The people of Missouri just had a very bad day. It started off with the top lobbyist for the top donor in Missouri being allowed by Republicans to speak from the dais on the Senate floor. Lobbyists getting what they wanted would be the theme of the day.
During the veto session on Wednesday, the Republicans who control our legislature went on a rampage against the people of Missouri. They made it harder to vote and easier for anyone to carry a gun anywhere, unchecked and untrained. They put industry representatives in charge of policing their own water pollution. They gave a $50 million retroactive handout to special interests without budgeting for it. They voted to fine the poorest people in the state if they use an emergency room or miss a doctor’s appointment. They spent the day celebrating their unchecked authority taunting Democrats, voters and the Governor on social media, while refusing to help any Missourians.
The voter ID bill they passed will cost the state $17 million dollars and they didn’t account for a dime of that in the budget. Seventeen million dollars that we don’t have for a problem, voter impersonation, which does not exist. It’s been 10 years now that the GOP has been pushing for this law and in that time they have yet to produce even one instance of voter impersonation. The last known case of voter impersonation in the state was in the 1930s. But photo ID hurts Democratic voters more than Republican voters, and so it passed.
The irresponsible gun bill they passed takes away any training requirements and allows anyone to carry a concealed weapon anywhere. It adds “stand your ground” language to our state so if someone “feels threatened” they can shoot another person, regardless of location or actual threat. It was opposed by groups including Moms Demand Action, The Fraternal Order of Police, and The Catholic Church. It was opposed by Sheriffs. It was opposed by prosecuting attorneys. It was opposed by 86 percent of Missourians. It was opposed by anyone with a lick of common sense. But the NRA lobbyists who own the Republican Party demanded it and so it passed.
The amendment to the Clean Water Commission changed the requirements of the membership makeup of the Commission. Instead of a minimum of 4 members of the public and a maximum of 2 industry representatives being on the commission, the new law allows there to be 0 members of the public and no less than 2 industry reps. That means those polluting industries will be the ones making the laws for their own businesses. This change hurts the public interest, but it helps the lobbyist-backed industries who donate to the lawmakers, and so it passed.
The change to allow any farm disaster payments to be tax free opens the door to abuse and moral hazard, as it incentivizes farmers to take an insurance payment rather than incur taxes by selling their products. It also creates an immediate $50 million hole in the budget as the legislature made the change retroactive to 2014. Once again, the GOP spent $50 million without bothering to budget for it in order to give a handout to special interests. What happened to fiscal responsibility?
The worst of these bills though is the change to the Medicaid rules. The Republicans, who refuse to expand Medicaid in Missouri and bring back billions of our dollars to the state and who refuse to help 300,000 Missourians access health care, are now actively attacking the poorest Missourians and discouraging them from seeking medical care. SB 608 allows doctors and hospitals to fine Medicaid users if they show up to the emergency room and are determined to not have an emergency. It allows them to fine the poorest people in our state if they miss a doctor’s appointment.
This law is reprehensible. It’s immoral, it’s unjust, and like so many laws passed by our inept Republican supermajority, it likely runs afoul of federal law meaning if we try to enforce it we lose out on even more of our federal tax dollars.
The people of Missouri deserve better than this. We deserve better than a government that only serves the special interests that throw millions of dollars into Republican committee accounts. We deserve better than a legislature ruled by people who, by their actions, clearly loathe the least fortunate among us. We deserve better than a Party that will claim repeatedly that there is no money for roads, or schools, or healthcare, or state workers, or public defenders, but will turn around and hand out hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts to industries that can afford lobbyists. We deserve better than Republican politicians who will make sure everyone knows the Democrat Governor has no power in the state, but then blame him for the budget shortfalls the legislature creates. This November, we must stand up and make our voice heard that we the people of Missouri demand a better government.
Kyle Garner is the democratic candidate for District 52 state representative.