The Kansas City Star, Jan. 21
Roe v. Wade ruling still worth honoring
Forty years ago today, a U.S. Supreme Court decision guaranteed women the qualified constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
Over the decades, that right has been fiercely opposed and defended in courtrooms, on the streets and in state legislatures.
Yet it survives, and must continue to do so. An America in which women are denied the right to make the most essential decision regarding reproduction is unthinkable.
Thirteen years after the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, a Missouri case revealed a turn on the Supreme Court.
The 5-4 Webster v. Reproductive Health Services decision upheld a state ban on using public facilities and employees for performing abortions. The ruling signaled that the Roe v. Wade decision wasn't protected from future revisions. The late Justice Harry Blackmun called it a "chill wind" for the future of the decision he had authored in 1973.
State capitols have become the venue of choice for narrowing abortion rights, with laws requiring parental notification, waiting periods and restrictions on doctors. Kansas and Missouri have been in the thick of that activity. In both states anti-abortion groups have held undue influence over politics and government.
In Kansas, opposition to abortion took the ultimate destructive turn in 2009 when a zealot murdered Dr. George Tiller, a physician who performed abortions, in his church in Wichita.
Abortion is too entrenched as a cause for the controversies to abate. But outside of political and religious spheres there is more of a consensus. Polls show most Americans want abortion to remain legal, though they differ on what restraints are acceptable.
Older Americans, though, will not forget — especially women who faced excruciating decisions when terminating pregnancies involved methods illegal and unsafe.
More than any other event, Roe v. Wade ensured women a measure of privacy and self-destiny. On its 40th anniversary, it deserves to be respected and protected.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 20
Remembering The Man
First and always, there was that stance. Hips cocked, the bat held absurdly high over the left shoulder, uncoiling then in a split blink of a eye, lashing a baseball into the gap.
No way you'd teach a kid to hit like Stan Musial did. No way he could. But why then did generations of kids in this town grow up trying to hit like Stan the Man?
He'd come a little closer and you'd hear the laugh, the giggle, the "Whadayasay, whadaysay," the jokes that were always on him. You'd talk a little bit and never hear a boastful word from him, this guy who was one of the half-dozen or so best hitters ever to play Major League Baseball. Is this guy for real?
Yeah, he was. And he was that good. He was that humble. He defined his team for 22 years as a player and 40 years after that as a senior statesman. When they say St. Louis is a baseball town, it's because Stan Musial played here and stayed here. If you paid attention, Stan Musial taught you how to treat other people.
Odd how it came as a surprise Saturday evening when word came that Stan had died. He was 92 and had been in awful health, but still it was a surprise.
In theory, we knew the day would come when Stan Musial would die. Nobody lives forever, not even Stan the Man. The late Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg, who was his close friend, liked to talk about one of the first road trips the Cardinals took by airplane in the 1950s. The prop plane was bouncing around in a terrible thunderstorm. Everyone but Stan was retching and praying. "I can see the headline," Stan told BB. "Cards' plane crashes. Musial lone survivor."
Stan knew he was a lucky guy. He didn't worry about things, except in '59 when he lost his stroke and it darned near drove him crazy. At the end of the season he tried to give the Cardinals some of their money back.
In the offseason, you could go down to Cardinal Lanes on Gravois Road in those days, bowl a few lines and rub shoulders with Stan. You could go to Stan and Biggie's Restaurant on Oakland Avenue, and he'd be there with a "Whadayasay, whadayasay." A kid — or as the years went by, a grown-up — would ask him for an autograph, and he'd reach into his suit pocket and pull out a color photograph, Stan in his crazy stance, and sign it with a Blue Sharpie. Didn't cost $75 either.
If you're among those who knew him only by his records, or as the elderly gent in a red sport coat in a golf cart on Opening Day, you missed something really special. It is a cliché to say at times like this that we will not see this man's likes again. But we won't. And that makes us profoundly sad. And deeply grateful for the life he gave us.
Jefferson City News Tribune, Jan. 18
No-smoking exemption invites public scorn
If members of legislative bodies wonder why their approval ratings are so dismal, they need look no further than their own imperious attitudes.
Public disapproval rises whenever lawmakers exempt themselves from the rules that apply to others.
A recent example is a House committee's rejection of a proposal to ban smoking in their Capitol offices. The rejection reflected a partisan vote from the 12-member panel; eight Republican nays prevailed over four Democratic yeas.
Subsequent House votes empowered the majority and minority caucuses to adopt smoking and alcohol policies for their members' Capitol offices. Minority Democrats decided to maintain smoke-free offices; majority Republicans did not.
We are disappointed that partisan overtones have clouded this issue of public perception and public health.
Let's begin with public perception.
The state and Jefferson City both have implemented smoke-free prohibitions and regulations. No smoking is permitted in Capitol hallways or in the House and Senate chambers.
The policies, however, do not extend to lawmakers' offices, despite their location in a public building.
One reason for the exemption was provided by state Rep. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, who referenced "long hours" worked by state representatives.
Even if we concede the argument, lawmakers are not the only people who work long hours. Why do the rules that apply to other public employees not apply to them?
The exemption also conflicts with the public health rationale instrumental in replacing non-smoking sections with smoke-free facilities.
That transition is based on harm caused by second-hand smoke and the inability of central ventilation systems to contain that smoke.
The Capitol is the people's building. It is designed and intended to welcome visitors. People — including children by the busloads — come to tour its museum and absorb its history, architecture and art. Visitors come to influence public policy and watch their elected legislators conduct the people's business.
If lawmakers insist on exempting themselves from the regulations and public health policies that apply to others, they bring public scorn and disapproval upon themselves.
The Springfield News-Leader, Jan. 16
Keep light on in Sunshine Law
Balancing our rights and our safety can be a tough job, but the state has an opportunity to do just that.
The General Assembly will soon consider a recently expired provision of the Sunshine Law that prevented information that could compromise security from becoming public. The provision, put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, could offer important protections — but as it was written, it goes beyond what is needed.
Gov. Jay Nixon is worried that, without the provision, information such as government blueprints, security guidelines and emergency response plans could fall into the hands of someone who would do us harm.
We believe that a recrafted provision could protect that information without also potentially keeping the public from easily seeing how its government functions, a right ostensibly guaranteed in the Sunshine Law.
The now-expired provision in question (610.021 — 18 and 19) states that it intends to secure "operational guidelines and policies" developed by "law enforcement, public safety, first response, or public health for use in responding to or preventing any critical incident which is or appears to be terrorist in nature... ." That includes security systems and blueprints.
However, the provision also states that the agency wishing to close information under this exception "shall affirmatively state in writing that disclosure would impair (its) ability to protect the security or safety of persons or real property" and further "state that the public interest in nondisclosure outweighs the public interest in disclosure of the records.'
What it doesn't include — and what we believe it must have — is a way for such an assertion to be judged as having merit.
Ken Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition in Columbia, is concerned that, under the previously existing language, the agency's assertion does not have to be correct, just in writing.
Jean Maneke, an attorney for the Missouri Press Association, said the MPA has worked with the Department of Public Safety on language that could improve the provision. Regarding the agency exception, it would require that the agency cite specific facts to support its assertion of an exemption.
We agree. No governmental agency should be given so much power to withhold information from the public without supporting its reasons.
The state needs to be proactive against potential terrorism, but this law could be fixed to do that and protect our rights, too.