Missouri Nondiscrimination Act is introduced in the House & Senate for the 19th year in a row

For the 19th year in a row the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA) has been filed in the Missouri House and Senate. This legislation was first introduced by Steve McLuckie in 1998.

MONA would add sexual orientation and gender identity to Missouri’s Human Rights Act, which currently prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations for other protected categories, including race, sex, and national origin.

The two sponsors of MONA in the House are both openly gay. HB 485 is sponsored by Rep. Randy D. Dunn, and HB 846 is sponsored by Rep. Greg Razer.

“Discrimination based upon someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is morally wrong. Regardless of one’s beliefs no one should be evicted or fired for who they are or who they love,” concluded Rep. Randy D. Dunn.

There are over 1,200 businesses, including multiple Fortune 500 companies, in Missouri that continue to strongly urge the Missouri Legislature to pass the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act.

“This issue isn’t Democratic or Republican – this issue is about fairness. Today, in 2017, right here in Missouri, it is still perfectly legal to fire someone from their job or kick them out of their home simply because they are LGBT. I feel confident that the vast majority of Missourians think that’s simply wrong,” Representative Greg Razer said. “If someone puts in an honest day’s work, they deserve to keep their job and pay their bills, regardless of the color of their skin, gender, religion, or who they love. That’s just common decency – and after 19 years of trying, it’s time to get this bill passed.”

Excerpted from The Missouri Times 2/14/17)

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Trump’s Radical Anti-Americanism

“Dissent is not courageous or exceptional. It is normal—it’s Madisonian, it’s Hamiltonian. It’s what we’re supposed to do.”
– from Adam Gopnik’s brilliant lead Talk Of The Town piece in this week’s The New Yorker Magazine

…what perhaps no one could have entirely predicted was the special cocktail of oafish incompetence and radical anti-Americanism that President Trump’s Administration has brought. This combination has produced a new note in our public life: chaotic cruelty.
As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 51, the guarantee of religious liberty lies in having many kinds of faiths, and the guarantee of civil liberty lies in having many kinds of people—in establishing a “multiplicity of interests” to go along with a “multiplicity of sects.” … “Even the stronger individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves.”
– snip –
Opposing bad governments with loud speech, unashamed argument, and public demonstration is not the part that’s off the normal grid: it’s the pro-American part, exactly what the Constitution foresees and protects. Dissent is not courageous or exceptional. It is normal—it’s Madisonian, it’s Hamiltonian. It’s what we’re supposed to do.

Adam Gopnik, a staff writer, has been contributing to The New Yorker since 1986.
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Lawmakers put prevailing wage in crosshairs; laborers object

Missouri’s prevailing wage law may not prevail much longer.

The Republican-dominated Legislature has set its sights on repealing or revising the state law.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens called for the law’s repeal in his State of the State speech because it “drives up the cost of important construction work that needs to get done.”

The law requires contractors to pay a state-determined minimum wage for each construction trade on public-works projects.

Minimum-wage rates are calculated by the Missouri Department of Labor on the basis of an annual survey of wage rates. The amount varies by county and occupation.

Democrats and labor union leaders argue repealing the law would decrease worker wages and ultimately lead to less tax revenue.

They also argue it would result in nonunion out-of-state workers taking jobs away from local laborers.

In addition, opponents say construction jobs would be populated with less-experienced workers who are at greater risk of injuries and projects would not be completed on time.

(Excerpted from Southeast Missourian 2/13/17)

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Missouri Republicans’ push to limit lawsuits could have unexpected beneficiaries: themselves

Missouri state Sen. Gary Romine, sponsor of a bill that seeks to make it harder to sue businesses for racial discrimination, says the measure will improve “Missouri’s legal climate.”

It also could improve Romine’s personal legal climate, making it less likely that his “rent-to-own” furniture business will face any more racial discrimination lawsuits like the one it has been embroiled in for almost two years.

Romine, R-Farmington, isn’t the only lawmaker in Jefferson City who is trying to change the law to protect businesses from lawsuits in ways that could theoretically protect his own bottom line as well.

Another Republican senator, who is a veterinarian, is sponsoring legislation to put new limits on malpractice suits against veterinarians. And the Senate’s top Republican is trying to change a state consumer-protection law that is currently being used to sue one of his biggest campaign contributors.

And the appearance of conflict of interest in at least some of the bills is “absolutely concerning,” says Jay Benson, president of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, a group that frequently donates to and supports Democrats.

“This is all being presented with the suggestion that our tort system is bad for business. It’s not bad for business; it’s bad for bad business,” said Benson, who calls the proliferation of such bills “an epidemic.” “The civil justice system is designed to hold people accountable when they do bad things.”

(Excerpted from St. Louis Post Dispatch 2/13/17)

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The Future of Missouri Medicaid

Among President Trump’s first official acts after taking oath of office was signing an executive order regarding the Affordable Care Act, signaling that the fight over the health care law had begun in earnest. As our elected federal officials take on this difficult task, they will propose fundamental changes in the nation’s financing of health care for low-and moderate-income Americans. There remain many unknowns, but there is a real possibility that Medicaid, one of our country’s most important health social safety nets, will change in ways that leave vulnerable citizens in a more precarious position than ever. Even Missouri, a state that has not expanded Medicaid under the ACA, is facing the potential for major health care disruption within our existing Medicaid program. It is up to our citizens, members of the media, and governmental representatives to ensure that we continue to provide health care coverage to those that need it most.

Medicaid is financed by state and federal funds and currently provides health insurance for one in seven Missourians: low-income seniors, people with disabilities, children, pregnant women, and very low-income parents. A majority of Medicaid’s dollars pay for long-term care for seniors and care for people with disabilities.

People who are eligible for Medicaid are entitled to the insurance program’s services, just as our elderly and non-elderly disabled citizens are entitled to Medicare. Medicaid is a complicated program, and it certainly has problems, but Medicaid makes people healthier, improves our economy, is less costly than private insurance, and is a crucial payer for mental health care, so it is not surprising that it’s long been supported by the public and opinion polls show that Missourians view Medicaid favorably. The ACA and Medicaid are not the same!

Perhaps more importantly, Medicaid is an embodiment of our collective obligation to provide care for those who otherwise could not afford it. It is an essential component of the social compact we share as part of a just and caring society.

(Excerpted from Missouri Foundation for Health 2/13/17)

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Ignorance Is Strength

What we’ve seen instead over the past three weeks is an awesome display of raw ignorance on every front. Worse, there’s no hint that either the White House or its allies in Congress see this as a problem. They appear to believe that expertise, or even basic familiarity with a subject, is for wimps; ignorance is strength.

We see this on legal matters: In a widely quoted analysis, the legal expert Benjamin Wittes described the infamous executive order on refugees as “malevolence tempered by incompetence,” and noted that the order reads “as if it was not reviewed by competent counsel at all” — which is a good way to lose in court.

We see it on national security matters, where the president continues to rely on a chief adviser who, suspicious closeness to the Kremlin aside, appears to get his strategic information from right-wing conspiracy theorists.

We see it on education, where the hearings for Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, revealed her to be completely ignorant about even the most elementary issues.

We see it on diplomacy. How hard is it to ask someone from the State Department to make sure that the White House gets foreign leaders’ names right? Too hard, apparently: Before the Abe flub, the official agenda for the state visit by Theresa May, the British prime minister, repeatedly misspelledher name.

And on economics — well, there’s nobody home. The Council of Economic Advisers, which is supposed to provide technical expertise, has been demoted from cabinet rank, but that hardly matters, since nobody has been nominated to serve. Remember all that talk about a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan? If you do, please remind the White House, which hasn’t offered even a ghost of a concrete proposal.

But let me not be too hard on the Tweeter-in-chief: disdain for expertise is general in his party. For example, the most influential Republican economists aren’t serious academics with a conservative bent, of whom there are many; they’re known hacks who literally can’t get a number right.

Or consider the current G.O.P. panic over health care. Many in the party seem shocked to learn that repealing any major part of Obamacare will cause tens of millions to lose insurance. Anyone who studied the issue could have told them years ago how the pieces of health reform fit together, and why. In fact, many of us did, repeatedly. But competent analysis wasn’t wanted.

At this point, someone is bound to say, “If they’re so dumb, how come they won?” Part of the answer is that disdain for experts — sorry, “so-called” experts — resonates with an important part of the electorate. Bigotry wasn’t the only dark force at work in the election; so was anti-intellectualism, hostility toward “elites” who claim that opinions should be based on careful study and thought.

Also, campaigning is very different from governing. This is especially true when the news media spend far more time obsessing over your opponent’spseudo-scandals than they do on all actual policy issues combined.

(Excerpted from Krugman New York Times 2/13/17)

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Not just ‘bad hombres’: Trump is targeting up to 8 million people for deportation

When President Trump ordered a vast overhaul of immigration law enforcement during his first week in office, he stripped away most restrictions on who should be deported, opening the door for roundups and detentions on a scale not seen in nearly a decade.

Up to 8 million people in the country illegally could be considered priorities for deportation, according to calculations by the Los Angeles Times. They were based on interviews with experts who studied the order and two internal documents that signal immigration officials are taking an expansive view of Trump’s directive.

Far from targeting only “bad hombres,” as Trump has said repeatedly, his new order allows immigration agents to detain nearly anyone they come in contact with who has crossed the border illegally. People could be booked into custody for using food stamps or if their child receives free school lunches.

The deportation targets are a much larger group than those swept up in the travel bans that sowed chaos at airports and seized public attention over the past week. Fewer than 1 million people came to the U.S. over the past decade from the seven countries from which most visitors are temporarily blocked.

Deportations of this scale, which has not been publicly totaled before, could have widely felt consequences: Families would be separated. Businesses catering to immigrant customers may be shuttered. Crops could be left to rot, unpicked, as agricultural and other industries that rely on immigrant workforces face labor shortages. U.S. relations could be strained with countries that stand to receive an influx of deported people, particularly in Latin America. Even the Social Security system, which many immigrants working illegally pay into under fake identification numbers, would take a hit.

(Excerpted from Los Angeles Times 2/04/17)

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Sign on to demand a Town Hall with 4th Congressional Representative Vicki Hartlzer!

Sign the online Petition Form
To Representative Vicky Hartzler: We demand an open Public Forum with YOU.
After reading Rep. Hartzler’s February 6, 2017 report to President Trump, we realize that Rep. Hartzler is not hearing what we’ve been saying at her staff-sponsored listening events over the past several years. Rep. Hartzler has not attended an open public forum in the 4th District for several years. It is time she listens to our concerns which include:
• Protecting and expanding our access to affordable healthcare
• Strengthening our public school systems
• Expanding and safeguarding Social Security and Medicare
• Saving our environment from corporate polluters
• Preserving our retirement savings from Wall Street bankers
Please fill out this petition to demand that Rep. Hartzler hear our voices and concerns in person, at pre-announced and publicized open public forums, to be held throughout the 4th Congressional District.

**We will let you know when we deliver these petitions to her offices. Only your First Name and County will be used when contacting Representative Hartzler.

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It turns out Donald Trump’s ‘forgotten men and women’ aren’t who you thought

During the campaign, Donald Trump liked to brag that, unlike his rivals, he wasn’t in Wall Street’s pocket. And you can tell that by the fact that he’s stocked his cabinet with Goldman Sachs alums, has signaled that he wants to dismantle the post-crisis rules reining in banks, and will now allow brokers to go back to giving their clients deliberately bad advice.

This is Wall Street’s kind of populism.

That last part, what’s known as the fiduciary rule, was something the Obama administration only changed in the last year. Up until then, you see, it was perfectly legal for your financial adviser to give you advice that wasn’t in your best interest, but was in theirs. In other words, to push you into products that wouldn’t increase your returns, but would increase your fees. Wall Street, of course, didn’t take too kindly to a rule that the administration estimated would cost them $17 billion a year in lost revenue. They claimed that the compliance costs alone would make their advice so expensive that middle-class families would no longer be able to afford it. Or, in the case of Trump advisor Anthony Scaramucci, that this was like the 1857 Dred Scott decision—which held that black people were not citizens—since telling brokers that they couldn’t give bad advice was allegedly just a way for the government to “discriminate against a class of people who they deem to be adding no value.”

But no more. The Trump administration is going to let financial advisers go back to ripping you off. “We think it is a bad rule,” National Economic Council Director and former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn explained, because it’s “like only putting healthy food on the menu” due to the fact that “unhealthy food tastes good but you still shouldn’t eat it because you might die younger.” So, to extend that analogy, your retirement advisor is now free to tell you to eat the financial equivalent of junk food that might give you a heart attack, but will definitely give him a bigger bonus. Problem solved?

Well, only if you think the problem was that Wall Street couldn’t do business the way it did before it crashed the economy. Which, to be honest, seems like a pretty good description of the Trump administration’s thinking. It’s not just that they want to let your broker give you whatever advice is best for their own bottom line. It’s that they want to let bankers do whatever they think is best for their own bonuses, post-crisis rules be damned—or, more accurately, repealed. Trump issued an executive order, which is admittedly more a signal of intent than actual policy, that would try to change as many of the Dodd-Frank financial reform rules as they could without Congressional approval. Beyond that, Cohn said they’d look at getting rid of the rules that big banks have to plan for how they’d go through bankruptcy without a bailout, try to replace the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with someone who’d presumably be less aggressive going after predatory lending, and potentially free up non-banks like AIG, which, you might remember, played a starring role in the 2008 crisis, from the tougher oversight and capital requirements put in place in recent years.

  (Excerpted from Wonkblog Washington Post 2/03/17)

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Trump’s F.D.A. Pick Could Undo Decades of Drug Safeguards

Mr. Trump has been vetting candidates to run the agency, which regulates the safety of everything from drugs and medical devices to food and cosmetics. Among them is Jim O’Neill, a former official at the Health and Human Services Department who is an associate of the Silicon Valley billionaire and Trump supporter Peter Thiel. Mr. O’Neill has argued that companies should not have to prove that their drugs work in clinical trials before selling them to consumers.

Other candidates also have called for reducing regulatory hurdles.

If the most significant proposals are adopted — and many would require an act of Congress — they will reverse decades of policy and consumer protections dating to the 1960s. Congress toughened the drug approval process in the wake of the worldwide crisis over thalidomide, which caused severe birth defects in babies whose mothers had taken the drug inpregnancy. Since then, the F.D.A. has come to be viewed as the world’s leading watchdog for protecting the safety of food and drugs, a gold standard whose lead other countries often follow.

Mr. Trump’s most recent statements, made at a White House round-table discussion last week with leaders of the nation’s top drug companies, have reverberated throughout the medical and pharmaceutical industries. Supporters of deregulation have long wanted to reduce bureaucracy and lessen oversight of drugs and devices, while critics say the market for drugs could be destabilized and the door opened to unproven products based on junk science.

(Excerpted from New York Times 2/05/17)

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