Kansas City Star. March 13, 2023.
Editorial: Landlords sometimes need help, but Missouri needs to protect renters, too
Republicans in the Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill last week that would forbid localities from enforcing moratoriums on eviction proceedings. It’s an unnecessary sop to landlords that proves well-heeled backers are more important to the GOP than its avowed principles of limited government and local control.
Evictions are one aspect of a multifaceted housing and homelessness crisis underway in Missouri and the nation. Zero KC: A Plan for Ending Homelessness in Kansas City, a study completed last August, found that the city needs 27,563 more units that are affordable and available to low-income residents. About 1 in 5 renters pay more than they can really afford for rent. Black and Hispanic households are particularly cost burdened by high rent.
Those figures probably understate the problem. The city based its report on data up to 2020. Since then, there’s been a pandemic, economic turmoil and rampant inflation. Many renters are one unexpected medical or car repair bill away from homelessness.
State lawmakers could focus on helping those people. They could encourage construction of affordable housing, better assist low-income renters and support housing-first strategies that get people into homes and off the streets. Instead, the laws they pass are focused on ineffective camping bans and putting landlords’ minds at ease.
Last week, the Republican-controlled House passed H.B. 730 on a mostly party-line vote. If the Republican-controlled Senate also passes it and Republican Gov. Mike Parson signs it, the state would forbid localities from enforcing eviction moratoriums without legislative permission. Cities and counties could neither impose a local moratorium nor uphold a national one.
The idea that eviction moratoriums should be rare is correct. Landlords deserve an opportunity to earn a profit on their properties. It’s not their responsibility to subsidize tenants who are unable to pay the rent, who damage property or who otherwise break the terms of a lease. Eviction is the tool of last resort to remove problem tenants who refuse to leave.
But eviction also is a tool that abusive landlords use to prey on struggling tenants. Small numbers of buildings in Jackson County are responsible for a disproportionate number of eviction filings. Many of them are owned by out-of-state interests proficient in using the courts. We hope Kansas City’s new Right to Counsel program will help low-income tenants facing eviction exercise their rights.
An eviction lingers, too. Once on a renter’s record, it inhibits the ability to secure future housing at an affordable price. Many landlords understandably err on the side of caution when considering whether to risk renting to someone who was recently unable to pay the rent elsewhere.
Yet a temporary moratorium on evictions is sometimes necessary. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the national economy went into shutdown and unemployment spiked. It made sense to tap the brakes on evictions lest a wave of homelessness ensue. Jackson County and St. Louis circuit courts stopped evicting people for a few months in the spring of 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under the Trump administration followed with a national eviction moratorium that lasted a year until the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it.
That was not without headaches for landlords. Tenants continued to owe rent each month, but recouping it was not always easy. It was a hard time all around.
But the General Assembly is overreacting to local and federal responses to a pandemic the likes of which America hadn’t seen in a century. It’s not as if cities are imposing eviction moratoriums with wild abandon. The proposed ban is a solution in search of a problem and prioritizes landlords above tenants.
Republican lawmakers are ignoring the complexities of housing and homelessness. What might work in Kansas City or St. Louis might not be suitable for Benton County. Local governments that are connected to their communities are best able to decide that and to respond to a housing emergency, not state lawmakers.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch. March 11, 2023.
Editorial: A unified, moderate abortion-rights campaign is all that will work in Missouri
Missouri’s abortion-rights advocates need to get their act together. If last week’s filing of a raft of proposed constitutional amendments protecting abortion rights is any indication, they’re well on their way to losing this winnable fight.
The proposed measures to be put before voters, filed by a new political action committee called Missourians for Constitutional Freedom, include vague general statements backing abortion rights, and others that set specific parameters, which is a recipe for confusion. Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, is preemptively ruling out any proposal that allows for any governmental regulation whatsoever, which is a recipe for defeat.
Polls show that Missourians narrowly favor abortion rights within reason, which is essentially what the now-defunct Roe v. Wade provided — protecting that right until the fetus could viably live outside the womb (about 24 weeks). That’s an achievable goal for a statewide vote in Missouri, but it’s not a slam-dunk, given the lock-step unity of anti-choice forces. Pro-choice advocates won’t be able to restore women’s rights to bodily autonomy without a clear, unified and moderate campaign.
Literally minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe last year, Missouri imposed one of the most draconian abortion bans in the nation, making it illegal from the moment of conception, even in cases of rape or incest. The sole exception is for medical emergencies.
Voters in six states — including the red states of Kansas, Kentucky and Montana — have taken to the ballot to either protect abortion rights or to defeat restrictions of those rights. No state has yet voted in the other direction.
This is why it’s crucial that Missouri voters have a say via a constitutional referendum — and that the campaign is handled deftly. There are multiple hurdles ahead for the 11 measures filed last week.
First of all, there’s Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who has previously shown a willingness to thumb the scales of the ballot-initiative process to thwart abortion-rights advocates. The less focused the proposed amendment is, the more opportunities it gives Ashcroft for procedural mischief. And the 11 proposals are all over the road.
It’s unclear who is even behind Missourians for Constitutional Freedom. The treasurer listed for the newly formed political action committee didn’t return calls from multiple media outlets last week, nor from us. Planned Parenthood for the St. Louis region has said it isn’t “directly involved” in the effort, whatever that means. The advocacy group Pro-Choice Missouri is “watching this public process unfold,” it says. Not exactly a show of unity reflecting a sense of urgency.
Poll results slightly favoring reasonable abortion rights are numbers pro-choice advocates can work with. Yet Planned Parenthood released a memo last month rejecting the viability standard that existed under Roe or any other abortion restrictions, declaring: “Roe was never enough.”
Are they trying to defeat the restoration of abortion rights in Missouri? Because that’s what’s going to happen if the pro-choice movement here doesn’t get it together, and get real.
Joplin Globe. March 10, 2023.
Editorial: Missouri lawmakers should extend postpartum care
A bill to extend postpartum care for women on Medicaid is headed to the floor of the Missouri House after it was unanimously approved by a House committee; state lawmakers, including those from our area, should support and pass this measure.
Gov. Mike Parson’s administration recommends extending the Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum. Previous testimony before lawmakers estimated 4,600 women a year would be helped by the bill.
Medicaid requires states to cover pregnancy and postpartum care for women with incomes up to 196% of the poverty guideline for at least 60 days after a birth. A provision in the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in 2021 allows states to extend postpartum coverage.
A report published last August by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and compiled by the state’s Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review board assessed maternal deaths from 2017 to 2019. It found that each year an average of 61 Missouri women died while pregnant or within one year of pregnancy, putting the state’s pregnancy-related mortality ratio at 25.2 deaths per 100,000 births. Overall, 74.5% of deaths were determined to be preventable — with more than half of those deaths occurring between 43 days and one year postpartum. Our state is one of the worst in the nation for maternal deaths — and infant deaths, with 6.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births versus 5.8 on average nationally.
We can do better. This bill will help keep Missouri mothers alive.
It is well past time that our lawmakers approve the measure. The General Assembly was set to pass a broadly supported bipartisan measure to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage in the last session, but delays caused by infighting — unrelated to the bill — among GOP members of the Senate doomed the measure. This session, the Senate recently passed a version of the bill that again has the potential to doom the care for new mothers. Language added to the Senate bill in the amendment process threatens the measure’s viability by adding what opponents have called a “poison pill” to the bill. Even if lawmakers were to pass the Senate version and Parson to sign it, anti-abortion language inserted into the bill makes it unlikely to be accepted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency required to sign-off on the coverage.
The focus must remain on getting care for mothers, too many of whom are dying.
At a public hearing on the measure in January, Sam Lee, a longtime lobbyist for Campaign Life Missouri, framed the extension of postpartum Medicaid as pro-life, according to the Missouri Independent. Lee noted women seeking abortions would typically not be enrolled in Missouri Medicaid for pregnant women in the first place, and so would not qualify for the extension of coverage.
We encourage lawmakers to pass the clean House version; the lives of new mothers are on the line.