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Missouri running out of time to decide on expanding Medicaid [Entered: 10/29/2012]
By Brendan Cullerton
Linda Spence is a 63-year-old full-time student at University of Missouri-Kansas City. After losing her job as a Program Director on the campus of UMKC, she has no health insurance because she does not qualify for Medicaid.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional for the federal government to force states to expand its Medicaid coverage, Missouri now has a choice of whether or not to expand Medicaid for people like Linda Spence.
The federal government will pay 100 percent of the financial burden imposed by Medicaid expansion for the first three years, but after the initial grace period, Missouri would start to become responsible for some of the cost. Missouri would be responsible for five percent of the cost in 2017 and 10 percent starting in 2022, according to state officials and advocacy groups.
Spence said she takes advantage of a discount at Truman Hospital for people with lower incomes. She said not many people know about this discount, and people who want it must apply for it. Spence also said without this discount, she would have no way of obtaining any kind of regular health care. She also said that not having insurance affects the quality of health care she is able to receive.
“If I were able to qualify for something like Medicaid, granted I would have to qualify for it, but at least I would know it was something a little bit more guaranteed. I might have access to other physicians other than going through Truman. Maybe I would be able to choose my own doctor, for example, or go to specialists of my choosing, instead of just specialists that are available,” Spence said.
A major concern legislators have with expansion is that it could divert funding from other areas of the budget, namely education.
“When you’re looking at increases of potentially $100 or $200 million that you have to find because of expansion, there is only one place where there is a pot of money big enough to take that, and that is public education,” said Senate Appropriations Chair Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia.
Schaefer said there is no way around cuts to public education funding with the Medicaid expansion, and if the true cost is too detrimental to education, then he would oppose expansion.
* Get the print story [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/MEDEXPAN.HTM]
Gubernatorial candidates spar over Mamtek [Entered: 10/31/2012]
By Alexander Mallin
Republican gubernatorial candidate Dave Spence visited the site of the Mamtek factory in Moberly Wednesday, Oct. 31, and attacked his Democratic opponent Gov. Jay Nixon for the failed economic development project.
“I think this project is emblematic of the Nixon administration, a lot of show and no go,” Spence said. “They raced through with all kind of sirens blaring off and flares going off that this wasn’t financially viable and they couldn’t wait to get it going.”
Mamtek, a proposed artificial sweetener factory, received $39 million in industrial development bonds from Moberly and was set to receive about $17 million of state incentives. But the project never received any state money after the company missed a payment on the Moberly bonds in August 2011.
Speaking in Columbia later Wednesday, Oct. 31, Nixon emphasized the state lost no money over Mamtek. He quickly pivoted to attack Spence’s record as a board member of Reliance Bank in St. Louis, repeating an attack that Spence voted not to continue repayment of $40 million in Troubled Asset Relief Program funds.
“As far as that particular project the state paid zero,” Nixon said. “Much different than what the taxpayers had to pay when he voted not to pay the taxpayers back when he was on a bank.”
* Get the print story [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/GUBTEK.HTM]
Secretary of State projects 3 percent increase in election turnout. [Entered: 10/31/2012]
By Wes Duplantier
More than three million Missourians will cast ballots in next week’s election, an increase from four years ago, the Secretary of State’s office predicted Tuesday, Oct. 30.
State officials estimate that some 72 percent of the more than 4.1 million registered voters in Missouri will cast ballots for the Nov. 6 vote. That would be a higher rate of participation than in 2008, when a record 69 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
Those numbers are based on estimates sent in from election authorities in all of the state’s 115 counties and St. Louis City. Election boards and county clerks base their predictions on the number of absentee ballots requested, turnouts from previous elections and their reading of how interested voters are in local propositions and candidates.
Actual turnout numbers in next Tuesday’s vote might differ from the numbers forecast this week. Before the 2008 election, the Secretary of State’s office had projected about 76 percent of voters would cast ballots.
If the Secretary of State’s projections do hold true, a much larger number of Missouri voters will cast ballots next week than did in the 2010 November election, when 47 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
Stacie Temple, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, said higher turnouts are not unusual for quadrennial elections and said the presence of statewide candidates and ballot measures this year might be stoking voter interest.
“Certainly, there’s a lot more interest in a presidential year than there is in an off year,” Temple said. “I think there’s a lot of interest in the election right now and perhaps that’s one of the considerations local election authorities had in making those predictions.”
* Get the print story [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/TURNPRE.HTM]
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Missouri volunteers are helping out on the East Coast. [Entered: 11/01/2012]
By Lauren Bale
Missouri Task Force One, Ameren Electric and the American Red Cross of Greater St. Louis currently have about 500 volunteers stationed along the East Coast providing aid and comfort in response to the deadly hurricane.
Task Force spokesman, Gale Blomenkamp, said the team has a great deal of experience when it comes to helping during a disaster.
“The very first deployment of this team was on September 11, 2001 to the World Trade Center. And so from that point forward we have been obviously a federally funded team by FEMA and have been deployed multiple times across the country,” Blomenkamp said.
The team was formed in 1996 after the Oklahoma City bombings. The team’s last out-of-state deployment was to aid the victims of Hurricane Ike in 2008.
Blomenkamp said the team was prepared to conduct water searches and rescues.
Hurricane Sandy left as many as 68 dead in the U.S. and the monetary amount of damage is estimated to be in the billions. Thousands of people continue to be without power in the affected areas.
Missouri GOP candidates kicked off a two-day bus tour in Jefferson City Thursday morning [Entered: 11/01/2012]
By Christine Roto
Missouri GOP candidates are campaigning across the state on a bus tour for the last few days before the election.
The event included gubernatorial candidate Dave Spence, attorney general candidate Ed Martin, secretary of state candidate Shane Schoeller, Congressman Blaine Luektemeyer and state treasurer candidate Cole McNary.
Martin introduced each candidate that spoke at the event and at one point said Spence was the “Mitt Romney of Missouri.”
“I think it’s the final phase to finally take back Missouri from special interests, from side deals, from career politicians, and people that don’t have the best interests of Missourians and 114 counties in mind,” said Spence.
Missouri Democratic Party spokesman Isaac Wright said the Democratic candidates are not having a bus tour, but are campaigning individually throughout the state.
Notable faces not on the bus tour were U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin and incumbent Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.
* Get the print story [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/GOPKOT.HTM].
MoDOT practices snow removal with none on the ground [Entered: 10/31/2012]
By Brendan Cullerton
The Missouri Department of Transportation practiced snow removal Tuesday, Oct. 30, although there was no snow anywhere in the state.
The department spent an estimated $70,000 on fuel, according to State Maintenance Engineer Beth Wright.
MoDOT sent plows on their usual routes to become familiar with the routes and practice radio communication.
Wright said Missouri has the seventh largest highway system in the U.S., and that MoDOT vehicles traveled about 117,000 miles Tuesday.
“I think it’s a great investment in the training of our staff so that we can safely remove snow and do our winter operations,” Wright said.
Wright said the event was planned over a month ago and was in response to Missouri’s snow removal issues over the last couple of years.
Sen. Claire McCaskill’s mother, Betty Anne, dies at 84 [Entered: 10/29/2012]
By Jordan Shapiro
Sen. Claire McCaskill’s campaign announced the senator’s mother, Betty Anne, died in St. Louis Monday, Oct. 29.
“I am very sad to announce today the passing of my mother, Betty Anne McCaskill. For some time, mom’s health has not been good, and our family takes comfort that she is now at rest,” McCaskill said in a statement.
McCaskill’s opponent in the November election, U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, also released a statement expressing condolences to the senator and her family.
Betty Anne McCaskill was the first woman elected to the Columbia City Council in 1971 and was a fixture on her daughter’s campaigns.
The Decline of Parties [Entered: 11/02/2012]
By: Phill Brooks
The year’s campaign season has provided a clear demonstration of the declining role of political parties.
For years, political scientists have noted the growing number of voters who identify themselves as independent. As a result, a candidate from the party with the highest identification no longer can count on getting elected just by getting the votes of party loyalists.
While that certainly is true in Missouri, it’s just one part of a broader and more fascinating story in the evolution of political parties.
When I covered my first Missouri statehouse campaigns in 1970, Missouri was solidly Democratic. A Democrat who won the primary for a statewide office, virtually was guaranteed election.
Prior to World War II, just one Republican had been elected to statewide office.
“For the past 24 years a one-party political machine has had a strangle-hold on Missouri,” the Republican candidate for governor, Larry Roos, was quoted in the St. Joseph Gazette shortly before the 1968 election. It was not just a complaint, it was a statement of fact.
While Roos, the supervisor of St. Louis County, went down in defeat, there was one GOP statewide victory that year. The first statewide GOP victory since 1945 was Jack Danforth who captured the Attorney General’s office.
Danforth was an unlikely political success. He was an Ivy League college graduate. He had practiced law in New York. He never held major political office. But, he became credited with being the father of the modern Missouri Republican Party.
Once in office, he hired fellow young, reform-minded lawyers. They focused on reforming government, ethics and consumer protection. From them came an energy and intensity I have rarely seen since in state government. They were hungry to get things done and in a hurry.
From Danforth’s team came the next Republican to win statewide office, Kit Bond. Two years after his election as state auditor in 1970, he was elected governor.
During my first years as a reporter, Danforth and his team defined the Republican Party.
But it never was a unified party. From almost the start, an open split emerged between Danforth’s folks and conservative elements of the Republican Party — a split somewhat akin to the ideological divide we see today with the tea party advocates.
At the same time, Democrats also were splintering from disagreements over the Vietnam War. It reached a head in 1972 from Gov. Warren Hearnes’ continued opposition to anti-war presidential candidates.
Hearnes had been a West Point graduate and was a military hawk — more hawkish than the new generation of Democrats entering into the party.
I did not realize it at the time, but those were some of the seeds being sown that in future years would help contribute to the decline in power of Missouri’s political parties.
You clearly can see the consequences today. Look how candidates deliberately distance themselves from their own parties.
The GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate, Todd Akin, even campaigned against some of his own party’s leaders by calling on voters to reject the demands of Republican Party bosses who wanted him to drop his campaign.
Both Jay Nixon and Claire McCaskill brag about not being party-line candidates. Instead, they campaign about reaching across party lines to work with Republicans.
Look at the yard signs for candidates. Fewer and fewer give party identification a prominent display — if any mention at all. Even here in Jefferson City where you would expect partisan politics to be intense, few of the political yard signs identify party affiliation.
Years ago, yard signs and billboards declared a candidate’s party affiliation in large, bold print. The idea was to inspire those in the candidate’s party to get out and vote.
Decades ago, on the closing days of the campaign, a party’s candidates for statewide office joined together for a final swing through the state or, at least, for a collective rally at the state Capitol.
They might have differing positions on issues. Some clearly were going to lose, but they still ran as if they were a ticket — at least they gave that appearance.
But this year, the Democrats did not have a final statewide swing for their statewide candidates. The Republicans did have their swing, but without two of their five best-known candidates — Todd Akin and Peter Kinder.
[Phill Brooks has been a Missouri statehouse reporter since 1970, making him dean of the statehouse press corps. He is the statehouse correspondent for KMOX Radio, director of MDN and a faculty member of the Missouri School of Journalism. He has covered every governor since the late Warren Hearnes.
Past columns are available at http://www.mdn.org/mpacol.]