Aug 15

E-Cigs: A Positive Step Away From Tobacco Or A New Danger?

Note: Technical limitations are preventing this week’s program from being available directly on the website. If you want to watch or download the program, click here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8p4k0bkt9vrpyk6/Ecigs%20and%20Tobacco_HDTV_24_1080p.mp4

by Mike Ferguson

(Jefferson City, MO) – The sign says “No Smoking” or maybe the law says “No Smoking”, but you see someone puffing away in the restaurant, anyway.

They might not be breaking the rules.

What they are holding in their hands could be an “E-cig” – or electronic cigarette – and those who like this new option are sometimes quick to correct you if you say they are smoking and E-cig. They are “vaping”, not smoking.

Stan Cowen explains what you’re seeing in that restaurant.

“They’re battery operated devices that will heat and vaporize a solution to create a chemical-filled mist for the user. They may or may not contain nicotine. They may or may not contain flavorings or other things to enhance the experience for the user.”

Cowen is a former tobacco use prevention program manager for the state’s Health Department.

Jason Head works for Aqueous Vaper, a Missouri-based business that sells electronic cigarettes. He doesn’t claim they are good for you but believes they aren’t as bad as regular cigarettes.

“When you put down the cigarettes and use an E-cig, you’re getting rid of a lot of the carbon monoxide and tars and other things that really tax the body.”

Cowen warns against accepting that claim.

“Often, either anecdotally or it’s implied that because this is a vapor and they say it’s primarily water vapor, that it’s harmless. That is not the case. In particular, [researchers] have found there are at least four tobacco-specific nitrosamines that are in the vapor. These are known human carcinogens.”

That’s why he wants them regulated and taxed like tobacco-based products.

Both sides agree; E-cigs are so new, there hasn’t been time to study the long term effects they have on the body.

For that reason, Head thinks government should go slow when it comes to new regulations.

“E-cigs are different. We don’t know the long term effects but we shouldn’t be jumping in to preemptive legislation based on something that we don’t know about yet.”

That doesn’t mean he’s opposed to all regulations, though. He agrees with some basic rules.

“I don’t want to be selling to kids. Parents have to be responsible also for what’s in their kids’ hands. But, I definitely don’t want the option for somebody to sell to someone fourteen years old, an electronic cigarette.”

One argument for E-cigarette use is that it can help some smokers step down their tobaccos use. There is no research available to confirm or refute that common claim. E-cig manufacturers do not make that claim in their marketing.

Could the devices actually cause more nicotine consumption? Cowen says some studies indicate – but not prove – that E-cigs might actually increase nicotine use in some smokers.

“They don’t switch from one to the other. They become dual users and they start using e-cigs in places where they can’t smoke, otherwise.”

Head doesn’t believe that should be a part of the discussion when it comes to adding laws.

“Everybody has a choice of what they put into their body. From how they spend their money and what they want to do with it. I’m the kind of person who says ‘ridiculous freedoms’ for an individual. I want ridiculous amounts of freedom to choose what I do with my body.”

Nicotine is recognized as a highly addictive substance that, of course, not good for your body. The long term impact of E-cigs on the body will likely not be known for several years.

On the web:

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: http://health.mo.gov/living/wellness/tobacco/index.php

Aqueous Vapor: https://www.aqueousvapor.com/

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/e-cigs-a-positive-step-away-from-tobacco-or-a-new-danger/

Aug 11

Fighting Back Against Domestic Abuse in Missouri

Note: Technical limitations are preventing this week’s program from being available directly on the website. If you want to watch or download the program, click here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/0bz1jfb9z6omnrx/MOViewsDomesticViolence2014_HDTV_24_1080p.mp4

by Mike Ferguson

(Jefferson City, MO) – It reaches into more homes in more parts of our communities than many want to admit.

It impacts more women and, sometimes, men than many want to admit.

It also often goes unnoticed even when both the victim and the aggressor are in plain sight.

Domestic and sexual abuse is the focus on a statewide organization that wants to make sure everyone in Missouri is aware of it and is willing to be a part of ending it.

Colleen Coble is the Chief Executive Officer of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She says studies from law enforcement show a shocking frequency of abuse across the nation.

“One in three of us [women] will be victims of will be victims of domestic violence during the course of our lifespan.”

While that statistic may seem hard to believe, Coble explains that what is considered domestic abuse includes more than just the obvious physical assaults.

“That happens through verbal abuse, emotional coercion, certainly financial abuse, using children against your spouse or partner, damaging their prospects for employment or sabotaging their job, just about every aspect of your life can be a target for an abuser’s focus.”

She also cautions against thinking domestic abuse only happens in impoverished areas or within specific ethnic groups.

“It happens in every part of our community. It doesn’t matter what your education level, your income level, your ethnicity, your religion, your employment history. Abusers come from every walk of life as do victims.”

While resources are in place to help victims get protection and leave the abusive environment, Coble hopes we all realize we can be a part of the solution. To do that, she says, listen first to that inner voice that tells you something might be wrong in a friend’s, a relative’s or a coworker’s life and ask if there s something with which you can help.

Then listen to what they have to say.

“The most important thing is to show your concern, to listen, because very often that first question is going to be received as such a wonderful opportunity to say ‘I’ve really been struggling. I don’t know what to do.’”

Coble says that when there is immediate danger of physical abuse, the best thing to do is call 9-1-1.

In other cases, contact local resources that provide a variety of assistance to victims. You can find those in your county through MCADSV’s website.

On the web:
Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence: www.MOCADSV.org

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/fighting-back-against-domestic-abuse-in-missouri/

Aug 04

Election Day: The Ballot Issues

Note: Technical limitations are preventing this week’s program from being available directly on the website. If you want to watch or download the program, click here https://www.dropbox.com/s/op1ri9ghaijul4z/843-1-MOViewsBallotIssuesAugust2014.mp4

by Mike Ferguson

(Jefferson City, MO) – Election Day is Tuesday and we’ve got some big decisions to make, even though a small percentage of us will be at the polls to decide.

Election officials predict that around a quarter of eligible voters will actually show up and vote. That makes your ballot even more important.

In addition to deciding primary races throughout the state, voters will decide five statewide ballot issues. The Missouri Torch’s publisher, Duane Lester, explains what he sees in each of the proposals. I’m also posting the actual ballot language (in Italics).

Amendment One.

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed?

The potential costs or savings to governmental entities are unknown, but likely limited unless the resolution leads to increased litigation costs and/or the loss of federal funding.

This is the so-called “Right To Farm” amendment. If passed, it would make farming and ranching a right protected by the state constitution.

Lester says the proposal is, at least in part, a response to the 2010 passage of Proposition B. That was the crack down on “puppy mills” spearheaded by the Humane Society of the United States and other animal activist groups.

“The HSUS is a very anti-animal agriculture organization, and so the way it was explained to me is Amendment One is designed to prevent radical organizations from changing the way Missouri farmers operate.”

Many in Missouri’s agriculture industry were worried that it could be used to limit livestock farming operations. Lawmakers and Governor Nixon quickly hammered out an agreement to modify the law shortly after the election.

Next on the ballot is Amendment Five.

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to include a declaration that the right to keep and bear arms is a unalienable right and that the state government is obligated to uphold that right?

State and local governmental entities should have no direct costs or savings from this proposal. However, the proposal’s passage will likely lead to increased litigation and criminal justice related costs. The total potential costs are unknown, but could be significant.

If this one passes, the state constitution will expand recognition of the right to own and carry guns and ammunition. Lester believes this effort is being made with an eye on Washington, DC.

“It may be based in the idea that the federal government will, at some point, say ‘no, we’re going to tax ammunition and you can only have these guns.’”

The proposal would also make it harder for the state government to ban the carrying of concealed weapons. It will still allow the law to ban certain felons and those found to be mentally ill from having guns.

Amendment Seven.

Should the Missouri Constitution be changed to enact a temporary sales tax of three-quarters of one percent to be used solely to fund state and local highways, roads, bridges and transportation projects for ten years, with priority given to repairing unsafe roads and bridges?

This change is expected to produce $480 million annually to the state’s Transportation Safety and Job Creation Fund and $54 million for local governments. Increases in the gas tax will be prohibited. This revenue shall only be used for transportation purposes and cannot be diverted for other uses.

Supporters say it’s needed because the money is running out and we have thousands of miles of highways in the state that need fixed or expanded. Lester outlines one of the main arguments in opposition.

“Sales taxes are generally regressive, so this would have an impact on the poorest of Missourians. That’s the stance given by those who oppose this.”

While some things – like groceries and prescription medicines – would be exempt from the tax, it would be the largest tax increase in the state’s history in terms of total revenue raised. The question before you is simple: are you willing to pay more at the store in exchange for better roads and bridges?

A less contentious ballot measure is Amendment Eight.

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to create a “Veterans Lottery Ticket” and to use the revenue from the sale of these tickets for projects and services related to veterans?

The annual cost or savings to state and local governmental entities is unknown, but likely minimal. If sales of a veterans lottery ticket game decrease existing lottery ticket sales, the profits of which fund education, there could be a small annual shift in funding from education to veterans’ programs.

This one, if approved, will create a special lottery option to benefit veterans programs in the state. Currently, lottery sale profits are only permitted by law to fund public education.

This brings us to the final ballot issue you will decide: Amendment Nine.

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that the people shall be secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects?

State and local governmental entities expect no significant costs or savings.

This one deals with your privacy in a digital age. Lester says, if passed, it will give courts and police some new standards when it comes to searches.

“Along with everything the Fourth Amendment states, we’re adding emails, cell phones, computers, lap tops, all that.”

In other words, the police would have to get a warrant to search your phone’s text messages, pictures and call history or to search your laptop during encounters like traffic stops.

Missouri Secretary of State’s Ballot Issue Page: http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2014ballot/

The Missouri Torch: http://www.TheMissouriTorch.com

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/election-day-the-ballot-issues/

Aug 01

Amendment One: Does Farming Need A State Constitutional Amendment?

Note: Technical limitations are preventing this week’s program from being available directly on the website. If you want to watch or download the program, click here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/0kz781ow10najc3/Right%20to%20Farm%20Edit.mp4

by Mike Ferguson

(Jefferson City, MO) – Both sides of the debate say they are trying to protect family farms in the state.

So, who actually is? That is for you to decide when you vote on Amendment One this Tuesday.

Officially, Amendment One, if passed by voters, “… will amend the Missouri Constitution to guarantee the rights of Missourians to engage in farming and ranching practices, subject to any power given to local government under Article VI of the Missouri Constitution.”

That’s the actual language from the Secretary of State that you’ll see on the ballot.

Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst, who is also a farmer, believes Amendment One is needed. He says farming across the country is under attack by animal rights groups and environmental activists.

“All across the nation, we see initiative petitions, we see legislation, we see regulations that control the ways farmers farm. No other industry is facing a challenge like this. No other industry.”

Former State Senator Wes Shoemyer, who is also a farmer, does not agree. He says Amendment One is not about local farms, it’s about protecting big business that happens to be in the agriculture industry.

“Basically, it’s going to give blanket immunity to the largest segment industry in the state.”

What both mean is that elevating farming and ranching to the status of constitutional right in the state will make it harder to regulate, regardless of efforts to further regulate come from the Legislature or via referendum. On Tuesday, voters must decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

It will be harder, but not impossible, according to Hurst.

“I fully expect that agriculture will continue to be regulated much as it is now but this amendment says ‘let’s give some credit to the people who actually farm the land, let’s give some credit to the scientists at Missouri State and the University of Missouri who develop these technologies. Let’s give credit to the people in the industry who understand the challenges we face that deal with weed pressure, with insect pressure, with weather problems. Let’s give them some credit to make decisions that are both in the interest of farmers but also in the interest of the public as well.’”

The so-called “Right To Farm” amendment effort is, at least in part, a response to the voter approval of Proposition B in 2010. That was the referendum supporters promoted as a way to crack down on what they called unethical dog breeding.

Some in the agriculture industry worried that it could have been used to limit the freedoms of livestock farmers. What the voters approved was quickly changed after the election by state lawmakers and Governor Nixon. Shoemyer points out those changes were able to be made because Proposition B created a law. It was not declaring a state constitutional right.

He believes Amendment One takes away some protections.

“Raising this to a constitutional level is a whole different thing. When we look at Prop B and…the reason for having this, I think – if they’ll remember – the Governor and the Legislature modified that. Now, this is a constitutional amendment. The Legislature and the Governor cannot modify this to make sense.”

Both sides agree that if Amendment One passes, the courts will decide what it means in some cases because lawsuits are likely to result from the passage.

On the web:

Missouri Farmers Care: www.MOFarmersCare.com (supports Amendment One)
Missouri’s Food For America: www.VoteNoOn1.com (opposes Amendment One)

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/amendment-one-does-farming-need-a-state-constitutional-amedment/

Jul 23

Cruising Toward Progress Or Slamming The Brakes On Missouri’s Economy?

Note: Technical limitations are preventing this week’s program from being available directly on the website. If you want to watch or download the program, click here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/oa1z8mkvzqex0ad/840-1-MOViewsTransTax2014.mp4

by Mike Ferguson

(Jefferson City, MO) – There’s a common saying in political and media circles that goes something like this: “politics makes strange bedfellows”.

Meaning, the issues of the next election can determine your friends in the campaign. Sometimes, that means a temporary rearrangement of alliances.

That’s the case with Amendment Seven, a proposed change to the Missouri State Constitution that’s on the August 5th ballot.

Here’s the text you’ll see on the ballot:

“Should the Missouri Constitution be changed to enact a temporary sales tax of three-quarters of one percent to be used solely to fund state and local highways, roads, bridges and transportation projects for ten years, with priority given to repairing unsafe roads and bridges?

“This change is expected to produce $480 million annually to the state’s Transportation Safety and Job Creation Fund and $54 million for local governments. Increases in the gas tax will be prohibited. This revenue shall only be used for transportation purposes and cannot be diverted for other uses.”

In other words, should we raise the sales tax to improve our transportation infrastructure?

Both sides agree on some aspects of the debate. Roads and bridges aren’t built overnight and our transportation infrastructure is both inadequate and deteriorating in several parts of the state. The question becomes one of funding.

MOVP JPatek Still from JCTV
Former Republican State Representative Jewell Patek is working on the campaign for the proposal. He points out that MODoT has covered thousands of miles of highways with safety upgrades like rumble strips, cables and guardrails and says the job is not done yet.

“There are, I think, roughly about 20,000 miles of roads in the State of Missouri that don’t have those life-saving measure on them and we simply don’t have adequate resources to continue those safety improvements.”

While the Republicans in the Missouri Legislature has worked to reduce other taxes and typically oppose increasing taxes, it’s a Democrat who is speaking out against this one. Former State Representative Jeanette Mott Oxford is now the Executive Director of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare and she says the idea will hit Missouri’s poorest the hardest and, in her view, that’s not fair.

“Putting extra taxes on clothing for your children, on school supplies, on your laundry detergent, on a whole variety of materials will be very harmful for families that are struggling to make it.”
MOVP JMO Still at JCTV
Mott Oxford also takes issue with the idea this is a “temporary” tax and a small one. Under the proposal, voters would have to decide to end the tax in ten years for it to actually expire.

She wants voters to see the size of the tax increase from a perspective that may not always be considered.

“It says it’s a three-quarters of one cent increase and that may lead some people to believe it’s a very small increase, but when you compare it to the current sales tax – which is a little over four percent – this three-quarters of a cent is actually around an eighteen percent increase in sales tax.”

Many Republicans, on the other hand, are pushing for this tax plan, saying some kind of action must be taken now. The GOP-controlled Legislature put the plan on the ballot.

Patek argues that the sales tax will not be the burden on the poor that opponents claim because the tax increase would not apply to everything.

“We went to great lengths to exempt out the necessities of life. Again, our opponents would like people to believe that people are going to pay higher sales tax on groceries, rent, utilities, fuel…health care and those are specifically exempted from the measure.”

On the web:

Missouri Secretary of State’s Page On the 2014 Ballot Measures: http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2014ballot/

Missourians For Better Transportation Solutions (opposing Amendment Seven): http://www.votenoamendment7.com/

Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs, Inc. (supporting Amendment Seven): http://fixmoroads.com/

Special thanks goes to Missouri Life magazine for providing generous support that allowed us to produce the show in Jefferson City, at the JCTV studios for this week.

Missouri Life: www.MissouriLife.com

JCTV: www.JCTVaccess.com

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/cruising-toward-progress-or-slamming-the-brakes-on-missouris-economy/

Jul 11

What Would New EPA Rules On Carbon Emissions Mean For Missourians?

by Mike Ferguson

(St. Charles, MO) – Whether you call is “global warming”, “climate change” or “climate disruption” or whether you think the claims of manmade climate destruction are bogus, political decisions connected to those claims could hit you square in the wallet.

The questions are how much and is it worth it?

The Environmental Protection Agency wants to crack down on carbon emissions, particularly from the plants that produce our electricity. The goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 30% in the coming years.

Andy Knott from the Sierra Club of Missouri’s Beyond Coal campaign supports the proposed rules.

MWSnap195“These rules are historic in that they would, for the first time, dramatically reduce carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. But, as proposed, this rule would reduce carbon pollution from power plants in Missouri by 20%.”

If these rules are put into place, each state would have to come up with their plan to meet their reduction goals. Knott says, for the Show Me State, lawmakers would have options when developing a plan.

“It could involve increases in energy efficiency programs for customers, which would actually reduce electric bills. It could result in efficiencies gained at the power plants themselves because power plants are not very efficient in terms of converting coal to energy. [Also] increasing renewable energy; wind power, solar power. Those are also options that are on the table.”

One thing both sides generally agree on is that the proposed regulations, if enacted, will raise the rate for your electric bill. Many estimates have that increase at six to ten percent.

Knott believes the rate increases are worth it because, he says, there would be savings in other areas as a result.

“We will see a reduction in asthma attacks, especially in terms of children and the elderly, because you’ll see other emissions reduced. We’ll also see the risk associated with climate change reduced. Anything from warmer days in the summer that increase smog pollution to reduction in severe weather events.”

Not so fast, says Associated Industries of Missouri President Ray McCarty. He doesn’t see a need for massive new regulations on carbon emissions because, he says, progress is already being made without the rules.

MWSnap196“We’ve taken great steps in the United States to reduce carbon emissions already. The coal we’re burning now to get 82% of our power in Missouri, to generate electricity, is much cleaner now than it used to be.”

The soonest the proposed rules could start phasing in is about two years. Supporters say it would force an increased use of renewable energy. McCarty says he likes the fact that renewable energy is part of the state’s energy portfolio but believes it’s now ready to be a major energy provider.

At least not yet.

“As the technology improves, we’re using more solar [and] we’re using more wind. The problem is reliability. Wind doesn’t always blow when you need electricity generated and electricity can only be stored for so long. The same with solar; the sun only shines through certain parts of the day.”

In the meantime, McCarty says regulatory decisions impact everyone in Missouri.

“What’s disturbing about this is that it’s basically outlawing the use of coal and it’s doing that through reducing the emissions to a point that it’s unreasonable. What that means for the consumers is that power companies are not going to be able to use coal, which is the cheapest form of generation of electricity.”

That’s part of the reason for increased electric rates if the EPA proposals were to be enacted.

To McCarty, that makes this environmental and federal discussion also about Missouri’s economy.

“There’s only so many dollars in the system and as you start to use more dollars to purchase power, those are fewer dollars you can use for personnel. That’s how it results in the loss of jobs.”

On the web:

US Environmental Protection Agency/Carbon Emissions Proposals:
http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards

Sierra Club of Missouri:
http://missouri2.sierraclub.org/

Associated Industries of Missouri:
http://aimo.com/

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/what-would-new-epa-rules-on-carbon-emissions-mean-for-missourians/

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