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Recent Missouri Editorials

June 4, 2019

The Joplin Globe, June 2

In his ‘big tech’ battle, Hawley could champion net neutrality

If Missouri’s U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley is serious about his battle against “big tech,” the greatest victory he could win would be restoring net neutrality.

Hawley, in his first term, has targeted large technology firms such as Google and Facebook with upcoming legislation. He has announced legislation in two areas, targeting software publishers that market loot boxes and pay-to-win microtransactions to kids, and calling for a “do not call list”-style option to bar companies from tracking personal data.

While there’s nothing inherently concerning about either of these bills, they don’t strike us as urgent. But those two measures are small shots in this hunt. If Hawley really wants to arm for bear against big tech, he could target internet service providers that would seek to limit customers from accessing whatever they choose.

Net neutrality is the philosophy that internet service providers should not limit or block content that its customers wish to access. That philosophy wasn’t codified into law until 2015 when the FCC created its legal framework. But all that work was undone in 2017 when the FCC, led by chairman and presidential appointee Ajit Pai, undid the rules that bound service providers.

ISPs have a history of demonstrating the need for net neutrality — companies such as Comcast, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon have blocked customers from using websites or apps.

With the development of 5G networks in full swing, the internet is poised to be more important than ever for daily life. That’s why net neutrality is important for us in Southwest Missouri:

. The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce is showing members how the internet can boost their businesses. Net neutrality ensures fair markets and open competition without the threat of a big business unfairly closing parts of the playing field.

. People of all political persuasions use the internet to inform others about issues they feel are important. Sometimes, the internet is used to mobilize people to act. Companies should not be able to silence those voices with a flick of a switch.

. Area residents count on the internet for crucial information during times of emergency — we’ve seen how important streaming video on social networks becomes during tornado warnings.

. Readers across the region rely on a number of different news sources for information about local, state and national news. We suspect none of those readers would appreciate their chosen news source to be blocked by their provider.

The House has already passed the Save the Internet Act, which would restore the 2015 standards undone by the FCC. Hawley could make a difference today: He can use his influence to call for Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to bring the bill up for a vote.

Net neutrality is neither a liberal nor conservative issue. It’s an American issue. And Hawley could be its champion.

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The Kansas City Star, June 3

The state of Missouri owes Jackson County almost $2 million. When will it pay up?

The Missouri Department of Corrections owes counties throughout the state more than $20 million for housing inmates bound for state prison.

The perpetual backlog and the state’s unacceptably tardy reimbursements leave counties in the lurch. And Jackson County is near the top of that list.

The state owes Jackson County nearly $2 million. Some $730,000 is owed to Clay County; and nearly $430,000 is due to Platte County. The state is indebted to Cass County for $233,000.

State lawmakers have been unwilling to allocate the funds needed to chip away at the total owed to counties, which now stands somewhere between $20 million and $30 million. This year, legislators added only $1.75 million to the Department of Corrections’ $40 million budget to address the backlog, KCUR reported last week.

Counties are eventually reimbursed for housing inmates who are convicted and sent to state prisons, but on average, the process usually takes about nine months.

And the state is falling further behind.

Jackson County was owed $800,000 in 2017. Two years later, the amount has more than doubled to just under $1.9 million.

“The state has a statutory obligation to put more dollars into (Department of Corrections) funding,” Cass County Sheriff Jeff Weber told The Star. “Funding is an issue but one that has not been a priority.”

In 2017, Missouri had the eighth-largest prison population in the country. The number has dropped about 8% since then. Close to 29,500 people are incarcerated in the state penal system, down from 32,000 two years ago.

Missouri Department of Corrections officials attribute the decline to some of the programs aimed at reducing the number of inmates who return to prison.

But the Department of Corrections will continue to operate in arrears until state lawmakers enact additional criminal justice reforms — or substantially increase funding to keep tens of thousands of inmates behind bars.

“If we recognize it’s a problem, we owe it to ourselves to find a solution,” Weber said. “We just haven’t gotten there yet.”

Other states have taken steps in the right direction, saving taxpayer dollars and reducing the prison population.

In 2010, South Carolina passed sentencing and corrections reforms that have saved the state close to $500 million. The recidivism rate decreased by 10%, and the overall prison population fell 14%.

Missouri could begin to reduce costs and the number of prisoners incarcerated if Gov. Mike Parson signs into law House Bill 192. The measure would eliminate so-called debtors prisons and would reduce the prison population by ending mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent crimes.

Allowing early parole for nonviolent offenders over the age of 65 would also spur declines in the number of inmates. Lawmakers had the opportunity to act on that reform this year, but a proposal stalled in the Senate during the recently-concluded legislative session.

When they reconvene next year, lawmakers must get serious about enacting substantial criminal justice reforms that have yielded impressive results across the country.

And even more urgently, state officials must develop a plan to settle up with counties in a timely manner. Jackson County can’t afford to wait indefinitely for the money it’s owed.

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The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 29

Missouri’s latest attack on abortion rights is a reminder: Elections have consequences.

The ink was barely dry on Missouri’s draconian new anti-abortion-rights law before state regulators delivered the second blow against women’s control over their own bodies. Using — and blatantly abusing — their official licensing powers, regulators are threatening to shut down the last abortion provider in Missouri when its license expires Friday.

Contrast that with Illinois, where Democrats control state government: In response to the coordinated attacks on women’s self-determination in Missouri and other red states, the Illinois Legislature is moving to shore up those rights.

The difference confirms the axiom that elections have consequences. In Missouri, low-income women, rape victims and others who are targeted in these new forced-birth policies are facing the consequences of voters allowing the reactionary right to take over the state.

The Missouri law that Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed Friday outlaws all abortions after eight weeks — when many women don’t yet know they’re pregnant — with the exception of abortions to save the life of the mother. There are no rape or incest exceptions.

It’s one of a recent series of laws in red states that blatantly violate the abortion-rights protections under Roe v. Wade. That’s the whole point: Anti-choice activists hope the inevitable court challenges will get them before today’s conservative U.S. Supreme Court, with possibility of overturning Roe.

But Missouri’s state health regulators, apparently unwilling to wait for that national showdown, have now maneuvered to shut down the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis — the last abortion provider in the state — with intimidation tactics that make a mockery of American democratic traditions.

As part of Planned Parenthood’s license-renewal process, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which answers to Parson, is suddenly demanding interviews with doctors and others on staff, while making clear those interviews could lead to criminal proceedings or board review for the doctors. The obvious goal is to intimidate Planned Parenthood into refusing the interviews — which it has — so it can be denied its license renewal on Friday. Litigation is pending.

It’s bad enough that politicians are writing laws to undercut women’s rights to their own medical decisions, but now bureaucrats controlled by those politicians are misusing their regulatory power to go beyond even what these new laws would allow.

All of this, remember, is in service to one ultimate goal: To ensure that any woman who becomes pregnant, even via rape, can be forced by the government to carry the pregnancy to term.

Missouri voters in recent elections have handed their state over to an increasingly extremist party with which they disagree (judging from recent ballot measures) on the minimum wage, political ethics, organized labor and other issues. Now, elected extremists are attacking the fundamental biological rights of half the population.

Elections have consequences. Missourians should remember that next year.

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