Editorial Roundup: Missouri

Kansas City Star. May 25, 2022.

Editorial: Texas to Kansas to Missouri, ‘pro-life’ politicians do nothing as gun violence rages

The mind reels, words falter, anger rises, and nothing is done. Nothing. Nothing. American children are dead, and still nothing.

This time, it’s Texas — an elementary school. Kids. At least 19 children dead, not counting the killer. Two adults as well.

Ten days ago it was a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. Before that, a church. At other times, a concert, a nightclub, a shopping mall, a movie theater, a high school, a workplace, a military base, a baseball diamond, a home. Still, nothing.

“What are we doing? Why are we here?” Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy asked Tuesday evening. “This only happens in this country and nowhere else. Nowhere else do little kids go to school thinking that they might be shot that day.”

To which we must answer Sen. Murphy, in words appalling and shameful: We are doing nothing.

Nearly 10 years ago, a gunman killed 20 kids at Sandy Hook Elementary school, and six adults. Surely, most Americans thought, the nation’s political community would come together and do something to prevent a similar slaughter, in another place, at another time.

Those Americans were wrong. Congress, and state legislators, were unmoved by the thought of dead children in Newtown, Connecticut. Somehow, the promise of guns at any time, for any reason, in any place, proved more important.

And so they acted. In Missouri, legislators have declared all federal gun regulations null and void. The state said it would prosecute law enforcement officers who took steps to reduce the carnage, even as the blood flowed in the state’s two biggest cities.

Kansas passed its own Second Amendment Protection Act. It does not have a Second Grader Protection Act.

Americans know some gun regulations work. Universal background checks, and a ban on the sale and manufacture of some multi-round weapons, would not prevent every mass shooting, but they might prevent one. Just one. Or save one life.

This is a pro-life position you will not hear from pro-life politicians.

It’s also constitutional, no matter what the gun lobby tells you. “The right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” conservative Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia wrote in 2008. “The right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

That is not what lawmakers believe. It is not how they have acted. Their enthusiasm for expanding weapons ownership, no matter the cost, has aided and abetted the slaughter of innocents, including children in Connecticut, Florida and now Texas.

The Second Amendment, it seems, is absolute. If school children must die to protect it, so be it.

We all know what comes next. Gun fetishists will accuse Americans of “politicizing” a tragedy. Now isn’t the time to talk about this, we’ll hear. It’s reckless. Provocative. Unconstitutional.

Americans of good faith — those tired of fearing for their lives, and their kids’ lives — will reject this nonsense. America does not have to be the only place where children are cut down in cold blood. Americans must demand accountability and gun reform, and toss out politicians who pay lip service to the dead, but make more bloodshed inevitable.

Sen. Roy Blunt has taken $4.5 million from the National Rifle Association and related entities, according to the nonprofit Brady Campaign. Sen. Josh Hawley: $1.4 million. More than 1,000 people die from gun violence in Missouri, every year.

Sen. Roger Marshall got an A+ rating from the NRA, and bragged about it.

And kids are murdered, and we do nothing.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch. May 30, 2022.

Editorial: Once again, Missouri is the worst for puppy mills. Leaders can change that.

For the 10th straight year, the Humane Society of the United States has designated Missouri the national epicenter of a puppy-mill industry that profits from inhumanity. The organization’s new annual report ranks 100 puppy-mill operations around the country that dog owners should avoid — and with 26 of them in Missouri, once again cementing the state’s leadership in this dark commerce.

Missouri’s policymakers could change that if they wanted to, erasing a stain that has marred the Show Me State for decades. It would just be a matter of standing up to big-agricultural interests that defend a status quo of cruelty. But so far, the state’s Republican and mostly rural leadership has shown more interest in playing culture-war games rather than addressing this war on puppies.

Missouri has a long, sorry history of allowing unfettered proliferation of puppy mills: large-scale operations in which dogs are bred in bleak and overcrowded conditions with a lack of adequate basic care. It’s essentially an extension of a Missouri ethos that says all aspects of agriculture — including operations that are corporate and industrial in nature — should be virtually untouchable by government regulation.

By 2010, Missouri voters had finally had enough and approved a referendum imposing tough new standards on puppy mills, including setting limits on the number of dogs and creating standards of care. The Legislature promptly came back and undid much of the reform the voters had imposed. A few years later, Missouri lawmakers pushed for and narrowly won a constitutional amendment marketed as a “right-to-farm,” but which critics say actually coddles big-agricultural interests — including puppy mills — over the benefit of family farms and smaller operations.

It was against this backdrop that the Humane Society this month released its annual “Horrible Hundred” puppy mills nationally, more than one in four of them located in Missouri. Among them is one breeder who, despite surrendering 83 dogs to the state in two years because of poor conditions, is still active.

“Missouri has always been at the heart of the puppy mill industry since the beginning,” Humane Society official John Goodwin told the Springfield News-Leader. He said it’s all tied to a belief in the agricultural community that “if we protect dogs, they’ll be required to give pigs and chickens enough room (in which to) turn around. They saw this as something that could cause other animals to be treated better, which affects the almighty dollar.”

Whether it’s that complicated, or it’s as simple as Republican state officials focusing on partisan issues to the exclusion of simple compassion, the fact remains that Missouri has established itself as a state that torments these helpless animals more than any other. Missouri’s leaders can change that by, for starters, reinstating the standards the voters set in place more than a decade ago. It’s just a question of whether they want to.

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St. Joseph News-Press. May 31, 2022.

Editorial: Let’s call it what it is

For those of us who dwell in the city, it’s easy to say, ‘bring on the wind power.’

When you’ve got 150-foot towers bringing 4,000 megawatts of electricity by your house, some reluctance is bound to bubble to the surface. You have to feel for those property owners who find themselves in the path of the Grain Belt Express transmission line.

These aren’t NIMBYs or people who automatically oppose green energy. Most of them live close to nature and have an appreciation of the land’s productive value and its inherent beauty.

But it’s their land and they should be able to decide how it’s used. If it’s needed for a public benefit like a highway or utility right of way, then they are entitled to compensation.

You could point to several benefits of Grain Belt, the 780-mile transmission project bringing wind power from Kansas to populations further east.

The customers on the receiving end get plenty of benefits. But who, exactly? Unlike something more tangible like gasoline, it’s hard to see where electricity is directed on the grid, but the fact that Grain Belt will end near Indiana suggests that many of its beneficiaries are there and not here.

Invenergy, the for-profit company building Grain Belt, could benefit nicely when it starts to sell the power.

But 570 or so landowners in north Missouri might not see it that way. They fear reduced property value and diminished quality of rural life for a project that proposed using rural Missouri as an energy superhighway from west to east.

Many of these landowners fought Grain Belt for a decade or more in county commission meetings, in front of the Missouri Public Service Commission and most recently in the Missouri Legislature.

They’ve had some victories and some setbacks, most recently the legislature’s passage of eminent domain reform that’s aimed at future projects but does little to stop Grain Belt. That was always the core goal of these landowners, but it appeared to evaporate in this year’s session.

Perhaps that’s how it goes. These landowners did see some success in their quest, not the least of which was an increase in the amount of power that’s going to be made available for Missouri, thereby making this line a little less of a pass-through phenomenon.

But what must be the most difficult pill to swallow is the legislators’ statements that House Bill 2005, which reforms eminent domain law for future transmission projects, represents one of the success stories of the 2020 session.

Lawmakers should be willing to call it what it is. Perhaps not a sellout, but a difficult compromise that comes at the expense of those landowners who are most affected and led this fight.

END