Editorial Roundup: Missouri

Kansas City Star. June 12, 2021.

Editorial: Parson’s signature on gun bill violates US Constitution, makes Missourians less safe

Missouri’s dangerous dance with anti-constitutionalism continued unabated Saturday, when Gov. Mike Parson signed the disturbingly-named Second Amendment Preservation Act.

The Second Amendment is quite intact, of course. The new law isn’t about policy — it’s about sending a pro-gun message to fellow right-wingers across the state. That’s why Parson signed the bill at a gun store.

The measure is a policy mess. It starts with the usual chatter about states’ rights and the Constitution, then assures us the legislature “condemns any unlawful transfer of firearms and the use of any firearm in any criminal or unlawful activity.” Gee, thanks.

It then prohibits local enforcement of most federal gun laws and regulations, including fines for authorities who are working to reduce gun crimes. So much for backing the blue.

Even those convicted of domestic violence are invited into Missouri to brandish all the lethal weapons they desire. It’s beyond reason that Parson and state lawmakers would endorse these measures in one of the bloodiest states in the nation.

But there’s more. The act explicitly violates the U.S. Constitution.

“All federal acts, laws, executive orders, administrative orders, rules, and regulations,” it says, “that infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms … shall be invalid to this state, shall not be recognized by this state, shall be specifically rejected by this state, and shall not be enforced by this state.”

The idea that a state legislature can nullify a federal law has a long history in the United States. It was the bedrock of the effort to maintain slavery (no wonder Missouri lawmakers oppose teaching students about the abhorrent “peculiar institution”).

But nullification is highly foolish, and illegal. The Constitution, to which Parson and legislators have sworn allegiance, specifically makes federal law supreme. We’re confident the Second Amendment Protection Act will not survive a serious court challenge, and we expect one to come quickly.

Supporters of the bill insist it merely restricts local efforts to enforce federal gun laws. “We’re just simply saying we’re not going to lift a finger to enforce their rules,” state Sen. Eric Burlison said recently.

Funny. When local governments said they were reluctant to help enforce federal immigration laws, Sen. Burlison had a different view. “We will not be fools in this state,” he said, pushing a bill prohibiting sanctuary counties in Missouri.

Which seems the bigger danger in Missouri: immigration, or the nightly slaughter on the streets? I think we know the answer.

But Missourians should be equally disturbed about Jefferson City’s predilection for ignoring the U.S. Constitution, or the Missouri Constitution, when it doesn’t like what those documents say.

State Sen. Rick Brattin, who may now run for Congress, offered a bill this year allowing the legislature to nullify any executive order, or agency rule, or anything passed by the federal government.

Sen. Josh Hawley wages a daily campaign against the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Attorney General Eric Schmitt urged the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out the legitimate votes of millions of Pennsylvanians by discarding the constitutional system for electing presidents.

Closer to home, when voters approved Medicaid expansion, and put it in the state’s constitution, Missouri legislators tossed it aside as so much scrap paper.

Missouri cannot enjoy the protections of representative government when it routinely discards the Constitution on a whim. That’s why Parson’s signature on the gun bill is regrettable, and will make this state less safe.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch. June 12, 2021.

Editorial: Compassion and conservativism don’t have to be mutually exclusive

One of the worst crimes any government can commit is to imprison an innocent person. The unjust denial of liberty formed a pillar of the conservative tea party movement during the previous decade and inspired conservatives in the Texas Legislature to get solidly behind bills designed to free the innocent, compensate them for their losses and to punish wayward prosecutors.

In Missouri, however, Gov. Mike Parson can’t bring himself to recognize an egregious injustice when he sees it and then take corrective action. The case of Kevin Strickland, 62, is one where a judge, prosecutors, witnesses and the defense all seem to agree: He did not commit the 1978 triple murder for which he is serving a life sentence. The fact that he is Black appears to have weighed heavily in the judicial railroading that landed him in prison.

If Strickland were in Texas, he would undoubtedly be free by now, and his cause not only would be embraced by top Republicans but they would also be joining Democrats in demanding millions of dollars in compensation for him. We know this because of Texas GOP lawmakers’ stellar record in championing the cause of at least two exonerees honored on the legislative floor — one Black and the other white — after having been caught in similar webs of injustice. Is there something about liberty and justice that Texas Republicans know that has eluded their Missouri counterparts?

We should be clear that some Republicans in the Missouri Legislature have, in fact, joined Democrats in calling for Parson to pardon Strickland for the 1978 murder of three people in Kansas City. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker says Strickland should be released, as have federal prosecutors and Jackson County’s presiding judge. The Kansas City Star reported in September that two men who pleaded guilty in the killings swore that Strickland was not with them during the shooting. The only eyewitness also recanted and said Strickland should be released.

Parson, however, says that issuing a full pardon to Strickland is not a “priority,” and that Strickland was found guilty “by a jury of his peers.” Only someone in Parson’s protective racial bubble could come to that conclusion. During Strickland’s trial, prosecutors removed the only four Blacks on the list as potential “peers” on the jury, ensuring he would face an all-white panel along with white lawyers and a white judge.

It should be a top priority for Parson because an innocent man appears to be paying every day for a crime all others in the case insist he did not commit. His injustice is compounded by the fact that a racially biased prosecutorial system ensured his cries of innocence would be stifled for four decades. Parson should look to his fellow Republicans in Texas to see how compassion and conservatism don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive.

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Jefferson City News Tribune. June 9, 2021.

Editorial: PDMP will be a valuable tool in the opioid fight

With the stroke of his pen Monday, Gov. Mike Parson made Missouri the last state in the nation to implement a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

With the stroke of his pen Monday, Gov. Mike Parson made Missouri the last state in the nation to implement a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

Rather than chide public officials over the length of time it took to get this done, we instead commend them. Supporters of the measure fought long and hard to get it passed.

Sen. Holly Rehder, R-Scott City, has sponsored the bill in the Senate for the past nine years. It’s always had a good amount of support, but until this year, not enough.

We understand some members of the Legislature and the public were against the program. Many of the opponents have cited concerns over the privacy of patient information.

The bill, which becomes law Aug. 28, will require a task force to select a vendor to operate a prescription drug monitoring program for schedule 2, 3 and 4 controlled substances in the state.

As we have reported, the vendor will be responsible for patient dispensation information collection and maintenance, and will be required to operate under rules and regulations created by the oversight task force. The vendor can maintain patient information for up to three years.

Patient dispensation information collected by the vendor can be accessed statewide by prescribers, dispensers and other health care providers, and is protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

We get the privacy concerns of opponents. We’re not fans of government intervening in our lives any more than needed. But we believe the benefit of being able to put a stop to practices such as doctor shopping more than outweighs any potential downsides.

Parson, as we have reported, said the legislation was long overdue.

“This is just another tool that we’re going to be able to use to help us fight when it comes to opioids, when it comes to the law enforcement community, when it comes to the medical community, and how we do that better,” the governor said.

Our state has suffered greatly from opioid abuse, and we believe this program will be a valuable tool to combat such abuse in the future.

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