urgent alert for all Christian families. Before you vote you should know that state representative candidate Courtney Cole has taken hundreds in campaign donations from a representative of the hard-core pornography industry, including gay pornography.

“By allowing her Democratic campaign to be funded by those who are involved with and support hard-core pornography Courtney Cole clearly does not share our Christian family values.

“On election day stand up for what’s right and decent by voting no on Courtney Cole. Paid for by House Republican Campaign Committee, Inc.”

Similar disgusting calls were made to folks in other districts, including the 21st, where Democrat Kelly Schultz was a victim.  Republicans in Jefferson City knew Schultz very well, since she worked in the state capitol for eleven years, most recently as a legislative assistant to Rep. Sara Lampe, of Springfield.  But that didn’t stop some Republicans, including an aid to Ron Richard*, from attacking her, in the name of Jesus and family values.

And before I hear from someone who says, “Democrats do this stuff, too,” please be prepared to show me where in Missouri that Democrats used religious robocalls to smear Republicans?

That’s what I thought.

__________________________

*Perhaps someday, before hell freezes over, some local reporter will ask Ron Richard what he thinks about such things and what he thinks about his aid, Tom Smith, and his tactics.  Or what he thinks about his close colleague, Steve Tilley, who leads the House Republican Campaign Committee that paid for the robo calls. 

My money is on hell freezing over.

But we do know that the Kansas City Star reported last year that Tom Smith made “almost $500,000” via his political consulting business, which this year produced the robo calls above.  As an AP story put it,

Richard said he doesn’t have a problem with Smith’s side job as long as he doesn’t work on campaigns during the legislative session. 

More From The Christian Taliban

Yesterday it was a Christian school board member in Arkansas expressing his godly displeasure with homosexuality. Today, courtesy of Show Me Progress, we have this robocall from the Missouri House Republican Campaign Committee*:

Needless to say Courtney Cole’s ties to the pornography industry, gay or straight, likely goes something like this: Someone donated to her campaign who once did business with the son of a cousin of the uncle of the brother of a lawyer who once worked for a law firm that represented Bound & Gagged magazine in a dispute with a disgruntled employee.  Or something just as ridiculous.

And that, of course, makes her guilty of promoting pornography and therefore an enemy of our Christian State.

Uh-oh.  I just linked to a Wikipedia entry about a gay magazine. Oh, my God!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention the contribution from Christian soldier Rita Crowell, whose inspiring letters appear regularly in the Joplin Globe‘s Voices section.  Here is yesterday’s Talibanic assault on Democrats:

To vote for a Democratic Party candidate is to vote for the anti-God, anti-life and anti-family intrinsically evil Democratic Party’s platform.

_______________________________

*If you follow the link to the HRCC, you can watch Joplin’s Ron Richard tell us how proud he is of the HRCC. Presumably that includes the robocall.

Will The Real Shelly Dreyer Please Stand Up!

Anyone who has read the comments on my post titled, The One And Probably Only Shelly Dreyer-Inspired Conservative Challenge, no doubt has questions about the candidacy of Shelly Dreyer, who is attempting to replace Ron Richard as representative from Missouri’s 129th House District.

A woman named Lynne James, whose husband’s law practice, the James Law Group, was associated with Shelly Dreyer for about a decade, wrote in to criticize Ms. Dreyer on a number of fronts. 

She said she worked with Ms. Dreyer for about 10 years and stated:

I really don’t think anyone in Joplin really knows the real Shelly Dreyer.

Well, let’s begin the process of getting to know her all over again:

First, a question arises as to whether Dreyer was a partner in the James Law Group,  just worked there, or had her own law firm independent of the St. Charles County firm.

From Dreyer’s Bio page on her website, we get this:

Shelly graduated from Missouri State University and earned her law degree from the University of Missouri. Shelly initially practiced law in the St. Charles area, and became a small business owner at the age of 30 as a partner in her own law firm.

The Issues page on her site also says this:

Shelly was a small business owner as a partner in her own firm and understands the burdens that come with the freedom of being your own boss.

Assuming Ms. Dryer was around 27 years old when she graduated from Mizzou in 1997, if her first job was with the James Law Group and she spent about 10 years there, it would suggest that her “small business owner” experience was with the James Law Group, since she claimed she became “a small business owner at the age of 30 as a partner in her own law firm.”

Lynne James, however, wrote this:

I was also shocked when I read that she purported to be a small business owner when discussing my husband’s law practice.

Now, if Ms. Dreyer was a partner in the James Law Group firm, it is hard to characterize that as being “a partner in my own law firm,” since that firm was established by Charlie James in 1977.

It’s also hard to see that such a partnership qualifies as a “small business owner” or “being your own boss” in the sense that most of us understand what that means.

During an interview with David Horton in April, Dreyer said this:

I have owned my own small business, and my husband owns his own small business.  So we know what the issues are facing small businesses.  

I’ll leave it to the reader to decide, but this is either downright dishonest or a case of  résumé enhancement.

Second, Ms. James, who serves as the office administrator for the James Law Group, also wrote this about Shelly Dreyer’s political views:

I worked with Shelly Dreyer for ten years in St. Charles County. The entire ten years she was a liberal Democrat. Also, I never knew her to belong to any church while she lived in St. Charles County. In the last year she worked in our office, she mentioned possibly joining a church so it would look good on her adoption applications. Anyone who knew Shelly in St. Charles County does not recognize the person she purports to be on her campaign website.

This characterization certainly conflicts with Dreyer’s website:

Faith is the cornerstone of Shelly’s life… Shelly is committed to not letting her duties to the state fracture her relationship with God and will work to defend faiths important place in our lives and government.

Now, it’s entirely possible that since the time Ms. James worked with Shelly Dreyer that our candidate experienced a dramatic religious conversion and, thus, an equally dramatic political transformation. But I can’t find anything in Dreyer’s bio that suggests such a dramatic conversion, nor anything that would explain such an allegedly comprehensive shift in her political views.

Ms. James also wrote this:

I became concerned about Shelly running for office last September when she e-mailed me to look at her campaign website and asked for a contribution to her campaign. I was shocked when I read her views on the issues which were outlined on the website. Her outlook on religion and government as stated on the website are so different from the Shelly Dreyer I knew for ten years that it would take a long time to list all the discrepancies.

My point here would be this: If Shelly Dreyer’s religious and political views underwent substantial changes—going from an alleged liberal Democrat to a bone-hard conservative—it would have served her well to come clean about that and make her appeal on that basis. It would have been a much more powerful campaign strategy in my view.

And while I initially found it odd that Ms. Dreyer would e-mail someone she worked with for 10 years asking for money—if she knew that person would be hostile to her campaign—the more I thought about it, the more I think I understand. 

Shelly Dreyer announced her candidacy for the 129th House seat in August of 2009.  In September she allegedly e-mailed Lynne James about her candidacy. In December of 2009, the James Law Group filed suit against Shelly Dreyer, according to Ms. James, “for taking $35,555.55 in fees.”

Perhaps in September of 2009, Dreyer assumed she and Lynne James were still on friendly terms and she was reaching out to someone who could help her campaign financially.

Boy, was that a mistake. Lynne James, who said she is “not involved whatsoever in politics in Joplin or in St. Charles County,” ended her last comment with this:

Although I felt last year that she should not be elected to any office after reading her website for the first time, I now feel even more strongly that she should not hold office and have decided to speak out. Hopefully, the citizens of the 129th district will come to realize the type of person that is running for the State Legislature and will decide that this is someone they do not want to represent their interests.

Certainly, Shelly Dreyer has some ‘splainin’ to do.

 ____________________________________

[photo credit: David Horton]

Our Kind Of Republicans

Our two Republican candidates for Missouri’s 129th District House seat spent a couple of hours with conservative Globeblogger Anson Burlingame, who wrote about it here.

While it is fairly clear that Anson has chosen Bill White over Shelly Dreyer, what is not so clear is why he would choose either one, given what he wrote about them:

…when pressed for specifics they both are somewhat vague or even shallow in solutions.  Neither had any thoughts of substance about how to reduce the cost of medical care as delivered and billed for example, which the CBO claims is the principle driver in both state and federal spending concerns.  Both want to “create jobs” but were short on the “hows”.  When asked what “the greatest failure was for the just past House session” neither came up with any real criticism.  Neither had a specific bill in mind to submit if elected to remedy any particular concern.

They were both simply politicians running for office with broad concerns and ideas but little to back them up with real solutions, at least in our one-on-one discussions.

The bottom line is these “vague and shallow” candidates have the one necessary credential to succeed in the Republican-addicted 129th District, but I’ll let Anson tell you what it is:

On any given issue(s) it is hard to drive a wedge between either candidate.  They have taken essentially identical positions that are demanded by the Republican majority in this area.  No tax increases, create jobs, get the economy going again, pro-life, anti-gun control or you name it.  They are both firmly Republican.

Vague. Shallow. And firmly Republican.

Yep. One of them will surely win in November.

Shelly Dreyer Missed Me

Shelly Dreyer, who is a candidate for the 129th District Missouri House seat, left me a nice autographed note today:

     Sorry I missed you.

              Shelly Dreyer

Apparently, while I was away from my palatial estate, she came by seeking my vote.  She kindly left me some literature, which I found interesting:

I WILL PUT OUR FAMILIES FIRST BY:

  • Working to keep jobs and bring more employers to Southwest Missouri
  • Cutting through red tape for small business owners and citizens
  • Making healthcare more available and affordable for all Missourians
  • Supporting local control and family involvement in our children’s educations
  • Protecting the unborn
  • Defending our 2nd Amendment Rights

Now, as laudable as those conservative goals might be for local conservatives, some of the more inquisitive conservatives in the 129th—both of them—might ask themselves a few simple questions:

Since Republicans have controlled the Missouri House for a number of years, why aren’t there more jobs and employers in Southwest Missouri right now?

Since Republicans have controlled the Missouri House for a number of years, why is there still red tape that needs cutting?

Since Republicans have controlled the Missouri House for a number of years, why isn’t health care more available and affordable already?

Since Republicans have controlled the Missouri House for a number of years, why do the unborn still need protecting?

Since Republicans have controlled the Missouri House for a number of years, why do our 2nd Amendment Rights still need defending?

And the grand finale:

If all this stuff still needs attention, what the hell was the last guy doing who held the job of representative for the 129th District?

Well, the last guy holding the job was none other than Ron Richard, who kept himself pretty busy, I’m told (by Ron Richard, of course), being Speaker of the Missouri House.  I guess he was so busy doing that he didn’t have time to,

bring more employers to Southwest Missouri,” or

to cut “through red tape for small business owner and citizens,” or

to make “health care more available and affordable for all Missourians,” or

to protect “the unborn,” or

to defend “our 2nd Amendment Rights.”

Thank our Republican God that Shelly Dreyer has stepped up to take up the slack left by Ron Richard and his Republican predecessors, and I will rest easy knowing that something will finally get done, after all these years of sending Republican after Republican to Jefferson City to represent the 129th District.

[Dreyer photos from her website]

Local Legislators Lack Leadership

No matter what position one takes on Governor Nixon’s efforts to give tax incentives to Ford Motor Company, as a way of enticing the company to update and expand its Claycomo assemby plant, the lack of local Republican leadership on the issue is noteworthy.

From Susan Redden’s story today in the Joplin Globe, which concerned Nixon’s possible call for a special session of the legislature to take up the issue, we have passive responses from three local legislators, Ron Richard and Gary Nodler of Joplin, and Jack Goodman of Mount Vernon.  All three Republicans are running for higher office, keep in mind:

Richard on Tuesday said he favors “trying to figure out if there is a consensus for a special session.”

He said he had instructed the leaders of House committees that would be involved in the legislation to talk with their counterparts in the Senate “to see if there is common ground.”

Now, that’s leadership, Ron.

Nodler reportedly said,

…residents of Southwest Missouri strongly opposed the federal auto bailout, and I’m not sure I see any indication they would be more enthusiastic about a state bailout.

That’s the way to lead on the issue, Gary.

And finally:

Goodman said he opposed the incentive package when it was before the Senate in regular session “because people see it as a taxpayer bailout.”

What about you, Jack?  How do you see it? 

These, my friends, are definitely the kind of leaders Southwest Missouri–an overwhelmingly Republican redoubt–deserves.

Ron Richard’s Ego And Other “Highlights” Of The 2010 General Assembly

There are plenty of places one can go to develop an opinion on the performance of Missouri’s state legislators this last session, which ended on Friday.  Sean Nicholson at FiredUp! Missouri has put together a lengthy list of web sources one can use to determine whether the session was a success, partial success, partial failure, or utter failure.

No matter what one thinks about the session, it’s hard to argue with the Kansas City Star:

The legislature’s purest accomplishment was the bipartisan effort to help families affected by autism.

Well, it’s actually not that hard to argue with it. It wasn’t exactly a “pure” accomplishment, since “families” doesn’t include those on Medicaid and the cost for requiring insurers to “pay for essential therapy” will not come from taxes but from premium increases. 

So, while the new law may “leave Missouri healthier and more productive,” it’s not exactly socialized medicine.

In any case, our own Joplin Globe was cited as a source for post-session news: Term limits change political landscape for Southwest Missouri.

The article highlighted our various local legislators and the “power” they held, now all gone because restraints on democracy—term limits—have deemed them all unworthy to seek the same office again.

But don’t worry about these folks, as apparently politics is in their blood and nothing, not even term limits, will keep them from serving Missourians:

Rep. Ron Richard, Joplin, is running for the 32nd District Senate seat held by Gary Nodler, Joplin.

Sens. Nodler and Jack Goodman, Mount Vernon, are each seeking the GOP nomination for the 7th District House seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt.

Rep. Bryan Stevenson, Webb City, hasn’t filed for a new political race, but said Friday he is “not closing any doors.”

Rep. Kevin Wilson, Neosho, has not filed for any political seat either, but said he plans to stay in politics, though he didn’t hint at what that might mean.

Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, is running for the Missouri Senate, but in his case in the 28th District.

Rep. Marilyn Ruestman has filed for presiding commissioner of Newton County

So, we are destined to cross paths with these public servants again and again and again.*  So much for term limits.

The most interesting part of Alexandra Nicholas’ story, though, was a little glimpse into the cavernous ego of our own Ron Richard, Speaker of the House, who at times this year lost control of his herd of cats, but nevertheless had a fond memory of the legislative session.  From the article:

Richard, who helped draft legislation in recent years to spur job growth, said he wishes he could have done more this term to create jobs, but the reality was that the state faces one of the “worst budget shortfalls in Missouri history.”

Asked for his highlight, he cited being unanimously elected speaker of the House — and surviving the job — something that hasn’t always happened with his predecessors.

“This is something I never dreamed would happen to me,” Richard said.

Yes, Ron, we’re glad you had such a great time and we’re glad that your “highlight” wasn’t one of the wonderful laws you helped pass for us Missourians, but a dream come true for you.

But given what happened this session—no balanced budget despite onerous cuts to programs that help children, the disabled, and the elderly; a paltry “ethics reform” bill that failed to restore limits on campaign contributions; and even more abortion restrictions on Missouri women—I would want to focus on something else, too.

________________________________________________________

*Richard doesn’t have any opposition for the 32nd District Senate seat.

Speaker Richard Accused of “Blocking Autism Bill AGAIN”

I suppose I’m going to have to live with the idea that if I want to satisfy my need to know what Missouri’s Speaker of the House is doing, I’m going to have to look in places other than the Joplin Globe, the Speaker’s home town paper.

I found this today on FiredUp! Missouri:

Sources on both sides of the aisle report this morning that Speaker Ron Richard may not appoint conferees to finish this year’s autism insurance bill (HB1311) in a timely manner — or at all. 

Sen. Scott Rupp (R-Wentzville) tweets that “Hse speaker Richards [sic] is blocking autism bill AGAIN!” and the Autism Votes campaign warns that Richard is “blocking your autism insurance reform bill to death.”

Richard personally killed last year’s autism insurance legislation despite broad bipartisan support in both chambers.  

Now, to be fair, a spokesman for Richard disputes Rupp’s allegation about killing the bill this year, and no doubt Richard would dispute the idea that he “killed” the autism legislation last year, since he told the Globe and other outlets that the legislation died because of a lack of consensus.

But one wonders why a fellow Republican would go so far as accusing Speaker Richard of blocking the autism bill “AGAIN!

Perhaps he knows something the rest of us don’t know, or perhaps he’s just tweaking the Speaker with Twitter tweets.

But Rupp’s allegation is surprising, given what the Speaker has been saying to the press about his personal enthusiasm for an autism bill. He said on a media conference call last December:

We want to help these kids and families, and we’ve committed to do that.

Richard also said the help wouldn’t be long in coming:

Richard…pledged swift House action on a bill that would require insurance companies to cover costs for diagnosing and treating autism spectrum disorders.

I suppose it depends on what the Speaker means by “help” and what he means by “swift.”

King Richard: “I Like That I Have The Final Word On Everything”

I don’t know what is more off-putting in the following “news” segments, first broadcast on KODE-TV about a year ago, and recently revived on FiredUp!Missouri, which is where I first saw them.  Is it:

a) Ron Richard claiming his job is the most powerful in the state of Missouri

b)Dustin Lattimer’s puffy and chummy reporting, frequently calling the Speaker, “Ron”

c) Marilyn Ruestman’s sycophancy

d) Bryan Stephenson (R-Webb City) saying that Ron Richard’s job is “one of the most difficult in the world.” [Really? In all the world? More difficult than, say, being Glenn Beck's tear starter?]

e) Ron Richard having this exchange with Dustin Lattimer:

Richard: I like that I have the final word on everything.

Lattimer: That’s a lot of power there.

Richard: That’s why I’m here. It’s time that someone with common sense around this place has a little bit of power and can stop and start things.

It’s in two nauseating parts, so watch both segments before making up your mind:

“Ron Richard Is A Nazi” And Other Things Not Fit To Print

Are there no limits to what the Joplin Globe will print, when it comes to columns or letters written by unhinged haters of Barack Obama?

Today’s edition featured a column by someone named Mark D. Edmonson, from Neosho.  Titled, “Obama a danger to our country,” the column, replete with idiotic passages, culminated in this bit of squishy stupidity, which demonstrates just how much influence Glenn Beck has on people with double-digit IQs:

Someone has said that if the terrorists who hate America want to destroy her, then they had better hurry, because Obama’s going to beat them to it. It is one thing for the president to be honestly mistaken about an issue, such as health care. After all, we are only humans. But it’s another thing entirely for a person to have designs on his country. And anyone who has designs on his country is not so much our president as he is our enemy. No one poses a greater threat to America and to our way of life than the man who currently occupies the Oval Office.

Here are a few more gems:

The Obama administration would love for us to work all day just to pay our taxes…

An adherent of liberation theology, which is Marxist, Obama is an ideologue who seeks to transform America into something our forefathers never intended…

All one needs to do is look at the people with whom Obama has surrounded himself. They are among the most radical people on Earth who have no great love for this country.

Since Obama won in November of 2008, our local newspaper has printed on its editorial page a lot of nonsense, a lot of falsehoods, and a lot of hate-speech about the president. 

Naturally, a newspaper is obligated to print opposing points of view, whether about local issues or about the leader of our country.  But is it obligated to print certifiable dook, like that written by Mr. Edmondson?

No, it’s not.

I wonder what would happen if I submitted a column to the Joplin Globe that contained this passage:

Ron Richard is an adherent of Nazism who wants the state of Missouri to partner with corporations in order to enslave Missouri workers.  Richard and his cronies would love for Missourians to work all day just to make corporations a lot of money, while those Missourians would get paid far less and receive far less benefits than workers in other states…

And this:

Ron Richard is in favor of forcing Missourians to buy auto insurance, which confirms his love for Nazi ideology…

All one needs to do is look at the people with whom Richard has surrounded himself.  They are among the most radical people on Earth, who have no great love for this state.

Would the Globe print such a column, and title it, “Ron Richard a danger to our state“?

You know better than that.

Ron Richard Again Escapes Local Scrutiny

I finally had time to listen to the audio of the Joplin Globe‘s 25-minute interview of Missouri House Speaker Ron Richard. I tread carefully here, since this blog is affiliated with the newspaper, but I don’t know how you can talk to the Speaker about ethics reform and campaign finance reform in Missouri without asking him about the fact that his party gave us—less than two years ago and against the will of Missourians—the system that Richard now believes needs reformation. 

That system, which allows an unlimited amount of money to flow to our state’s politicians in state races, has been the subject of a months-long investigation by the Kansas City Star that involved the ethically-challenged Rod Jetton and Ron Richard. —>  

How do you not ask him about that, especially since nothing about it has appeared in our paper?

And during the discussion the Globe had with Richard on the autism legislation that recently passed the Missouri House, how do you not, as suggested by FiredUp! Missouri, ask Richard about the controversy surrounding his “killing” the autism bill last year, which would have forced insurance companies doing business in Missouri to cover autism spectrum disorders sooner?

And how do you not challenge his assertion during the interview that he was “right” for killing the bill, especially when his rationale for doing so—that there wasn’t a “consensus” in the House—was challenged by some his Republican colleagues in the Senate?

As reported by Suburban Journals, Republican Sen. Scott Rupp (2nd District) claimed the bill had 110 votes in the House, “more than enough for passage.”

“We had overwhelming support from rank-and-file members, but key House leadership did not want it to come to fruition,” Rupp said.

And the South County Times reported last year that Missouri Republican Sen. Eric Schmitt (Glendale) had something to say about the failure of the autism bill to pass the House last year:

He explained that in 2009, the autism bill was voted out of the Senate by a 29-2 vote. However, it was bottled up in a House committee and never made it onto the floor for a vote.

According to Schmitt, insurance lobbyists can take credit for stopping progress on the bill in 2009.

The Suburban Journals article essentially confirmed that claim by quoting—who else?—Ron Richard, after his decision to kill the bill last year:

“…I can’t get any compromise between autism groups and insurance groups,” Richards said. “Each one has their own supporters in the House…

I told the insurance companies that they are going to come to the table and compromise,” Richards said. “They assured me they would. I said, ‘If you don’t, I will do it for you.’”

Ostensibly tough talk that, but it is an admission that insurance companies—which give money to Richard—caused the death of the bill last year, at the hands of our local representative.

And I just think our newspaper should have, among other things, questioned him about that.

Ron Richard For Governor–Whoops!

**UPDATED BELOW**

Although I haven’t seen one word on this story in our own Joplin Globe—hometown paper of Ron Richard—some locals might be interested in something that happened over last weekend.

According to the Political Fix, Tony Messenger’s blog for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Ron Richard has higher ambitions beyond the Missouri Senate:

Speaking to the Political Fix at Lincoln Days, Richard said that he has pondered a possible run for governor in 2016. That would be midway through a possible second term in the state Senate, and the scenario assumes that current Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, wins a second term in 2012, where he is likely to face Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican.

“I’d like to be on the short list and see what happens,” Richard said.

Read about that in our local paper?

How about Richard’s later retraction reported by the St. Louis Beacon:

Missouri House Speaker Ron Richard on Saturday stepped away from comments he’d made earlier  about possible interest in running for governor in 2016.

Is he looking at a gubernatorial bid? “No,” Richard said firmly, when queried as he participated in Saturday’s Lincoln Days offerings.

“My goal is to help Peter Kinder,” he added. Kinder, now the state’s lieutenant governor, is widely expected to make a bid for governor in 2012 against the Democratic incumbent, Jay Nixon.

My thanks goes out to Fired Up! Missouri and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the St. Louis Beacon for keeping track of Joplin politicians.

UPDATE: Tony Messenger has written a piece today over the whole Richard for Governor, Richard Not For Governor, thing.  Saying that Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, “was a little miffed when he read of Richard’s political plans,” Messenger sticks by his original reporting and speculates that, “it got a little hot around the collar in the back rooms at the St. Charles Convention Center,” where the Republican Lincoln Days “celebration” was held last weekend.

He also mentions that Richard likes being in Jefferson City:

The affable country politician from Southwest Missouri has found a niche in the Capitol, a place he holds in tremendous esteem. And he’d like to stay around a little while longer.

Since it appears that Richard will not have much reason to spend a lot of the $400,000 in campaign cash he has stashed away–Messenger says that Richard, “expects to ease into the Senate seat currently occupied by Sen. Gary Nodler“–and since Richard will have plenty of time to raise even more money, don’t count Richard out for the 2016 governor’s race, even if it means stepping on Peter Kinder’s sensitive toes.

[photo credit: AP, top; St. Louis Beacon/Jo Mannies, bottom]

Unlimited Money, Unlimited Cynicism

NOTE:

I was asked by management at the Joplin Globe to take down this entry, and since the paper pays my meager wages, I will comply. But in lieu of actually taking it down, I opted for editing out the parts that I suspect management objected to.  In place of the original text, I have inserted ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥’s.  Someday, I may write about this episode, which in my opinion confirms the original point of the piece, but for now, here is the redacted post:

The Joplin Globe clearly expressed its official editorial position on the mixing of money and politics today:

We continue to support unlimited individual contributions to political parties and candidates.

Unlimited?  Huh?  

That must mean the paper is prepared to hold accountable those politicians who accept large amounts of money from donors.  Well, it said today it was:

No doubt the public and we, the media, should carefully monitor any politician’s position and watch for changes in such positions based on financial incentives. If there is reasonable evidence to suggest vote “buying” in any form, it should be made public.

That must also mean the paper is prepared to scrutinize the motives of those who would give large amounts of money to those politicians.  Well, it said today it was:

If an individual chooses to spend a lot of his or her money in support of politicians, they should be able to defend such contributions. The bigger the sums, the greater the public scrutiny and demand for accountability.

So, the Joplin Globe has taken the position that it is okay for individuals to give any amount of money to politicians, so long as the donors are subject to questioning and politicians are closely watched to make sure they’re not selling their votes.

But how on earth can the Globe do that?  In other words, how can the paper know for sure just what the motives are of huge donors?  And how can it know whether a politician’s vote has been purchased or even just influenced by large amounts of cash?

It can’t.  That’s why allowing unlimited contributions is a serious mistake and will inevitably lead to public cynicism and a complete lack of confidence in our state’s political system.

Unless a politician is willing to admit that, yes, I voted against health reform because I received $1 million from the insurance companies, all we can do is speculate as to his motivation.

Unless a donor ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

.♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

And ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

As an example, Sunday’s Globe featured an article by Susan Redden regarding the current debate in the Missouri House over ethics reform, specifically the connection between campaign contributions and potential legislation. 

The article included the various ways proposed to reform the system. One way suggested (contrary to the Globe‘s editorial position) was, “reinstating campaign contribution limits that were removed in Missouri in 2008.” 

In the article, Redden wrote:

Reinstating contribution limits would affect some local donors, including ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥, which gave more than $1.7 million to state Republican candidates, groups and committees in 2008, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

That was just in 2008.  Last year, the Kansas City Star reported that,

Within days of a controversial vote last April in the Missouri House, rumors flew that a reward was coming for the Republican leaders who pushed it through.

And those rumors proved true. $25,000 poured in a week after the vote. Then $5,000. Then $50,000. Then $100,000, followed days later by another $25,000. And another $50,000.

The campaign contributions — more than $250,000 in all — came from ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

Hmmm. So here we have ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.  Beats me. 

The Globe attempted to contact ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥, but [as Redden wrote]:

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ did not respond to questions about the purpose of his contributions, or about whether there is a link between contributions and favorable legislation.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥?

But it is fair to ask ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.  The vote in April of 2009 that the Star referenced involved the way Missouri chooses its judges who sit on the state’s highest courts.

Our appellate court judges, including supreme court judges, are not initially elected in Missouri. A lawyer-heavy commission recommends three judges to the governor, who then appoints one of the three.  Subsequently, the appointed judge must stand for a “retention election,” and upon approval serves a 12-year term.

As the Star put it, “conservatives have assailed the process, arguing that it gives too much influence to trial attorneys.”  And we all know what Republicans think of trial attorneys.

Anyway, the Star continued:

Some companies believe that, through the political process, they can put judges on the bench who are more conservative and sympathetic to corporations.

Okay. What does that ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥?  Read on:

At the forefront of the fight has been ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

Now,♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

According to Follow The Money, in 2008, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥$20,000 to a candidate for the Supreme Court in Louisiana.  Yes. Louisiana. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥? 

Well, the candidate, Republican Greg Guidry, was widely perceived to be a friend of business interests.  And Guidry himself criticized his Republican opponent for tainting himself by acting as a “personal injury lawyer.” And we all know those personal injury lawyers are ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥?  Taken together, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥to the Louisiana candidate for the Supreme Court ranked ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ as one of his top three donors.

Also in 2008, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥$6800 to a candidate for the Supreme Court in Michigan.  Yes. Michigan. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥?

Well, the incumbent candidate, Clifford Taylor, was part of a block of four conservatives on the court who consistently voted as one.  And guess what?  According to one source,

Taylor’s tenure was marked by complaints about conflicts of interest due to the campaign finance system.

Sound familiar?

Again in 2008, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥$5,000 to a candidate for the Supreme Court in Mississippi. Yes. Mississippi. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥? 

Well, the candidate, another incumbent, was James Smith.  This stalwart conservative was the Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court and was part of a controversial decision involving the insurance giant, Prudential. 

By a 7-2 decision the court overturned a jury award of $36.4 million against Prudential, and Justice Smith was among other judges in the majority who were criticized for previously taking money from Prudential and later reversing the jury award in favor of the insurance company.  According to one source, he had taken in a mere $316,077 from a collection of “lawyers, physicians, and insurance companies” in 2004.

Once more in 2008, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥$5,000 to a candidate for the Supreme Court in Wisconsin. Yes. Wisconsin. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥?

Well, the “non-partisan” candidate, Mike Gableman, was challenging Louis Butler, the incumbent.  Gableman was supported by the business community, which did not like Butler’s opinions in cases involving medical malpractice and product liability cases. 

Hmmm.  That’s a total of $36,800 ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ to candidates for the supreme court in other states.

What did the Kansas City Star say again about the fight to change the way Missouri appoints its judges?

Some ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

And,

At the 

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

Okay.  So ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

But shouldn’t there be limits on those contributions?  Here at home, won’t unlimited amounts of cash injected into our political system taint it in the eyes of the public?

Aren’t Missourians justified in wondering about the independence of, say, our own local legislator, Ron Richard, when he reportedly received $55,000 in cash* from ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥? 

In its account of the atmosphere surrounding the process, The Star‘s story discussed Richard’s role in the House’s passage of the judicial “reform” bill in 2009:

Suspicions arose almost immediately on both sides of the aisle. Several Republican lawmakers told The Star that their leadership held a series of closed-door meetings with freshman lawmakers and veterans who had voted against a similar bill in 2008.

“We got our asses chewed,” said one lawmaker who was called before the speaker. The lawmaker asked not to be identified.

Tilley, who as floor leader directs legislation in the House, told lawmakers the bill’s failure would be “unacceptable” and House Speaker Ron Richard bullied subordinates into supporting it, according to legislators’ accounts and contemporaneous memos.

Aren’t we entitled to a little cynicism here?  If Ron Richard chewed ass and “bullied subordinates into supporting” a bill ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥?

That’s the problem. Because the money flows freely and without limits in Missouri, there is nothing ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥.

And that is why the Globe is so wrong about endorsing “unlimited individual contributions to political parties and candidates.” At the very least, the paper should be prepared to ask some tough questions of the givers and receivers, even if they don’t want such scrutiny.  Continue calling them, visiting their offices, sending them letters—whatever it takes—to get some answers.

And I’ll be here watching to see if it does.

 

*Actually, the amount turns out to be $60,000.

The Jettison Jetton Watch

According to The KY3 Political Notebook:

Hours after former House Speaker Rod Jetton announced through an attorney that he was shutting down his political consulting firm Tuesday, Willard Rep. Shane Schoeller said he was severing ties with Jetton for good.

The Kansas City Star:

Missouri House Speaker Ron Richard released this statement regarding Rod Jetton, the political consultant charged yesterday with felony assault:

“The allegations against former Speaker Jetton are extremely serious. I feel very sad for each of the families that have been affected. Right now, it is important to let the prosecutors, judge and jury begin their work to determine whether the charges are accurate. If the allegations prove to be true, Jetton should be prepared to accept the full legal and other consequences of his actions.”

From stltoday:

Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, told reporters he was “shocked and disappointed” when he heard about the charge. Mayer was one of three Missouri senators to have paid Jetton to be a consultant even while he was speaker of the House, an arrangement that has been criticized by some Democrats and Republicans as rife with possible ethical conflict.

Mayer said he hadn’t used Jetton as a consultant since in late 2008 and early 2009. He said he had faith the judicial system will work.

Ron Richard Is Back, And So Is The Joplin Globe

Ron Richard has made the news again.  And this time it is even in the Joplin Globe–on the front page!

According to an AP story, State Rep. Tim Jones, a Republican and the Orly Taitz of the Missouri House, confirmed that he was contacted by the FBI regarding sales tax legislation he sponsored earlier this year. The Globe version of the story adds:

The legislation at issue would have allowed Joplin and other cities to continue imposing multiple sales taxes for general purposes or capital projects—effectively negating lawsuits that contended the practice, known as tax stacking, violated state law.

Jones said the FBI was “interested in why the bill did not proceed further.”  His response:

“I told them, ‘You probably need to talk to the (House) speaker or the floor leader or both of them and find out what their official positions were on the bill.”

So, Jones thinks that Richard, the House speaker, and Steven Tilley, the House majority leader, could help the FBI figure out what happened to his bill?  Hmmm.

According to St. Louis Public Radio, Speaker Richard doesn’t have a clue why the FBI would ask him about the legislation; after all, he’s just the Speaker of the House:

“No, that does seem kind of strange…I had no idea…I haven’t had any inquiries with anybody, other than just members of our House Caucus on that issue, but I have no idea,” Richard said.

Hmmm.

The AP story explains the history of “the little bill that couldn’t”:

The bill was endorsed in early February by a House committee led by Jones. But House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, never referred the bill to the Rules Committee, which would have been the next step in the process. Richard said he held up the bill because of opposition from House Majority Leader Steven Tilley, R-Perryville. Tilley said he had done nothing improper.

The Joplin Globe indicated it had tried to contact Tilley, but was unsuccessful. And St. Louis Public Radio tried to interview Tim Jones, but Jones declined their request.  Maybe he was busy giving a deposition in Taitz’ lawsuit challenging Obama’s citizenship, who knows.

But Richard did say, according to the Globe‘s version of the AP story, that he never asked Tilley, his colleague and the majority leader in Richard’s House, why Tilley opposed the bill. 

“He said he didn’t like the bill and wouldn’t have it,” was all Richard said he knew.

Let me get this straight.  Mr. Richard held up a bill because Steven Tilley was opposed to it, but Richard never asked him why he was opposed to it?  Hmmm.

Well, I wonder why Tilley might be opposed to the bill. Let’s see.

Isn’t Tom Burcham, the attorney who filed several lawsuits over the sales tax issue, a constituent of Tilley’s? 

Why, yes he is.

And isn’t Burcham the treasurer of the Missouri Leadership Committee, which gave $110,000 to Tilley’s campaign this year?

Why, yes he is.

And hasn’t Tilley raised money for the Missouri Leadership Committee?

Why, yes he has.

All of this sounds amazingly like an earlier Kansas City Star investigative report involving the Humphreys family of Joplin and Republicans in the Missouri House, including Speaker Richard, himself a recipient of $55,000 from the family, after the House passed legislation potentially favorable to the Humphreys’ family business, Tamko.

Richard denied any connection to the Humphreys money and the action in the House.

And, predictably, in this case, the Globe reports that Tilley said it was “respect” for Tom Burcham that motivated him to oppose the legislation and denies that money had any influence on him:

But “the fact that the committee he runs gave me $100,000 has absolutely nothing to do with my position on the issue,” Tilley said.

Of course, it doesn’t Mr. Tilley. That’s why Mr. Burcham gave you the money, so it would have absolutely nothing to do with your position on any issue, right?

This stuff stinks, fellow Missourians, whether you are Republican or Democrat.

Ron Richard’s lack of curiosity about why his underling in leadership, Steve Tilley, was opposed to a bill that made it through a House committee–and that Richard supported–just doesn’t pass the smell test.

It’s hard to believe that a powerful, plugged-in Republican leader like Richard didn’t know that Tilley had a connection to Tom Burcham. Or that Tilley’s opposition to the proposed sales tax legislation, which according to a story months ago, would have “crimped” Burcham’s law practice, had something to do with Burcham’s lawsuits.

That same story, from the Columbia Daily Tribune, also reported this:

As majority leader, Tilley decides which bills come up in the House. Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, supported the Municipal League’s bill, but Richard said Tilley would not bring it up.

“The majority leader wouldn’t let me put it on the calendar,” Richard said. “He said he wasn’t ready to talk about it just yet. I told the Municipal League, ‘We need some help to convince the majority leader there are a lot of cities that are in jeopardy.’ ”

The majority leader wouldn’t let me put it on the calendar“?  “We need some help to convince the majority leader“? Hmmm. And I thought Ron Richard was in charge.

This issue, coupled with the Humphrey money fiasco, calls into question Richard’s credibility and certainly taints his “straight shooter” image.

And this time, the Joplin Globe should be all over it.

Republican Lips Still Easy To Read

Andy Ostmeyer, the metro editor for the Joplin Globe, did a nice job today painting a rather dismal picture of Missouri’s budget “crisis” as it relates to Medicaid.

But to his credit, Ostmeyer didn’t just highlight the usual “we’ve got to cut spending” prescription that flows so easily from the lips of our conservative legislators.  He actually included a voice in the wilderness in the person of Ruth Erisman, director of health and budget policy for the Missouri Budget Project:

Erisman said cutting spending is only half the solution.

“When we are trying to solve our budget problem, we need balanced solutions,” she said. In other words, raise taxes and close tax loopholes, she said.

Wow!  You mean it’s possible to increase revenue instead of throwing folks off Medicaid or closing prisons and universities? 

Last week I used the Missouri Budget Project’s numbers to show that “Missouri ranked 47th lowest in the nation for per capita state taxes collected” and that “Missouri ranked 46th lowest for corporate income tax,” which in 2007 was a mere 33% of the national average.  Surely, there is room for a little revenue enhancement in those numbers?

Ostmeyer’s reporting included some of Ms. Erisman’s suggestions for closing the revenue gap:

  • “We reward business for filing taxes on time. Individuals do not get a reward for filing taxes on time.”
  • “We do not tax sales on the Internet,” putting mom and pop Missouri-based business at a disadvantage.
  • Cut tax credits. “We have created a big hole in our budget through our tax credit policy as well.”

“Those things should be done without looking at personal income tax,” Erisman said.

Last year, businesses and individuals redeemed a total of $584 million in tax credits. State agencies and boards grant most of the breaks, without regard to whether state revenue is plummeting.

The problem with Erisman’s common-sense suggestions is that the “taxes are evil” meme is very strong in Missouri, particularly around the capitol. Ostmeyer writes:

But according to [Ron] Richard and [Jack] Cardetti [Governor Nixon's spokesman], there’s no support among Republican leaders who control the Legislature or from the Democratic governor to boost taxes at this time.

That’s not surprising, given Speaker Richard’s past disdain for tax increases.  On his Website, one can still find from last year this banner on the bottom of a page titled, “The Miraculous Missouri Turnaround“:

No New TaxesThe banner dovetails nicely with something included in the Globe‘s editorial last week, which gave us a few highlights of an editorial board meeting with top GOP leaders. Among them was the following, which, interestingly, is also the blurb used on Richard’s Website in the link to the editorial:

Closing the discussion, Speaker of the House Ron Richard, of Joplin, and others were emphatic that absolutely no tax increases would be passed in Missouri to support any health care reforms.

Get that?  Emphatic. So, until Republicans–and Democrats–can honestly look at the budget problems not just from the spending side, but also from the revenue side, Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens could see even darker times ahead.

By the way, the one problem I had with the Ostmeyer article today was the way he handled the issue of the opting-out-of-Medicaid comments that were first brought to our attention in the Globe‘s editorial last week. Here is the quote from the editorial:

The board was also told that Medicaid is a voluntary program for states and the federal government to “share” costs of health care for the low-income. States have the option to not participate. It was suggested that if federal health care requirements for additional state funding reached unmanageable levels, the state would have to consider “opting out” of Medicaid.

And here is Ostmeyer’s mention of it today:

Rep. Doug Ervin, R-Kearney, said federal health care reforms under discussion in Washington “would have a devastating impact on Missouri’s budget.”

There is no way the state could pay its share of the cost if Medicaid rolls were expanded to include residents making 150 percent of the federal poverty guideline, he said during a recent meeting in Joplin.

If that were to happen, the Legislature would look at “opting out” of the federal program, according to some of the other Republican leaders who came to Joplin. But [Mike]Schwartz [budget analyst for Rep. Allen Icet] said opting out may not be a realistic option, since it would mean the loss of federal funds.

My problem is we still don’t know who “some of the other Republican leaders” are.  Was Ron Richard one of them?  And what is Richard’s position on the “opting out” idea?

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