I was very heartened to see Missourians pass Medicaid Expansion in our August Primary Election.
It was tremendously needed because of the growing number of Missourians who have no healthcare coverage. The problem has become more serious with COVID-19 and the growing medical needs along with the growing number of Missourians who have lost jobs as a result of the pandemic.
I, too, favor periodic review of the program to cut fraud and improve health care. But this is a crucial program for Missouri, and likely the first step towards an improved national healthcare program.
Our country guarantees us “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. If we don’t have life, including quality of life ensured by access to quality medical care, none of the rest matters.
Job creation is something that is not done in isolation. It requires integrating education with economic development.
Missouri has a Workforce Development Plan that combines efforts to train and retrain workers in high demand industries, and encourages more Missourians to finish their college degrees, and it offers greater emphasis on technical schools.
But a successful job creation program has to start with education and economic opportunity for all Missouri families, regardless of where they live, regardless of their current economic status.
We need to make sure families begin with access to low cost, high-quality daycare for their young children. Then high quality education must continue through the grade levels, with broadband access at home, so that every Missouri student can achieve the most they can.
Then every student needs a path to success, through either an affordable college education, or a vocational path that will help them establish a financial foundation for the next generation of Missourians.
We must recognize that there are many great jobs in Missouri that require skills over a college degree. Many of those industries already have their own training programs for recruiting young people. The state can do a better job of encouraging that through training partnerships designed to maximize our labor force for now and the future.
I am against frivolous lawsuits, We must also always maintain important protections for consumers and our taxpaying citizens.
Our court system is the basic protection of the people that must be protected with an emphasis on consumers and small businesses having their rights protected, and not just big businesses who can afford armies of lawyers.
Gun Rights and the 2nd Ammendment
I am a supporter of the Second Amendment. Being a rural Missourian, I know guns are a necessity of rural life. They are not just for personal protection from other people and a tool for outdoor sports, they are tools of survival for rural Missourians. There are many predators in our rural areas. We have to protect crops, stock, pets, and ourselves as well as our property.
But as a mother and a teacher, I am equally aware of safety.
Most Missourians agree. The most popular and effective gun control legislation, like universal background checks and red flag laws, are supported by 85 percent of registered voters. The majority of voters, even in Missouri, support common sense gun laws. Most are in favor of criminal background checks, assault weapon bans, and waiting periods for gun purchase and campus carry bans. It is all common sense.
Part of the problem is that guns are not treated as any other consumer good. Since the 1970’s, Congress has explicitly prohibited the Consumer Product Safety Commission from regulating and overseeing the design of firearms and ammunition. The 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Guns Act protects manufacturers from liability.
Bad laws are a huge problem. In the three years after Missouri eliminated its permit requirement in 2007, gun homicide rates rose 25 percent. The annual murder rate rose 14 percent.
Stand Your Ground laws, though popular, actually increase homicide rates but show no reduction in criminal activity.
Just safety measures can have a huge effect. When Massachusetts required guns to be locked, youth suicides fell to 35 percent below the national average.
Again, Missouri needs to lead with science and facts, not emotion. Emotion changes nothing. Basing policy on facts yields results.
Many Missourians are concerned about the topic of illegal immigration.
As with all matters of policy, I believe it is important to base policy on facts, not emotion being stoked by politicians for their own purposes.
Let’s look at the issue of illegal immigration. How big of a problem is it?
First, according to Customs and Border Patrol, illegal entries at America’s southern border is actually down 76 percent since its 2000 peak.
Some helpful statistics:
The Pew Research Center estimates the number of illegal immigrants in the United States at about 10.8 million, which is about 3.3 percent of the total U.S. population. The Department of Homeland Security actually believes the rate is slowing since 2015. Mexicans make up the majority of the undocumented population, 55 percent in 2015, and believed to be decreasing since. Most have been here for ten years or more. Only 6 percent have come over the past five years. While the statistics are always under dispute, the overall theme of a decreasing illegal immigration problem seems to be true. Apprehensions have continued to fall through the Obama and Trump administrations. During Trump’s full year of office, the apprehensions fell by 43 percent. On a monthly basis, the apprehensions decreased significantly during the first six months of the Trump administration, and then began to rise.
Border apprehensions have declined, but estimates show a growing proportion of immigrants as those who entered the country legally, but overstayed their visas. About 44 percent of “illegal immigrants” have simply overstayed their visas. That is up 41 percent since 2008. But that number, too, is thought to be declining.
The number of family units apprehended at the border has increased since 2013. In 2013, only 3.6 percent of those apprehended were part of a family unit. In 2018, it grew to 27 percent.
The number of unaccompanied children crossing the border has remained pretty stable, at about 40,000. Most have been fleeing violence or poverty in Guatamala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Currently, about 11,800 of those children are being held in refugee settlements. Over 3,000 of them have been separated from parents. There are 100 settlements located in 14 states. Children spend an average of 57 days in the shelters. Most are age 13 and older, and most are from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Only 10 percent of those kids have been apprehended at the border more than once.
The Department of Homeland security says deportation rates have been falling since 1998, and in 2016 was at 340,056 people.
All of this background information is to get you to ask yourself if the illegal immigration problem is really what you thought it was.
And then you must also take into consideration the idea that illegal immigrants also are an advantage to our society in many respects.
Research shows that illegal immigrants actually increase the size of the U.S. economy and contribute to our economic growth. They provide needed labor in many areas, and contribute more in tax revenue than they collet. They reduce the incentive for American employers to offshore jobs and import foreign-produced goods. They benefit consumers by reducing the prices of goods and services.
Economists actually estimate that legalization of the undocumented immigrant population would increase the immigrants’ earnings and consumption considerably, giving the U.S. economy another huge boost.
Again, knowledge is far more advantageous to us and our economy than prejudice and bigotry.
Improving Our Schools
A key component to any state economy is its public schools. The public schools are integral to developing work force, and attracting families to Missouri to build their lives here, and help our economy.
In 2018, U.S. News and World Report ranked Missouri’s public schools were ranked #27 in the nation. But we need to do better.
Currently, healthcare and professional services are the fastest growing industries in Missouri. Those require highly educated and skilled individuals.
There are things that we know are holding us back. Funding, lack of broadband internet service, especially in our rural communities, and a good balance in school districts of local control vs. state oversight.
I taught as a classroom teacher for 16 years in Cape Girardeau, specializing in classroom, Reading Recovery, and Computer Labs.
And now I work as a substitute teacher at every level of public school from pre-kindergarten to high school level. I even taught one year at the college level.
All this has given me great insight into what Missouri schools need.
Some of those needs are obvious, like teacher and school personnel pay. You cannot attract the best and most talented without a decent pay scale. With COVID19, that has become even more obvious, along with the need for more and better prepared substitute teachers. The pay for them is embarrassingly low, and require sometimes multiple background checks. All of that could be improved and streamlined to make teaching much more attractive to substitute teachers. I wonder if the caps we put on the amount of time retired teachers can teach as a substitute is really valid any longer, especially in these days of high demand because of COVID.
I think we need a healthy balance of online and classroom construction that recognizes the needs of the whole student, academically, emotionally, and socially.
Certain best practices have been identified that we need to strive for in Missouri schools. They include data-driven instruction, but not a sole reliance upon it; excellence in teaching and leadership; culture of high expectations; frequent and intensive tutoring made available to students; and likely an extended school day and/or year.
Teachers need more planning time, and districts need sound budgeting based on student needs, districts must recruit the most talented and innovative teachers and leaders, and there must be great and open communication between schools and parents and the other stake-holders in the community.
Charter schools can have their place within public education, but private schools should not drain funding away from public schools. Charter schools need to also be held to account for their teaching methods and results. We cannot waste taxpayer dollars on methods that are not helping produce better students.
The demands on education have never been higher, and we must also resist the urge to think education is the solver of all societal problems. I find schools are a reflection of their communities, and those schools and communities must work hand-in-hand to meet the challenges we face educationally and as a society.
My Position on Abortion
Abortion is a complex issue which requires study from more than one perspective. First, there is the current law to consider.
The latest Missouri abortion law signed by Governor Mike Parson is considered among the most restrictive in the United States. There is a lot of question as to whether it is even legal, because it bans most abortions at or after eight weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest. Even many Republicans felt that was to restrictive. The Missouri GOP purposely constructed it as a test for the U.S. Supreme Court to contest Roe vs. Wade.
The problem with that is that it will cost a huge amount of money paid for by Missouri taxpayers to take it to the Supreme Court, and the likelihood, based on other cases, is that the Supreme Court will strike it down as being too restrictive and unconstitutional. That means a lot of money is being wasted in an effort for Missouri’s GOP to grand stand.
I can’t support wasting the taxpayers’ money in that way.
And then there is the moral issues to consider. Is Pro-Life really always about abortion? Shouldn’t a true Pro-Life stance also consider the quality of life and health issues for mothers and their children?
And there is the equity issue. Why are women’s reproductive rights at issue when men’s reproductive rights are never at issue?
The truth is, no one is in FAVOR of abortion. No on seeks to get pregnant for the purpose of having an abortion.
And there are logical ways to basically end abortion. It is all about common sense.
Most people agree that it would be great if abortion never even had to be considered.
How could we get there?
First, allow men and women to have affordable, effective contraceptives.
Make childcare more affordable and accessible for women everywhere.
Change the culture. Do not promote a culture that tolerates rape or sexual assault in any form.
Speak to kids at the appropriate age, which is actually early, about the importance of making good sexual choices. Sure…talk about abstinence, but also talk about the importance of safe sex.
Give women access to live-saving healthcare.
What has not been effective is the way we have handled abortion in the past. Shame does not work. Sharing false information does not work. Taking away healthcare from women does not work.
Abortions have been around since the earliest days of humanity. The only change has been the advent and ability for there to be safe abortions. Globally and historically, the abortion rate has been consistent. It is where abortions are illegal that the mortality rate goes up.
We need to base Missouri law on science, not emotion.
Keeping Our Word to Our Veterans
Our veterans have paid the highest price for us. We need to return the favor by keeping our promises to them.
They our entitled to the best our medical care can provide.
They are entitled to our respect and our protection. No veteran should be homeless. No veteran should go without the medical care and counseling they need. No veteran should go hungry.
It is up to us to re-pay the debt we owe to them.
And never….never….send them in harm’s way without good reason. They are not political pawns. They deserve nothing but our full respect, protection, and backing.
Under the power of eminent domain, the government can take private property. For many years, this power was greatly restricted. Under the U.S. Constitution, eminent domain must be for public use and provide just compensation to the property owner. Approved projects in the past were those such as schools, roads, infrastructure, and public utilities which were seen as beneficial to the common good of the citizenry.
But in a case known as Kelo v. New London, the Supreme Court basically gave local and state governments a blank check to abuse eminent domain. The Court in a 5 to 4 decision upheld the use of eminent domain for the purpose of “economic development”.
I believe this was a wrong decision and infringes upon the rights of citizens.
The State of Missouri and the U.S. Government must respect the rights of landowners. The threshold for use of eminent domain must be high, and landowners must always be adequately compensated for their sacrifice for a common good.
Protecting our Farmers
Like so many topics, protecting Missouri farmers is a huge topic, because there are so many areas in which especially small Missouri farmers need help.
Sure, we need to weed out burdensome regulations and government interference, but the needs go much farther than that.
Many Missourians forget that my part of Missouri, Southern Missouri, was at one time considered useless for arming. The entire “Bootheel” region was a natural basin for Mississippi River flooding, and it was for much of its history an uninhabitable swamp. That didn’t change until the Little River Drainage District was constructed between 1914 and 1928. It consisted of more than 947miles of ditches and 204 miles of levees, covering 540,000 acres of land and draining 1.2 million acres. It was then purchased by private timber interests That led to another plan in 1907 that laid the groundwork for another massive drainage project. It was a huge project of diversion channels and dredging that now is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.
My grandpa, Voris Poe, was an active participant in developing the watershed lake areas of the Ripley County Area.
Many farmers, especially in the flood-prone lands bordering Arkansas, wish a new watershed program would be developed to protect their land from frequent flooding, which constantly holds back their productivity.
With climate change showing its face, flooding of flood land will continue to be more of a problem that must be addressed, along with man made difficulties like tariffs, commodity prices, and such that make it more challenging every year for family farmers to turn a profit and give their families the ability to pass that farm down from one generation to the next.
State policies that favor large corporate farms over smaller family-owned farms need to be looked at carefully.
Our family farmers are the roots of this state and are the base on which many a small-town economy is built. Without those farmers, those small towns die.
We can give them the edge they need to succeed through things like affordable broadband to allow them every technilogical advantage, and protect them and our land from unfair competition and desecration of our land by foreign corporate interests who value profit above all else.
We need a Missouri government that will leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding grants and low interest loans to help our family farmers.
Family farms are the heart of rural Missouri, and we must keep them alive, as part of our culture, and as a thriving part of our economy.
Protecting our Farmers
Growing bureaucracy is a problem for all state governments. But we should explore the use of local codes to help our local communities businesses thrive. All too often cutting regulation is a dog-whistle to benefit big business and decimate small business. I firmly believe we should be open to exploring ways we can use state law to build up our local mom and pop businesses and local instead of corporate farmers. With sound policy driven by community input, we can use smart regulation to our advantage to help equalize the playing field for the little guys.
Perhaps we need a formula for proposing new laws. First, make sure new laws don’t duplicate old laws. Make sure they are always an improvement. For every bit of red tape and regulation added, how about if we find at least two to cut?
Government should not be ever-growing.
Ever-changing, perhaps, but not ever-growing.
Balance is everything.
When people think of telecommuters, they often picture the city girl or guy working away at their laptop, maybe in a trendy coffee shop, or in their suburban home.
But….what if that same telecommuter, bringing home that same generous city-grade paycheck, were a farmer, working his telecommuter hours in between plowing and planting his fields, or checking on his cattle?
What if that telecommuter was a busy rural mom, shuffling her kids to school, going back home, telecommuting, then going back to pick up her kids to take them to the 4H Meeting after school?
A weird thing has happened with COVID19. Many big companies were forced into letting workers do their work from home via the internet. And many of those huge companies have now decided this is their new busines model because it decreases their costs, and allows more freedom for their employees, and a better work/home balance.
Some of those companies have already told employees this is going to be permanent. And because of that, they can choose to live anywhere they want. They are no longer tethered to corporate headquarters.
This is a profound game changer for rural economies, and Missouri needs to position itself to take advantage of it.
Between COVID19, and the problems occurring in cities, many people are ready to leave the city and exchange it for a more peaceful country lifestyle. But that means Missouri has to step up its game to lure them here.
First, we need rural broadband statewide.
Missouri has already developed a “Missouri Broadband Plan”, dated May 2019.
It recognizes that more than 1.25 million Missourians currently do not have access to high-speed internet. That is a problem in today’s technology-driven world where every major industry and pillar of our economy is dependent upon high speed, affordable, internet.
According to their own survey, the state of Missouri says 69 percent of Americans believe that lack of broadband at home is a major disadvantage in getting better jobs, getting health information, learning new things, getting news, and accessing government services.
States who are dependent on private enterprise to lead the way on this are becoming frustrated because private entities encounter the problems of low density population, high construction costs, long spans of network or tower construction, difficult terrain, and no guarantee of profitability to be huge problems. So…the efforts for rural broadband stall. Missouri is smack in the middle of the nation’s digital divide, again, putting Missouri behind in economic development.
The economy in all sectors is suffering because of it.
Agriculture is Missouri’s leading economic driver with over 95,000 farms that employ nearly 400,000 people. But farmers and ranchers are faced with rising challenges in competitive prices, operating costs, weather, limited infrastructure, and demands to feed an ever-growing world population.
To meet those needs, agriculture needs technology. The USDA has declared this issue to be an essential need to be addressed, because Missouri has the second highest number of farms of any other state in the U.S.
The technology is also needed for business, for healthcare, and for education.
Our current experience with COVID19 has only highlighted the weaknesses in our technology systems in those areas. The “homework gap” is now more than just homework. It is the actual ability to attend school and further one’s education at every level, from Pre-K to university level.
Missouri’s stated goal is lofty…95 percent of all homes and businesses need high speed internet by 2025.
We have to step up our game to reach that goal.
That is going to require a better use of our tax dollars, always remembering that tax dollars are investment dollars.
We need to be investing in what is most crucial to every Missourian….and that is education and access to good family-supporting jobs.