Recent Missouri editorials



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The Joplin Globe, July 22

Missouri, the lone holdout:

Missouri continues to be the only state in the United States that won't allow a prescription drug database to be established.

Since it is the method by which all the other states in America identify the people who fraudulently obtain painkillers and the pill-mill doctors who prescribe them, we can't figure out why the state doesn't employ such a database.

The New York Times, in a front-page story Sunday, raises the issue. It reports that Missouri has been urged to put the database into effect. Missouri medical associations, members of Congress from neighboring states, the White House and even Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, a St. Louis manufacturer of the prescription painkiller oxycodone, are all behind the measure.

The opposition to the database comes from a small group of Missouri lawmakers who say it would violate personal privacy. Republican Sen. Rob Schaaf, a St. Joseph family physician, kept a 2012 version of the bill from passing.

Meanwhile, the Times reported, new data suggest that Missouri has become targeted by out-of-state drug seekers and sellers: "A report by ExpressScripts, which processes prescriptions for 90 million Americans, found that residents of its eight neighboring states travel into Missouri to fill their prescriptions much more often than Missourians fill theirs elsewhere — possibly indicating a desire to avoid those states' drug monitoring programs."

We know that prescription painkillers have become the new drug of choice, especially among teens and young adults. Law enforcement officers are frustrated by Missouri's refusal to combat the abuse of drugs such as Xanax, Valium and hydrocodone.

We think there are lots of good reasons to travel to Missouri, but the ability to go to a pharmacy, use fraud in order to get a prescription filled and cross state lines to sell the pills is not our idea of tourism.

Legislators, in the 2015 session, need to stop letting a handful of holdouts dictate Missouri's ability to fight drug abuse.


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 21

Timing of campaign checks trips up Missouri GOP:

When it comes to denying that ill-timed campaign checks influence public policy, Missouri Republicans are having a hard time keeping their stories straight.

Last weekend, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported on such a check.

On the day before his House committee voted to exempt e-cigarettes from most tobacco regulation (and taxes), state Rep. Caleb Jones, R-California, received a $2,500 campaign donation from tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, the Tribune reported.

Gov. Jay Nixon has since vetoed the legislation.

What caught our attention was Mr. Jones' explanation that the check had nothing to do with his vote.

The check was written on April 23, and that's the date that shows up on his Missouri Ethics Commission report. But the date that matters, Mr. Jones told the Tribune, was when he deposited the check. During the legislative session, he says, he rarely checks the post office box of his campaign. So, Mr. Jones says, he didn't even know the check was there until long after the vote. He deposited the check on May 23, a couple of weeks after the session ended.

What is most interesting about that explanation is that it's the exact opposite one other Republicans gave us when we noted a different ill-timed check from lobbyist Steve Tilley to the House Republican Campaign Committee. That check, for $10,000, came the day after Mr. Tilley signed up Tesla Motors as a client. By a couple of days after the check was deposited, anti-Tesla legislation had died an auspicious death.

At the time, Mr. Tilley, House Majority Floor Leader John Diehl, R-Town and Country, and other Republicans in charge of the HRCC told us that what mattered wasn't when the check was deposited, but when it was written. The check, they said, was written before Mr. Tilley was working for Tesla.

To recap: If the date the check is written makes you look bad, wait to deposit it and use that date. If the deposit date makes you look bad, blame it on the date the check was written.

Rinse. Repeat.

Here's what voters know: Missouri is the only state in the nation that has no limits on lobbyists' gifts and no limits on campaign donations. The companies trying to get the Legislature to bend to their will know this and are willing to write whatever size checks they need to get their way.

Lawmakers always deny the poorly timed checks have anything to do with their votes, unless, of course, it's somebody in the opposite party, in which case they're dirty as hell.

It's a silly game. Ethics legislation could take away the argument, or at least make it more difficult, by limiting the flow of money, or at least requiring more disclosure during the legislative session. The brief-lived 2010 ethics law required 48-hour notice of any donation over $500 during the session.

That would be a good place to start.


Jefferson City News-Tribune, July 18

Armed response not a job for educators:

Arming teachers to respond to deadly attacks is an unsettling concept.

Gov. Jay Nixon on Monday vetoed legislation that would permit educators who specifically are trained for armed response to carry concealed weapons.

We understand and appreciate the motivation for the legislation.

Massacres in the schools, although rare, are a grim reality. We support exploring ways to prevent violence or, failing that, to limit its scope, not only in schools, but in all venues — workplaces, movie theaters, etc. — where massacres have occurred.

Supporters of the bill contend students' lives could be saved by the more rapid response offered by trained, armed teachers.

We have no quarrel with that theory.

But theory does not necessarily translate effectively into the reality of an adrenalin-fueled, bloody gun battle.

Law enforcement officers — who serve as resource officers in many of our schools — train regularly and rigorously to assess and respond to the violent episodes. Under stressful situations, they must evaluate a range of unknowns regarding the number of assailants, the location and safety of potential victims, and the most effective way to intercede.

Teachers are trained to educate. Even if teachers have background and experience handling firearms, can and should they be placed in situations where they must make life-and-death decisions?

In his veto message, Nixon said: "I have supported and will continue to support the use of duly authorized law enforcement officers employed as school resource officers, but I cannot condone putting firearms in the hands of educators who should be focused on teaching our kids."

We agree.

In our capacity as journalists, we have interacted with countless educators over the years. We have the utmost respect for their professionalism, dedication and compassion for their students.

Their job is teaching, and teaching must not and should not place them in a position where they must ask themselves if this is the moment when they will kill another human being.


The Kansas City Star, July 16

Mark Woodworth deserves justice:

Tuesday (July 15) was a great day for Mark Woodworth, who learned that the murder charge that wrongly sent him to prison for 17 years has finally been dismissed.

The question now is who will atone for the thousands of bad days endured by Woodworth and his family in Chillicothe because of a prosecution that a judge who reviewed the case has called "a manifold injustice"?

Woodworth was a quiet 16-year-old in November 1990 when someone murdered his neighbor, Cathy Robertson, and wounded her husband with a bullet as they were sleeping. Unable to solve the crime, the Livingston County sheriff's department turned the investigation over to a private investigator hired by the Robertson family.

The investigator zeroed in on the Woodworth family. Livingston County authorities improperly gave him access to investigative files and accepted his narrative that targeted Woodworth and excluded a different suspect.

Woodworth was tried twice, in 1993 and 1991, and found guilty both times. But reviews of both trials found that prosecutors withheld evidence that could have been useful to the defense.

The prosecutor in the first case was an assistant Missouri attorney general, Kenny Hulshof, who would go on to become a U.S. congressman.

An investigation by The Star in 2011 counted 13 murder cases in which Hulshof was involved that resulted in allegations of misconduct. In six of those, courts threw out convictions or overturned death sentences.

Like Woodworth, some of those defendants served extensive time. Dale Helmig and Josh Kezer were each locked up for 15 years before their convictions were thrown out. In both cases judges harshly criticized Hulshof's conduct.

Under Missouri's weak statute granting compensation for some wrongfully convicted persons, innocence must be confirmed by DNA evidence, which doesn't apply in Woodworth's case.

His lawyer may file a civil suit on Woodworth's behalf, although Hulshof, now in private practice at Polsinelli, would have immunity for actions undertaken within his official duties as prosecutor. Others involved in the murder investigation that wrongly targeted Woodworth might have more exposure.

In the meantime, Hulshof's actions deserve scrutiny from the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, an agency of the Missouri Supreme court that investigates misconduct allegations against members of the Missouri Bar.

Hulshof's troubling prosecutions have cost Woodworth, Helmig and Kezer a total of 47 wasted years in prison, yet beyond critical news reports he has suffered no consequences. If the designated guardian of legal ethics in Missouri isn't looking into that situation, it should be.

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