St. Joseph News-Press, Aug. 6
Consider voters' message:
Missouri voters turned down a tax proposal Tuesday, and now proponents need to think about why that happened.
— It may be voters were unconvinced of the need for new funding for roads and bridges.
This seems unlikely. It could be voters didn't see the need as urgent, or disagreed about the amount of money required, but most surveys have found broad understanding that something must be done soon to smooth and rebuild our highways, repair or replace aging bridges, and invest in other transportation projects important to economic growth.
— It may be taxes of any form are a tough sell these days.
Perhaps, but voters in St. Joseph and Buchanan County approved a half-cent public safety tax in 2012 and a quarter-cent ambulance service levy in 2013. Together, these taxes equal the three-quarter cent tax for transportation that went down to defeat Tuesday.
— It may be voters believe the sales tax has its limits.
This may be closer to the truth. After all, the combined levy in Buchanan County has risen in the past 18 months from 7.7 percent to 8.45 percent. It would have climbed to 9.2 percent had Amendment 7 passed.
With additional levies authorized in special taxing districts, it would have been common for consumers to pay more than 10 percent in sales taxes in St. Joseph and more than 12 percent in some locations in Kansas City.
— It may be voters wanted options, including a greater focus on user fees.
This thought resonates. Some voters no doubt saw the sales tax proposal as particularly harmful to low-income consumers. Others wanted heavy users of the transportation system to pay a greater share of the cost of improvements — perhaps through a modest increase in our sixth-lowest-in-the-nation motor fuels tax, a toll road on Interstate 70, or both.
A sound defeat for the sales-tax-only proposal gives new life to this blend of options.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Aug. 7
St. Charles County points the way to ethics reform:
On Tuesday, St. Charles County voters did what the Missouri Legislature has refused to do: They passed serious ethics reform.
By a massive 3-to-1 margin, in a heavily Republican county, voters endorsed limiting the ability of elected officials to profit from their public offices.
The three measures, pushed by County Executive Steve Ehlmann, (who easily won his GOP primary against the ethically challenged state Rep. Doug Funderburk, of St. Peters, who did not actively campaign), put the same sort of limits on elected officials in St. Charles County that state lawmakers rejected last legislative session:
— The county's elected officials will not be allowed to accept gifts or free meals from people or entities who have business dealings with the county.
— Elected officials will not be able to lobby the county for a year after leaving office.
— They will not be able to take paid jobs with the county for a year after leaving office.
All three of these practices are commonplace in the Legislature. They're so ingrained in the culture that in a recent editorial board meeting discussing his candidacy for St. Louis County executive, state Rep. Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, seemed dumbfounded that we would even ask about ethics.
He was unaware, it seems, that some voters question the appropriateness of lawmakers receiving free meals or tickets to Blues and Cardinals games from the industries they regulate (as Mssrs. Stream and Funderburk, and, frankly, most lawmakers, have).
As a public service, we let Mr. Stream know about some of Dinin' Doug's excesses, like getting lobbyists to pay several thousand dollars for "committee meetings" held at fancy restaurants that aren't even in the capital city. Mr. Stream agreed with us that such arrangements were a bad idea.
Here's what needs to happen: The Republicans who control the Legislature need to see the writing on the wall placed there so helpfully by Mr. Ehlmann and the voters in St. Charles County.
Voters don't want elected officials who treat public service like a feeding session at the local hog trough. And they'll gladly vote to place limits on lawmakers, if the lawmakers won't do it themselves.
Springfield News-Leader, July 30
State needs drug database:
There are plenty of good reasons for Missouri to join the rest of the 49 states to establish a prescription drug database.
There is one misled but powerful state legislator who is making sure that doesn't happen.
Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, is more worried about a feared loss of privacy than he is the very real problems Missouri faces because of the lack of this simple method of tracking prescriptions. Schaaf has stood in the way of the passage of bills introduced to create such a database, calling his actions a defense of "people's liberty."
In a July 20 article about this situation in the New York Times, Schaaf is quoted as saying, after stopping one such bill in 2012, "If they overdose and kill themselves, it just removes them from the gene pool."
Most surprising is that Schaaf is a family physician.
Drug monitoring programs in other states vary, but they all require that doctors and pharmacists enter all prescriptions into a database that can be consulted to determine if a patient is getting too much medication or a doctor is prescribing too many narcotics.
Missourians prize their privacy, and state legislators are quick to reject any efforts to erode it. But in this case, the majority of legislators support a drug database, as does Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals in St. Louis, manufacturer of the highly abused prescription painkiller oxycodone.
In an article July 27 by Jonathan Shorman, Lynn Morris, a Republican representative from Nixa and the owner of Family Pharmacy, said he wants a database to be part of the 2015 House Republican agenda.
Gary Grove, owner of Grove Pharmacy in Springfield, agrees. Both men say that drug seekers from Missouri and neighboring states come into their pharmacies.
With a database, doctors and pharmacists can look up a person's drug record to determine if there have been too many narcotic prescriptions written for that person or if the prescription is legitimate.
The Missouri Board of Healing Arts can also look at the database to determine if a doctor or other medical professional is prescribing too many narcotics. Pharmacists who are part of the scam can also be caught through such a database.
Too many people are using Missouri as their drug shopping center and reselling those drugs on the black market.
We encourage Morris and his fellow legislators to work together to overcome Schaaf and his small band of supporters to end Missouri's run as the Midwest's illicit drugstore.
The Kansas City Star, July 29
Foul called on UMKC in rankings contest:
The University of Missouri-Kansas City can claim genuine progress over the last decade, as it continues to transform from a commuter campus to a vibrant university.
That reality makes it all the more disappointing to see UMKC succumb to the corrosive rankings frenzy that has gripped academia.
A Kansas City Star report found that the university has been advertising questionable rankings to burnish the reputation of the Henry W. Bloch School of Management, its business school. The rankings may have deceived students and parents and appear to have played a role in the receipt of a major financial gift.
Among the problems:
— The authors of a rankings study published by the Journal of Product Innovation Management were visiting scholars at UMKC at the time they wrote the paper. Their year-long visit had been arranged by the then-dean of the Bloch School and one of its notable professors, Michael Song.
Their paper ranked the Bloch School as No. 1 in the world in innovation management research. It also extended Song's rating as the No. 1 researcher in the field. The research parameters appear to have been designed to benefit Song and UMKC.
— When submitting data to the well-known Princeton Review, Bloch school officials claimed 100 percent of graduate entrepreneurship students had launched a business. They didn't disclose that their response only counted students in a one-year certificate program, for which students were required to start a business.
UMKC has used the rankings to recruit students to its business school. And a favorable bounce in the Princeton Review's ranking played a role in the school receiving a $32 million gift from its namesake, Henry W. Bloch.
The university is right to strive for recognition in its signature programs. But the questionable relationships and methodology used to boost rankings call both the quality and integrity of the Bloch School into question.
Unfortunately, the university's official response is to defend the rankings and cast aspersions on its critics, especially a Bloch School professor who persistently questioned the process.
That's precisely the wrong approach. Universities should be teaching ethics in their business schools, not sidestepping them to game the rankings. UMKC should begin an honest review of its participation in ranking reports and insist on following the highest standards.