St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sept. 14
Boy's club overrides veto, punishes Missouri women
Consistent in their disdain for women's rights, Missouri legislators on Wednesday again decided that a narrow view of religious freedom was more important than women's health.
The vote to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a bill allowing employers to exclude contraceptive coverage from health insurance policies was trumpeted by lawmakers as a move to protect religious rights. That is a trumped-up issue, since state law has allowed employers to opt out of such coverage since 2001.
In addition, the federal mandate regarding contraception insurance specifically allows religious institutions to opt out of the coverage, although it requires insurance companies for religiously affiliated institutions — such as universities and hospitals — to offer birth control coverage.
Notice that the law orders the coverage to be offered — it does not have to be accepted. Women are not being forced to take the birth control. It is just being offered to them and paid for through their employee health plans, for which the women are already paying a share.
The Legislature is a boys' club. Of the 163 House seats, two are vacant and 120 are filled by men. In the Senate, 28 of the 34 members are men. In overriding Mr. Nixon's veto, the lawmakers set up a situation that already has resulted in one lawsuit and is sure to encourage more.
Mr. Nixon had said the bill shifted too much power to insurance companies and pointed out that state law already allows employers and employees to opt out of policies that conflict with their religious or moral convictions.
The Missouri law was put on the books in 2001, and was supported by both Planned Parenthood and the Missouri Catholic Conference at a time when increasing women's access to health care and supporting religious freedom could be seen as synonymous issues.
The political chasm that has opened up since is part of the problem. Missouri's lawmakers on both sides of the aisle united with pro-choice and pro-life groups to get that law passed 11 years ago. Peter Kinder, the Republican lieutenant governor who was then the Senate president pro-tem, allied himself with then-Gov. Bob Holden, a Democrat, to get the bill through.
Now, instead of listening to constituents and reaching accord between parties, Missouri lawmakers take their cues from Republican strategists who are using women's bodies as cannon fodder in their efforts to win elections.
Consider that about the same time Wednesday that Missouri legislators were overriding Mr. Nixon's veto, Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts retailer, filed a court challenge against the federal health care reform law's mandate to provide abortifacients, forms of contraception that can induce abortion.
Hobby Lobby's founders are evangelical Christians. No doubt their beliefs are sincere but may not be shared by their employees. There is also no doubt that the timing of their lawsuit is political.
The GOP long ago figured out that if you get people worked up over the easy stuff — like who has an American flag pin in his lapel, or where someone's parents were born, or who loves whom — they won't have time to notice if their pockets are being picked and their safety nets sliced.
It's time to put an end to the ugly partisan divisiveness and to unite for the good of the people of Missouri. And that includes the state's 2.8 million women.
The Columbia Tribune, Sept. 14
Earlier this week the Missouri General Assembly overrode Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of SB749, a foolish deed demonstrating the shallowness of thinking prevalent among the vast majority.
The bill claims to defend the right of anyone to avoid having to pay for contraception or abortions, but as Rep. Chris Kelly wisely noted in a courageous piece published in our Tuesday edition, the claim that the bill will protect religious freedom is false.
Kelly detailed provisions of existing Missouri law that already prevent "any employer, individual or self-insurer from having to pay for contraception when it is contrary to his or her religious or moral beliefs." He cited other provisions giving similar conditions for abortion coverage.
The only exception is to save the life of the mother.
Kelly's mark of courage came when he criticized "my own church, the Roman Catholic Church," for making claims about SB749 it "knows or should know is false."
This lucid argument meant nothing to the overwhelming majority of members who upheld a duplicative law simply to pander to the public on an issue they had purposefully misrepresented in their nearly unanimous passage of SB749 in the first place.
Kelly explains the bill does allow insurance companies to deny contraception coverage when employers object even though some employees might want it, shrouding another attempt to deny birth control in allegations of religious liberty. ...
The Kansas City Star, Sept. 14
Ridiculing birth control
Missouri legislators said they were standing up for religious freedom this week when they overrode Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a bill that would allow employers and insurers to refuse to include birth control in women's health insurance policies.
Actually, the lawmakers were exercising their freedom to pass insulting, repetitive legislation that conflicts with federal policy, is certain to be challenged in court and raises the question of why, in 2012, the Missouri General Assembly is worrying about birth control.
The House passed the override without a single vote to spare, 109-45, after Republican leaders leaned heavily on GOP Rep. Chris Molendorp of Belton, who didn't support the bill during the session. Molendorp caved and voted for the override, thereby engendering the wrath of women's groups which opposed the legislation.
But there is plenty of blame to spread around.
Seven Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the override and five didn't vote. Among the absentees were two lawmakers from Kansas City, Michael Brown and Leonard Hughes IV.
St. Joseph News-Press, Sept. 15
Big mistake to dismiss drought
Cooler weather and the bright sunshine of fall days take our attention away from the equally obvious and very serious.
Officially, a state of emergency caused by this summer's drought in Missouri has been extended to Nov. 15. Unofficially, the drought's impact will last well beyond that for our region.
Agriculture is the primary economic engine in Northwest Missouri and Northeast Kansas. Crop farmers began feeling the effects early this summer as drought-stressed plants failed to produce. Livestock producers now are struggling to stay afloat in a wild market.
Producers unable to find or afford feed for their cattle are sending hundreds to market. Others are preparing to pay top dollar just to keep their animals alive through the winter.
Economists estimate pork producers could lose as much as $60 per hog this fall. With Triumph Foods and Premium Standard Farms as major employers in the region, the impact will be significant.
For those of us who eat, the drought also will make its unwelcome presence known . in due time. Meat, poultry and dairy prices are expected to rise about 8 percent in 2013. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has done the math: Just a 5 percent increase in food prices adds about $600 to the annual grocery bill for a family of four.
In August, the Mid-America Business Conditions index remained below neutral for the second month in a row, the first time that's happened since July 2009. Economists say the drought and its impact are a big reason why the region's economy will struggle well into next year.
While we prepare for a lean winter, we also recognize reason to be grateful. Even with the exceptionally dry conditions, this year's corn harvest is expected to be one of the 10 largest on record. Meanwhile, the state of Missouri has provided funds for farmers to drill 5,800 emergency wells, and more applications are being processed.
As we continue in a state of drought for weeks ahead, we confront two divergent truths: It could be worse, but the worst may not be over.