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Recent Missouri Editorials

April 9, 2019

The Kansas City Star, April 8

Why is Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft stealing Kris Kobach’s lousy ideas?

Missouri, have you met Kansas?

We ask because you seem intent on repeating your neighbor’s mistakes, even after their folly has been fully documented.

Jefferson City continues to envy the steep tax cuts that led Topeka to near ruin under former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

On Thursday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson had lunch with Rex Sinquefield, the major donor who’s still pushing to eliminate the state’s income tax, and (non) economist Arthur Laffer, the architect of Brownback’s tax debacle.

And Parson’s potential GOP rival, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, meanwhile is signaling that he’d like to repeat former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s wasteful and willfully off-point preoccupation with voter fraud.

The Missouri House has given initial approval to a bill that would give Ashcroft the power to subpoena records related to voting violations. He would still have to refer cases to local prosecutors.

Ashcroft has been investigating complaints of such violations already, but he has complained that the lack of subpoena power means he can’t always do so thoroughly.

Spoiler alert: Armed with that power, all he would find, like all who’ve gone before him, is that in-person voter fraud exists mostly in the minds of Republicans with political ambitions.

In the 3 ½ years that Kobach had the power to prosecute voter fraud cases himself, a spokesman for that office said, he oversaw somewhere between 10 and 15 such cases, not one involving an undocumented immigrant.

Kobach’s successor as Kansas secretary of state, Scott Schwab, has refocused the office on its traditional responsibilities, which are registering businesses and administering elections.

Schwab also supports legislation that would divest his office of the power to prosecute voter fraud.

County clerks in Missouri oppose the proposed legislation. The bill will be put to one more vote in the House, and if it passes, the proposal would be sent on to the Senate. The clerks say subpoena power is unnecessary since election records are already available from local prosecutors or through the Sunshine Law.

But they’re missing the point, aren’t they?

The only reason to start down this road is to please conservative voters in some future contest — against Gov. Mike Parson, maybe. And he seems to have responded in kind.

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The St. Joseph News-Press, April 5

It’s not just an act of nature

Unless you’re a trained hydrologist, 100,000 cubic feet of water might not mean a lot.

It was the amount of water released per second from the Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota, to ease pressure from heavy runoff and the collapse of another dam in Nebraska. This happened before last month’s flooding demolished levees, wiped out farms and submerged small towns in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri.

To put it in perspective, 100,000 cubic feet per second is the average volume of water at Niagara Falls during tourist season. That’s what was headed our way.

All this spawns various narratives about what went wrong and what, if anything, can be done to stop the next Big One that everyone says is coming on the Missouri River. Some say the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was faced with no good options. Others say the bad weather was concentrated in Nebraska, and runoff south of Gavins Point contributed to most of the flooding.

These statements are not completely accurate. At the point of crisis, like the collapse of Nebraska’s Spencer Dam, the Corps is faced with few options other than increasing water flows. Spencer Dam, by the way, flows into the river above Gavins Point.

But those who see the Corps as a victim of fate should understand that its lack of options are also because of its management of the river, which since 2004 has made flood control less of a priority. The Corps holds large amounts of water in reservoirs, a move that benefits endangered species during flooding season but proves disastrous to farming and river communities.

Midwestern governors met this week to decry the slow pace of levee repairs, but there are things the Corps can do fairly quickly to improve flood control. Releasing more water in the winter would create storage capacity for the next spring crisis. The Corps could consider restoring wing-dikes and other infrastructure that’s designed to stabilize banks and push water to the center of the river channel.

That was how the river was managed when the current system of upstream dams was first constructed.

The other option is for the government to buy “flowage easements” from landowners to move levees back and create a larger flood plain for excess water. St. Joseph attorney Dan Boulware, in a lawsuit on behalf of flooded landowners, successfully argued that the government’s lack of flood control amounts to the taking of private property.

When it floods, and that flood is due to river management, then the government essentially takes its easement without paying for it. The price, as we saw last month, is paid by the farmer, landowner and small-town resident.

Sooner or later, the Corps of Engineers will face more tough choices, we don’t deny that. But don’t kid yourself into thinking it has no choices.

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The Jefferson City News-Tribune, April 7

Military courts would serve those who have served us

Rep. Dave Griffith’s bill to establish military courts in all circuit courts in Missouri will provide a welcome service to those who have served us.

Griffith, R-Jefferson City, has proposed a bill that will require every circuit court in the state to establish a veterans court.

Missouri has 46 circuit court systems, and all but one have at least one type of treatment court. Only 12 military courts, however, currently exist.

Camden County is in the process of establishing a Veterans Treatment Court that, according to the Lake Sun Leader, “will take a more focused and intensive approach to assisting Veteran offenders in overcoming addictions, mental health disorders and any other issues which lead to criminal behavior.”

That’s the goal of such courts: to offer a special attention for some military veterans who have been charged with crimes, generally as first-time offenders, and whose issues stem from substance abuse.

Ideally, such courts offer treatment and a second chance, as opposed to jail time. Like other specialized courts such as drug courts, they’re not “get out of jail free cards.” But veterans who deal with issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder often find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Often, the crime they have been charged with stems from depression that leads to illegal substance abuse.

Senators have said they support the bill, but plan to make changes.

State Sen. Bill White, R-Joplin, who chairs the Senate committee, said the committee has issues with other treatment courts being optional, while veterans courts would be required. That, he said, has the potential to prioritize veterans’ treatment over all the other treatment courts, even when DWI courts, for instance, might have many more defendants.

We agree with the rationale. Another problem with mandating certain treatment courts is that it presumably would kick in the Hancock Amendment, which prohibits the state from imposing anything that costs cities or counties, unless the state funds the programs.

We encourage the Senate to find a compromise that the House also can support, and one that still will benefit veterans who need help more than incarceration.