Originally posted by the Joplin Globe Editorial Board on January 9, 2019
It’s a new day in Jefferson City.
A new governor and lieutenant governor. A new attorney general. A new state treasurer. More than one-third of House and Senate members are new, including most of the delegation from Southwest Missouri. Leadership in both chambers is new.
It’s also time for some new solutions, and new directions.
Herewith, a list of do’s and don’ts for the coming session:
DO: Make Missouri roads and bridges job one. Voters have rejected a sales tax increase and then a gas tax increase, but the problem hasn’t gone away. The day after each election we still had one of the largest networks of roads and bridges of any state in the nation, with one of the lowest gas taxes to support that. It is a road to ruin. And while voters may have rejected the tax increases, that doesn’t absolve lawmakers of their responsibility to dig deeper for a solution.
DO: Address a weakness in the Missouri Sunshine Law that former Gov. Eric Greitens — in one of his few acts of public service — exposed. Greitens found a muddy area in the public records law and dove in buck naked and face first, as he and many of his staff relied on an app called Confide that destroyed records that legally belong to you and me. The app allows text messages to self-delete after being opened and read. Nor can they be saved by screenshot. Developers of the app promise that users can “communicate digitally with the same level of privacy and security as the spoken word.”
That is the opposite of open government. When it comes to public officials, public money and public business, privacy is anathema. Protect the public’s right to know and strengthen the Missouri Sunshine Law.
DO: Give Missouri a prescription drug monitoring program, an important and long-needed tool the state can use to push back against the opioid epidemic and what looks increasingly like the exploitation of weak and wounded Missourians by pharmaceutical companies.
DON’T: Open up issues on which voters have made their will clear. That includes right to work. That includes ethics reform. What lawmakers are really after is control of the redistricting process, but voters have spoken. Vox populi, vox dei.
DON’T: Make it harder or more expensive for Missourians to petition for future statutory or constitutional changes by bringing issues directly to the voters. This is a basic right, and while there may be ways to better tune the process, we worry that lawmakers want to give themselves a way to overrule or overturn the will of voters.
DON’T: Continue to use higher education funding as the state’s ATM every time Jefferson City wants or needs cash. Deferred maintenance has already swelled to $1.4 billion for Missouri colleges and universities, and as lawmakers have cut funding, parents and students have had to shoulder more and more of the cost. We think this has gone on long enough. At the very least, continue the practice of former Gov. Jay Nixon, who worked with higher education officials on agreements to maintain state funding if they would agree to hold off on tuition and fee increases.