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Posts Tagged ‘Missouri’

Same thoughts on Sam-Sex Marriage

I just got off the phone with a morning show here in town. I called into the host to make sure he knew about this morning’s Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. Essentially the court said it would not rule on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.  The ruling doesn’t nationalize it. And it doesn’t signal it will be up to each state to decide what it wants. What it does is allow same-sex couples to marry in states with appeals pending in front of the Supreme Court.  And, according to Anthony Rothert of the ACLU-MO, “it means the decision is binding for for all states within those circuits, so marriage should come very soon to North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming.” Rothert also says the ruling may lead to a decrease in states appealing directly to the Supreme Court because they can see the tide of rulings towards same-sex marriage.

Just Friday, the courts here in Missouri ruled in favor of recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples who were legally wed in other states, where gay marriage is legal.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling was like a stone skipping in water. Its tone was quiet but its effect is anything but. Within minutes, the number of states where same-sex marriage will be allowed has jumped from 17 to 30.

The question is, “What’s next?” Will we see an amendment to overturn the State’s ban on gay marriage? And if so, how will it affect the elections overall? Here in Missouri, our Attorney General (who is running for Governor) is charged with defending the law on the books. It is his job. To his credit, he has said he is in favor of same-sex unions personally. And today, the ACLU announced that Attorney General Chris Koster has indicated to them he won’t challenge SCOTUS’ ruling.

The Republican players have taken a different tack. By not talking about same-sex marriage, some may be hoping to usher in a new day in politics, where voters can agree to disagree on social issues.

Asked about a ballot initiative or amendment, Rothert says, “The better course would be to get the anti-gay amendment off the books. Gay men and lesbians do not want gay marriage – they just want marriage, the same marriage that straight couples enjoy.”

This was the crux of my conversation on the radio this morning. Will Missouri step up to reverse course on a decision it made ten years ago to declare marriage for straight men and women only?  “Somebody’s going to do it,” I said. McGraw said, “Maybe you?” I said, “Well, no one has asked me.”

The most likely advocate, Democrat Jolie Justus, the only openly gay State Senator just retired because of term limits.

Why would someone ask someone like me if I am going to get involved? I’m a heterosexual single Mom with two teenagers, two dogs and a cat and a house that is always just beyond the reach of being well maintained. I had to ask myself, “Should I get involved?” A lot of people will be doing the same thing when the issue comes up, as I have no doubt it will. A core question is why is this important to the mainstream Missourian? For me, the answers are clear.

The truth is same sex couples will find each other, live together and raise families whether there is a ban on gay marriage or not. Can Missouri continue to be a state that allows shame to remain on its books? Do we want to be a state that dials down diversity? Can we recognize that stabilizing relationships creates stable neighborhoods and communities?

I have been blogging for years about the fact that the Republican Party needed to ease up on social issues. I am in favor of gay marriage and the Non-Discrimination Employment Act. To me it shouldn’t be hard to reconcile those views with being pro-business. Being tolerant is good business.

I can’t remember who I said it to but when I first got involved in politics, I remember saying a lot of people in my generation would like to vote Republican but feel pushed out of the tent over same-sex marriage. Shortly later, I applauded when George Bush’s daughter told the New York Times, “I am Barbara Bush, and I am a New Yorker for marriage equality. New York is about fairness and equality. And everyone should have the right to marry the person that they love.”

My response today? “Same.” Same thoughts on same-sex, that is. What a compliment to be asked whether I would stand up for an issue that is sweeping this country because of what it says about our values as a tolerant society.

 

 

Cutting Carbon Emissions: Creating or Killing Jobs?

By MARIA ALTMAN

The Environment Protection Agency’s proposed regulations on carbon emissions released earlier this month are sparking debate on whether the rule changes will create jobs or kill jobs.

Credit (Veronique LaCapra/St. Louis Public Radio)
The new rules seek to reduce American’s carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. States have until June 30, 2016 to draft plans for how to reduce their average emissions.

In Missouri, more than 79 percent of the state’s electricity was generated by burning coal in 2012. The EPA is proposing a 21 percent drop in carbon dioxide emissions in Missouri. This means lowering the emissions from 1,963 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour to 1,544 pounds per megawatt hour in 2030.

There are conflicting opinions on what these changes mean for jobs and the economy.

The Natural Resources Defense Council estimated that it will mean 3,900 new jobs in Missouri, mostly focused on energy efficiency by 2020. In a fact sheet, the NRDC spells out how the focus on energy efficiency will require expertise in a wide range of fields:

“There will be greater demand for electricians, heating/air-conditioning installers, carpenters, construction equipment operators, roofers, insulation workers, industrial truck drivers, construction managers, and building inspectors.”
Credit (NRDC)
Nationwide, the NRDC put the number of new jobs at 250,000 –jobs created as a result of stimulated growth in the energy efficiency industry.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce disputes those numbers. Instead it estimated an average of 220,000 fewer jobs annually through 2030. The senior director of communications for the Chamber’s Energy Institute, Matt Letourneau, said huge amounts of money will be tied up in revamping the electric grid.

“That means there’s a lot of capital, and a lot of man hours and manpower that are going to get tied up by rebuilding what you already have,” he said. “That’s investment that could have gone elsewhere, could have gone into other industries that are actually growing the economy.”
Credit (U.S. Chamber of Commerce)
In its report, the Chamber broke the numbers down by region, estimating about 27,000 fewer jobs each year in the upper Midwest, a region that includes Missouri.

All of this remains theoretical, however. The EPA is seeking public comments for several months on the draft proposal and will not finalize the rules for another year. Meanwhile, several states have threatened lawsuits or noncompliance if the rules move forward.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

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We need a Choice, not an Echo

The title for this post is the title of a book conservative author and media personality, Phyllis Schlafly, self published in her battle over the Equal Rights Amendment. Back then, she was worried that government regulation would rob women of their choice to stay home as housewives and mothers. It is an equally forceful title today. But one that has taken on new meaning. 

I just got back from Lincoln Days, the Republican Party’s convention here in Missouri. And one of the more memorable moments for me this weekend was when a woman raised her hand and said, “Republicans need to be proud to be Republicans again.” “Like Phyllis Schlafly said, we need a choice, not an echo.” The guest speaker at this luncheon was Sharon Day, who is co-chair of the Republican National Party. She talked at length about what the party is doing to recruit candidates and to open up the Party to women and minorities. Seated just down the dais from her was the Hon. Catherine Hanaway, a former U.S. Attorney and the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House. If elected, she will be Missouri’s first female Governor.

It’s shaping up to be an interesting battle. Her likely opponent is a Democrat who used to be a Republican. He left over the party’s litmus tests and hard lines. Hanaway has opened up her coalition to include suburban Republicans as well as conservatives outstate.  A moderate in temperament and approach, Hanaway has consistently been a team player for the Republicans. And as a prosecutor, she has put child pornographers away and shed a spotlight on Missouri’s newest black eye, human trafficking. 

I drove down to Springfield on I-44, on a stretch of highway named after Gov. Mel Carnahan, a Democrat who died in a tragic plane crash in the midst of a heated Senate race against Republican John Ashcroft. I took note of that sign as I drove on while the audio version of the book, Faith and Politics, by retired Republican Sen. John C. Danforth, played on the cd player in my car. I was listening for inspiration because I wasn’t sure what I would find in Springfield. I tried to commit certain phrases to memory like, “faith is not politics,” and “reconciliation”.

After blogging as a relatively radical moderate Republican woman for the last two and half years, I needed to psych myself up because I wasn’t sure what kind of reception I might get or what reconciliation might look like. I needed to know it would be okay to say I am pro-choice, pro-gay and pro-stem cell in a state that saw some of its top scientists leave over laws that restricted medical research or that is currently debating whether to recognize the marriages of gay couples who were legally wed in other states. 

The wheel is just beginning to turn, even if Missouri Republicans are only in the most initial stages of change, at least in terms of their messaging. Sure, there is still the occasional recalcitrant who gets up and declares the Republican Party, “The Pro-Life Party.” My goodness. But overall, if there was an echo, it is that the national GOP is in the midst of some earnest, and some might say overdue, self-improvement. Yes, there are many women who are pro-life in that party, including Hanaway. But, there seems to be a growing acknowledgement that it may be time to acknowledge there are lots of other kinds of Republicans out there. Continuing to draw battle lines over women’s issues is just slowing the party down from its’ other work.

Voters will have a choice that they haven’t had in the past. Do they take the long view and get on board with the party that shut down the federal government over its’ opposition to Obamacare? Do they help usher in more female candidates and hope that these women can be more willing and flexible negotiators in reconciling the thorniest issues of our day? Will Republicans on the fringes put their differences aside over single issues, especially social issues, so they can focus on job creation?  If there was a message echoing from Springfield this weeked, it is that the Missouri Republicans have realized choosing to be more inclusive is the right choice. 

The Wake Up Call on Obamacare

According to Kaiser, health care spending continues to be lower than it has been in years. The question is why? Maybe it’s because in a tight economy, Americans hold fast to their dollars, including their healthcare dollars. But maybe it is the sense that Americans may be shouldering more of the cost of their own healthcare. And maybe all the discussion around Obamacare has actually led to some awareness and belt tightening before the program even kicks in. That is interesting to me. Maybe there was a lot of waste in the system that is being whittled down in anticipation of lower compensation. Maybe it was time for Americans to take on more responsibility for their health and wellness. Either way, the reformers have to feel buoyed by the knowledge that spending is heading in the right direction. For the moment, that is. Here is a link to a series of articles from the New York Times to Politico.com that offer different thoughts on the subject. http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/daily-reports/2013/may/07/health-cost-studies.aspx

There is a lot of other information worth noting that may be getting lost in the headlines and general noise around who is to blame. One report I just read says that, according to McKinsey and Company, private employers could dump up to 30% of insured employees as the cost of providing coverage rises. So, the idea that getting a job is the quick fix for getting health insurance benefits is no longer necessarily true. 

And what about those State Exchanges? The most closely watched states New Jersey and Florida hemmed and hawed but ultimately, like Missouri, they decided to join the 27 states that think it is best to let the Feds run the show or at least, provide the dollars it will cost to. So much for my hope that states could join together to create bigger purchasing pools that lower costs while providing access. According to Kaiser, “17 Declared State-based Exchange; 7 Planning for PartnershipExchange; 27 Default to Federal Exchange.”

I also think it’s interesting that the employer mandate has been delayed by a year. That eases the pressure for businesses with 50 or more employees who will now have until 2015 to provide coverage or face penalties. The Republicans are saying Obamacare should have been repealed outright and that its delay is an indication of how misguided it was for the Feds to get into the healthcare business. The Democrats are blaming the Republicans and saying that if they had just freed up more money to educate the states on implementation, there wouldn’t be any delays to begin with.  

Personally, I’m back to where I began years ago, when I wasn’t reporting or working in politics, which is why couldn’t we just figure out a way to insure the uninsured and leave what was working well enough alone? Consider this article from Sarah Skiff of the Washington Post, who writes, that even with Obamacare, 30 million Americans will be left uninsured. 

Obamacare leaves millions uninsured. Here’s who they are.

By Sarah Kliff, Published: June 7, 2013 at 1:42 pmE-mail the writer

Welcome to Health Reform Watch, Sarah Kliff’s regular look at how the Affordable Care Act is changing the American health-care system — and being changed by it. You can reach Sarah with questions, comments and suggestions here. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon for the latest edition, and read previous columns here.

When we talk about the Affordable Care Act, we mostly focus on the millions of Americans who will gain health insurance coverage. We talk less about the millions who will remain uninsured.

And there are a lot of them: 30 million Americans will not have coverage under Obamacare, according to a new analysis in the journal Health Affairs. 

“Even if the law were fully implemented, there would have been 26 million uninsured people,” co-author Steffie Woolhandler said in an interview Thursday. “This isn’t just about the Medicaid expansion. This is the system as originally designed.”

Thirty million is a lot smaller than the 48.6 million Americans who lack insurance coverage right now. It’s also, as Woolhandler points out, not exactly breaking news: The Congressional Budget Office estimated over a year ago that between 26 million and 27 million Americans would not have insurance under the expansion.

 

 

The Next Frontier in Gun Control is Mental Health

Moms are very resilient. And that’s a good thing given the huge whiff of air being let out of the balloon around gun control. It isn’t just President Barack Obama feeling like he got sucker punched by the U.S. Senate’s vote to consider expanded background checks. Which, according to this article in the New York Times, was just a gesture to begin with.  Click here for the full article http://nyti.ms/13jPSCx. It’s the general sense that something needed to happen but didn’t.  A sense that Moms were fed up and ready to engage to keep their kids safe. And who can blame them for feeling defeated when close to 90% of Americans support expanded background checks for gun shows and online sales and yet, at the end of the day, special interests and lobbyists held more sway than they did. Not even Gabbie Giffords, a gun owner, a second amendment advocate, a public servant who was shot in the head by a deranged voter, could sway the conversation. 

But I would like to say to all of you resilient Moms out there, don’t give up just yet. There is an effort underway that was crafted by a Republican and a Democrat working together. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan are pushing for better intervention for the mentally ill as a way to curb school shootings and other senseless gun slayings. The two have been looking into access and funding with an eye to identifying the shooters before they explode. The lone wolf who is in pain and whose actions seem to be the result of some sick and twisted – and tragically delayed – cry for help. Their ideas are not without controversy. A sure sticking point will be how to protect patient privacy laws around mental health while identifying and intervening to help the Adam Lanzas and James Holmes’ before they strike.  

Here’s an article worth reading, http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/293941-stabenow-urges-colleagues-to-support-mental-health-amendment

Also worth looking at today are both the President and Sen. Blunt’s recent press announces on gun reform. 

President Obama calls defeat on background checks shameful 

Sen. Blunt pushes better mental health intervention 

 

 

It's Muddy in the Middle! / Christine Doyle

It’s Muddy in the Middle! / Christine Doyle

Moderate Moms’ business cards are purple which is the color of compromise. Neither all Blue nor all Red, the message is we are defining ourselves as true Moderates. Yes, each of us may tend to vote mostly Republican or mostly Democrat but even that is up for grabs. Over the last year, here in Missouri, moderate Republicans, like myself, often felt like we embraced our party but our party didn’t acknowledge us. I was repeatedly told I was either a “self-hating Democrat” or an “Independent.” During a phone survey, I was asked if I identify as a Republican, a Democrat or an Independent. I said, “Republican” but I realized after I hung up, I should have said, “Independent Republican.”

If you are someone who cares about the bottom line and is concerned about how we are going to pay for government services going forward, we like you. Because all of the compassion in the world doesn’t matter if we can’t figure out how to pay for it. If you are someone who is tired of the fight around social issues and would like to “agree to disagree” on abortion, we like you. Personally, I agree with Massachusetts Republican Senatorial Candidate Scott Brown who said, “abortion should be safe and rare.”  But, I would never presume to tell someone else what would be right for them on as delicate an issue as abortion.

We applaud that Congressional Republicans are coming around or shall we say, “coming out,” on gay rights. Because, just like abortion, no one is telling you you have to be gay or have an abortion just because you can tolerate someone else’s right to do so.

I read recently that it is impossible to hold to two opposing thoughts. Says who? Why can’t it be okay to have federal standards but local control of our schools, to be pro-choice but respectful of people’s individual religious beliefs, to agree states have the right to opt out of medicaid expansion if the money isn’t there and to provide business with the incentives to fill in the gap by creating bigger pools with greater purchasing power.  While at the same time saying we cannot be a country that turns its back on its sickest citizens by denying them access because of pre-existing conditions. Why can’t you agree Planned Parenthood plays an important role in educating inner-city teens about safe sex without worrying you will be labeled pro-abortion. You can’t because you’ve been told you can’t by Congress and the media. But if ModerateMoms plays one important role, it is to say, you can. We can give the politicians political cover until it is safe for them to say what they really think.

We are also debunking the myth of what Republicans and Democrats can and cannot talk about. Moderate Republicans can talk about guns. But, in a way that leaves both pro-gun and anti-gun reform groups feeling safe. It sounds really touchy-feely but the truth with guns is that it isn’t the gun itself but the feeling attached to it that can be so dangerous. A socially marginalized troubled youth feels powerful when he opens fire in a movie theatre. A law abiding citizen feels safe when he keeps a gun in his house to protect his family. A gang member feels he has to shoot or be shot. A recreational hunter feels relaxed when he spends a day shooting duck. School shootings, rapid fire magazines and assault weapons make many Moms feel very unsafe. But so does the idea of a one Connecticut paper wanting to publish the addresses of the homeowners who own guns after Sandy Hook. What?

I really believe the only path to progress for our country is going to be to let people decide what works for them, whether that is a town, a county or a state. And for us to acknowledge that the recovery is going to come by rebuilding our local economies. It’s important, too, that we start to be able to work with the other side. A Democrat asked me the other day who a moderate Republican’s opposition is and my initial response was, “The Tea Party.” But the truth is the Tea Party deserves a lot of credit for bringing the current embrace of fiscal reform to light. Democrats are rightly suspicious of the far Right and view the Republicans’ attempt to be more inclusive of minorities with great suspicion. But that isn’t really fair either. While moderate Republicans like me really like how inclusive of gays and minorities the Democrats are, I don’t like the suspicion with which all Republicans are viewed.

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