Editorial Roundup: Missouri

Kansas City Star. April 20, 2022.

Editorial: Kansas, Missouri senators do nothing as veterans exposed to toxins get sick and die

One by one, U.S. military veterans walked to a podium at Kansas City’s VFW headquarters Tuesday, describing the brutal effects of exposure to toxic smoke while in the service.

Headaches. Cancers. Difficulty breathing. Broken families and lost friends. Death.

The vets have endured years of illness — and a government that too often seems indifferent to their suffering. “These veterans who are looking for care are being betrayed,” said William Wisner, who works with Burn Pits 360, an advocacy group for veterans dealing with toxic poisoning. “It’s not right,” he said.

Wisner and his colleagues are correct: For far too long, America has failed its veterans who are sick because of exposure to toxic burn pits and other harmful chemicals.

And it’s appalling that real help for these veterans is now being delayed by Republicans in the U.S. Senate, including four from our region: Sens. Roger Marshall, Jerry Moran, Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley.

All four senators happily salute veterans on holidays. But they should turn that support into action by endorsing the Honoring our PACT bill, which passed the House in March.

The PACT bill would provide a comprehensive set of services to veterans who took part in a “toxic exposure risk activity” during their service. It would also extend benefits to vets who served in a specific place during a specific time when toxic exposure was common.

The bill would provide treatment services and counseling for 3.5 million veterans suspected of exposure to toxic chemicals. It would add a “presumption of service connection” to lung illnesses connected with burn pit exposures and airborne hazards. For some veterans, it would expand eligibility timelines.

The measure would, in short, address real suffering from veterans whose lives are being destroyed because they dared to breathe during their time in uniform.

The bill would cost an estimated $20 billion annually for the next ten years. That’s a rounding error in the federal budget, and cannot be an excuse for inaction.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch. April 23, 2022.

Editorial: Even some of Eric Schmitt’s fellow Republicans have had enough of his stunts

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is finally getting some pushback from his own party for abusing the legal system in his quest for a Republican U.S. Senate nomination. Schmitt has filed dozens of frivolous lawsuits against Missouri school districts and cities over pandemic precautions in a cynical bid to appeal to the right-wing political base. This relentless hounding of Missouri taxpayers was done on the taxpayers’ dime.

Now, top Republicans in the Legislature have moved to deny a $500,000 bump to Schmitt’s budget, questioning the necessity of it for an official who, in the words of the top state Senate Republican, has used his office “for political purposes.” It’s a healthy sign for democracy when Republicans are willing to risk damaging a GOP frontrunner’s Senate campaign in order to tell him he has crossed the line.

Schmitt’s barrage of lawsuits last year challenging local mask mandates cast aside both sound medical expertise and the conservative principle of leaving local decisions to local officials. His tactics included sending threatening letters to school boards based on a misrepresentation of a court order that didn’t apply to those boards. The Atlantic was dead-on in September when it suggested in a report that Schmitt was trying to “sue his way to the U.S. Senate.”

That tax-funded effort has been accompanied by ideologically bombastic tweets and public statements from Schmitt — in his official capacity, remember — about “leftist authoritarian politicians and bureaucrats,” “elites & the ruling class” and other familiar tropes from the right-wing grievance-politics playbook.

Even some of Schmitt’s fellow Republicans have finally had enough. The state Senate Appropriations Committee last week tentatively nixed a $500,000 increase that Schmitt wants for additional attorneys — and several top Republicans linked that action directly to Schmitt’s litigation stunts.

“Would I say that probably the attorney general went a little out of his way for political purposes? Yeah, probably,” Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden told reporters. Rowden opined that school districts shared some of the blame for the conflict — an unfounded but perhaps politically necessary bit of both-siderism. But it’s difficult to overstate the significance of the top Senate Republican even suggesting that a Republican statewide elected official abused his office in that manner.

Senate Budget Committee Vice Chairman Lincoln Hough went further. “I’ve just had a lot of complaints from folks back home saying, ‘I don’t know why our attorney general is meddling in everyone else’s policies…,’” Hough said. “Generally we’re conservative Republicans, and we like smaller government.”

That last point is an important one. There’s nothing conservative about a state office holder seeking a budget hike so he can undermine local authorities, flood the legal system with divisive lawsuits and campaign on public time and resources. Republican primary voters who are considering Schmitt’s conservative credentials this fall should keep that firmly in mind.

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Jefferson City News Tribune. April 21, 2022.

Editorial: Does recreational marijuana make more sense than medical marijuana?

We’ve previously frowned on the idea of medical marijuana.

It’s a Schedule I drug that has more potential for abuse than it has value for medicine. Other medicines exist for the conditions for which it is used, and not enough research has been done on it. Plus, the largest doctors group, the American Medical Association, opposes it.

But Missouri voters felt otherwise. They legalized medical marijuana in 2018.

But should Missouri take the extra step and approve the use of recreational marijuana? The more apt question might be: How should we approve the use of recreational marijuana.

We’ve always believed the medical marijuana issue was a way for many marijuana supporters to get their foot in the door, with the ultimate goal of legalizing it in general. And that’s what’s happening. It could be approved as early as this year.

The push for legal recreational marijuana is occurring on two fronts: in the legislation and through the initiative petition process.

As we recently reported in a Missouri Independent story, Rep. Ron Hicks is sponsoring a bill to legalize possession and use of marijuana for individuals 21 and older. Its process has slowed due to a pair of amendments that have been tacked onto the bill.

Supporters of recreational marijuana are also pushing to get the issue on the statewide ballot. With a May 8 deadline to come up with the needed 170,000 signatures, they’re making a last-minute push for supporters. That includes appeals to medical marijuana businesses to donate to the cause and to lend employees to help gather signatures. The bottom line is society’s views on marijuana have changed substantially over past generations. It appears it’s just a matter of time before either lawmakers or the public “legalize it.” We don’t believe legalizing marijuana will create a better society, but we do believe in personal freedom. So does the issue of recreational marijuana rise to the level that we need government to save us from ourselves? Alcohol overdose can cause death, while marijuana overdoes typically does not. On an average year, more than 10,000 people die from drunk-driving crashes. We couldn’t find a comparable statistic for marijuana, but we suspect it’s a small fraction of that. Does it make sense for alcohol to be legal and marijuana illegal? Marijuana’s supporters cite studies showing it is not as toxic or addictive as alcohol, less harmful to the body and less likely to contribute to reckless/violent behavior.

What is your view of the issue? Let us know what you think at gtritz@newstribune.com. It can be just for us, or, if you prefer, it can run as a letter to the editor.

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