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Editorial Roundup: Missouri

April 20, 2021 GMT

Kansas City Star. April 19, 2021.

Editorial: ‘Just work and school’: Tuition hike would hurt working-class Missouri families

The Missouri House lifted tuition caps for our public universities last week, and if the Senate follows suit, college will get even less affordable for the working families that lawmakers always say they care about.

The financial hit families took due to Covid-19 already caused many to reconsider college options, making this a particularly bad time to raise tuition.

During House debate last week, Maysville Republican Rep. J. Eggleston argued that schools already have enough funding. They don’t; in fact, Missouri already ranks near the bottom in funding for higher education.

Lawmakers in the House didn’t put students first. A tuition increase takes the pressure off the legislature to provide funding and puts the onus on schools.

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Allowing tuition increases will punish students like Tamia Schiele, who is 17 and has already been accepted into her dream school, the University of Missouri. After she graduates from Raymore-Peculiar High School this spring, she plans to pursue a political science degree and hopes to attend law school after that.

She has applied for multiple scholarships, but with an older brother already at Missouri State, Tamia is aware of the financial burden her family would face if the cost of college goes up. “Instead of studying, I would have to work,” she said.

A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in the Senate’s education committee. The measure they’ll consider would allow public colleges to hike tuition rates without any of the restrictions set previously by the state.

Crippling debt and prohibitive costs for families already struggling, particularly during this pandemic, is not a winning strategy.

The Missouri Senate must do what the House failed to and consider the obligation the Legislature has to make sure all Missourians have access to higher education.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch. April 18, 2021.

Editorial: Missouri businesses should have a right to require proof of vaccination

Missouri’s ruling Republicans, who have presided over one of the country’s most dismal records in confronting the coronavirus, are now trying to prevent restaurants, nursing homes and other private businesses from requiring proof of vaccination of patrons as a condition of service. Apparently, a party that once prided itself on protecting the autonomy of private enterprise now cares only about resisting even the most sensible pandemic precautions.

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With mass vaccination efforts in full force, the issue that society will soon confront won’t be how many people have been able to get vaccinated but how many have chosen not to. Citizens certainly have the right to refuse — the Biden administration and virtually every leader who matters in either party agrees with that. In a free country, people have the right to make bad decisions for themselves.

But people also have the right to protect themselves from the bad decisions of others. Business owners are within their rights to insist that patrons prove they aren’t a health risk to employees and other customers. Whether that proof is a “vaccine passport” that patrons would display on a cellphone, or some other form of proof, the principle is based on effective disease control throughout modern history.

Most, if not all, Missouri Republicans would claim to still stand for the traditional GOP principle that government shouldn’t micromanage businesses. So how do they reconcile that with the state Senate’s passage earlier this month of a measure barring private transportation companies, including widely used car services like Uber and Lyft, from requiring proof of vaccination from customers? The House followed up last Monday with an even more expansive measure barring businesses of any kind from requiring proof of vaccination.

As they’ve been doing throughout the pandemic, the Republicans spearheading these measures are warping a medical issue with politics — and not just any politics but the extremist, anti-science brand now ascendant on the political right. The bar or sports venue that wants to ensure all its patrons are as safe as possible from the virus isn’t singling out conservatives by insisting that only those who are vaccinated come in. The fact that so many conservatives think medical common sense is a direct affront to their political movement says a lot about their political movement.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson has said he would oppose any move by government to require the use of vaccine passports. President Joe Biden agrees. Parson has also taken the reasonable (and traditionally conservative) position that if private businesses want to impose such a requirement on their own employees and patrons, that’s their right. Parson has been justifiably criticized for his hands-off approach to the pandemic, but this is one instance in which it’s the right approach. He should speak loudly on this issue, and his party should listen.

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Jefferson City News Tribune. April 18, 2021.

Editorial: State health department should be ashamed

It’s maddening when governmental agencies try to hide public information or demand a ransom to access it.

It’s maddening when governmental agencies try to hide public information or demand a ransom to access it.

When a genealogy research group asked the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services for public genealogy records, the department said it would provide the records — for nearly $1.5 million.

This is information that belongs to the public and should be accessible to the public, at a reasonable fee and with no questions asked.

So Reclaim the Records, a California-based nonprofit research group seeking the records, sued and won. Now, the state has been ordered to pay $138,000 in legal fees and expenses after an appeals court upheld a ruling that the state “knowingly and purposefully” violated the open records law.

In other words, taxpayers must open their wallets because their state government illegally tried to extort a ransom for information that belongs to them.

If you wonder why conservatives and libertarians aren’t big fans of government, here’s Exhibit No. 1.

The Associated Press reported the dispute stems from open records request in early 2016 by Reclaim the Records, whose mission is to make public records available online for genealogical and historical researchers. Reclaim the Records and its founder, Brooke Schreier Ganz, sued, claiming even a revised $5,174 fee for the records was excessive.

The AP reported Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia S. Joyce ruled Missouri had violated the Sunshine Law and ordered it to pay $12,000 in penalties plus legal fees and expenses. In upholding her decision, the appeals court found the attorneys’ fees sought by the group were not unreasonable.

The case will not only make a trove of records available to genealogy and history researchers but also will enable medical researchers, epidemiologists, journalists and others to compare death records in 2020, the year the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the United States, with those of earlier years.

Reclaim the Records makes the data available free of charge on its website.

Understandably, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, charged with defending the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, had nothing to say about the matter.

But the state health department should acknowledge to Missourians that they erred. Then they should publicly commit to adhering to the state’s Sunshine Law, which governs open meetings/records.

END