Jefferson City News Tribune, Feb. 2
Runaway amendments pose threat:
Stop the madness.
Efforts to change the Missouri Constitution — through initiative petitions and legislation — are growing exponentially.
Secretary of State Jason Kander's web site lists more than 50 initiative petitions for constitutional amendments approved for circulation in Missouri.
In some cases, multiple petitions deal with a single topic. For example, three separate petitions deal with early voting, four relate to eminent domain and more than 20 with marijuana production, sale and distribution.
Efforts to change the constitution, however, are coming not only from interest groups proposing initiatives; state lawmakers also using the legislative process to put constitutional amendments on the ballot.
Already, two proposed constitutional amendments initiated by lawmakers are scheduled to appear on the Nov 4 election ballot. One would establish a constitutional right to farm; another would allow relevant evidence of past crimes to be used as evidence in cases of sex crimes involving children under age 18.
A story in Thursday's edition detailed proposed legislation to elevate hunting and fishing to a constitutional right.
We have argued repeatedly that a constitution is a framework for government, not a document to be altered in cavalier or willy-nilly fashion.
In one of the few areas where Missouri can take a lesson from the federal government, the U.S. Constitution — including its 27 amendments — spans 16 pages in a volume issued by the Secretary of State. In the same volume, the Missouri Constitution, which amends provisions within the document, spans 125 pages.
Missouri lawmakers have no one to blame but themselves for the explosion of constitutional amendments.
Our readers may recall Proposition B, an animal welfare law approved by voters, but changed drastically by lawmakers before it became effective.
Therein lies a critical difference between state legislation and the state Constitution. The legislature has the power to make, repeal and alter laws; a vote of the people is required to change the constitution.
Consequently, legislators, interest groups and the people know the way to prevent legislative tampering is to enshrine action in the constitution.
The irony is every constitutional alteration weakens the legislative process.
Continuing on this path increasingly will transfer power from elected representatives to the people. Although this may seem like an improvement, consider the drawbacks: increased frequency of elections; repeated barrages of well-financed campaigns to sway voters; and decisions made by a minority of voters if historically low turnout persists.
If we continue on this inane path of continually amending the constitution, representative government eventually will become superfluous.
The Joplin Globe, Jan. 31
Some Missouri legislators are now calling for the return of the firing squad. Those are the kind of bills that draw attention and make our state the target of ridicule throughout the nation. They also generally are a waste of taxpayers' time.
But there is a discussion that needs to take place about the death penalty, and that's whether Missourians are OK with the secrecy that now surrounds the drug being used to carry it out.
Herbert Smulls, 56, who was convicted of murdering a St. Louis jeweler during a 1991 heist, was executed at 10:20 p.m. Wednesday in Bonne Terre, Mo., with a lethal injection. Smulls, according to The Associated Press, had been scheduled to die nearly 24 hours earlier, but the U.S. Supreme Court granted a one-day reprieve while it studied defense petitions challenging lethal injection because it relies on a loosely regulated, out-of-state compounding pharmacy for the drug it uses.
Smulls' lawyer argued that the state must disclose the name of the pharmacy so it could ensure the integrity of the drug. But Missouri keeps that a secret. Smulls' last efforts to halt the execution failed.
As pharmaceutical companies take steps to prevent the use of the products in executions, the shortage of willing drug suppliers has Missouri and other states turning to different types of drugs. Missouri is now using pentobarbital, a drug commonly used to euthanize animals. Smulls was the third Missouri death-row prisoner to be executed with the drug. Missouri buys its pentobarbital from an unnamed compounding pharmacy in Oklahoma. Oklahoma also keeps the source of its pentobarbital a secret.
Because of the secrecy and restricted public oversight, we expect every execution in the state to be challenged. It's what prompted the bill calling for firing squads.
Transparency, in our view, must be present at all levels of government, but especially when it comes to carrying out death sentences.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 2
Park Service plan to protect Ozarks Riverways is a good one:
Like so many topics in our divided nation these days, discussion of the future of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways often devolves into two extreme camps.
On one side are the environmentalists who work tirelessly to protect the nation's significant waterways. Their work is important; the Ozarks Riverways made the American Rivers list in 2011 as one of the 10 most endangered waterways in the country.
On the other side are the folks in south central Missouri who make a living off the Current and Jacks Fork rivers. They'd prefer that the National Park Service and everybody else just leave them alone.
The reality, of course, is that people in both camps recognize the gem that is the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and want to protect it for future generations. They just have different ideas about how to get there.
On Feb. 7, the public comment period ends on the park service's proposed management plan for the 134 miles of some of the most scenic and (at times) pristine stream-fed waterways in the country. There are those who make a living at treating the federal government as a bogeyman — people like Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, both Republicans — who suggest the Park Service should butt out. Never mind that the riverways wouldn't be protected at all if not for the national park status bestowed upon the area by Congress in 1964. Mr. Kinder and Mr. Smith are just trolling for votes. They can and should be ignored.
The real question for the Park Service is whether to designate most of the Ozarks Riverways as wilderness area. This would entail a nearly complete ban on access by horses and mechanized vehicles, such as ATVs and motor-boats. The other practical alternative is a more balanced approach that would permit some of the commercial activity along the rivers to continue while making serious efforts to protect the natural environment.
In the management plan, the more stringent, preferred by environmentalists, is called Alternative A. The Park Service prefers the latter approach, called Alternative B.
So do we. Doing nothing is not an option. Doing too much would create political conflict that could backfire.
Since the mid-1960s, commercial access to the Current and Jacks has exploded. That has been good for the local economy, but the benefits will disappear if this unique national treasure continues to be degraded.
There's no doubt that most of the commercial operators and residents along the rivers do the best they can to take care of the natural resource. The rivers are as much a part of their heritage as the air they breathe. But with more than 1 million visitors per year, many of them with less respect for the rivers than the locals, the damage is being done and has been well documented.
The Park Service would be negligent to do nothing and let Visigoth visitors trash the park.
Alternative B, while closing some access points to the river, and reducing the amount of use that is allowed in some areas by motorized commercial vehicles and horses, also would add new trails and nature centers to enhance the visitor experience.
It is a carefully thought-out plan that has undergone tremendous public scrutiny over the past couple of years. It makes allowances for local businesses even as it does what the Park Service must do: Protect a national treasure.
Those political conservatives who fear regulation would be wise to talk to some of their like-minded brethren in southwest Missouri. There, in Branson and Springfield, a bastion of red-state Missouri, business leaders decided long ago that if the natural beauty that defines the area was not protected, their livelihoods would cease to exist. They created the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks and made improving water quality an important community value.
The debate over the Ozark Scenic National Riverways is bigger than this. The area is home to at least 200 unique species not found anywhere else in the world. It is a resource that is bigger than south-central Missouri. As a matter of public policy, that resource belongs to every American.
Some of them, including visitors from St. Louis, must do a better job of respecting the park when they visit for float trips. Unfortunately, we need the Park Service's help to do the right thing.
Adopting Alternative B as a long-term management plan will protect the Current and Jacks Fork rivers while preserving economic opportunities for the people who make a living in that area. The Park Service should move forward with its favored management plan.
The Kansas City Star, Jan. 30
Keep up momentum on GOP pitch for 2016 convention:
Kansas Citians eager to land the 2016 Republican National Convention are pulling out all stops to win that intense competition.
They should. The gathering would attract thousands of visitors and reap millions of tourist dollars.
On Jan. 29 a pro-Kansas City group sent out this social media message: "KC hosted the 1928 GOP Convention. Herbert Hoover was nominated and went on to win the Presidential election."
Indeed, Hoover remains the only person elected president from the three national conventions ever held in Kansas City.
Then again, the stock market did crash in 1929, and the Great Depression began during Hoover's lone term. Perhaps reminding Republicans of the 1928 convention isn't such a good idea.
But enough history. What about now?
In a solid move, organizers have put longtime Leawood, Kan., Mayor Peggy Dunn and husband Terry Dunn, former CEO of J.E. Dunn Construction Co., in charge of raising $50 million or more from the private sector to help finance the 2016 bid.
Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver and Columbus, Ohio — along with Kansas City — are considered frontrunners. At a recent meeting with GOP officials, Kansas City leaders touted the region's credentials as a friendly place, convenient to get to from any part of the country.
In recent weeks, some people have raised objections to wooing the GOP here, saying its social and economic policies have damaged America.
As sometime critics of Republican policies, we understand the point.
Then again, voters in the Kansas City region are quite well balanced between Republicans and Democrats.
And when it comes to wooing conventions, city officials should not apply a litmus test to their efforts except in the most egregious cases. This isn't one of them.
Kansas City has made much progress in the last decade reviving downtown and enhancing its many regional amenities.
We hope the Republicans get a chance to see and enjoy all the improvements — while leaving behind lots of economic "stimulus" at our hotels, restaurants, casinos and shopping areas.