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/

Jul 07

Digital Dangers – Missouri’s Task Force Can’t Stop All Predators. What Does That Mean To You?

by Mike Ferguson

(St. Charles, MO) – As digital technology evolves, sexual predators seem to figure it out as fast as our children do. That’s almost always faster than parents can keep up.

Missouri has a special team in place to catch online predators but the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force can only do so much. Experts say the first – and best – line of defense is parents.

Sgt. Chris Bosley wants parents to understand that online danger is not just on the desktop or laptop anymore.

MWSnap194“If it’s an app designed for kids or games for XBox – like ‘Call of Duty’ – people are talking through those now. It’s nonstop. You go in there and five minutes later you’ll be talking to someone who’s wanting something more than just a friendship.”

Regardless of the rules and standards in your home, Bosley cautions parents to proactively address online dangers. Many children, especially teenagers, think they are more of an expert in the cyberworld than parents and may not want to listen. While the young people are generally know more about the technology and social media, they often don’t understand the physical danger involved.

Bosley points out that, while you may teach solid values in your home, the messages kids receive every day encourage risky behavior.

“Kids are naive, they don’t think these people are lying to them. The way TV shows are today; it’s scantily-clad women, it’s talking about sex, it’s drinking…so, as a society, we’re pushing it on the kids [saying] ‘hey, this is how we act now’”.

According to Bosley, the cases of children sending explicit photos and videos from their phones to each other and, sometimes, complete strangers is more common than many adults realize.

While law enforcement in Missouri is trying to keep up with the constant onslaught of predators who are looking for children to entice into sex through the latest technology, Bosley says a big part of the solution is old fashioned.

That’s talking to your children, especially teenagers, and making sure you have complete access to all their electronic communications. It won’t always make you the most popular person in the house but having that accountability in place is worth it.

MWSnap193” The ones who say ‘it’s not going to be my kid’, that’s the one who’s not watching their kid’s phone. The one who’s worried about their kid and looking at their phone and looking at their texts, I think they’re going to have a better success rate of that one not doing it.

“It’s the parents that are just naive and oblivious to what their child is doing online.”

Going online yourself isn’t enough. Being a friend on Facebook or following your child on Instagram isn’t enough. That parenting and the sometimes uncomfortable conversations that come with the role is crucial.

Bosley says that’s because young people are migrating away from social media standards, including Facebook, and on to newer options because their parents are getting on social media. For different reasons, many teens don’t want to be on the same social media as their parents.

That is part of the opportunity for sexual predators, who make it a point to be where the children are online.

Technology will always be in a state of change. Tragically, predators will also evolve their tactics with it. While it’s good for parents to keep up with those changes as much as possible, nothing can take the place of good, old-fashioned parenting principles that predate the dawn of the information age.

On the web:

Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force: www.MOICAC.org.

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/digital-dangers-missouris-task-force-cant-stop-all-predators-what-does-that-mean-to-you/

Jul 01

Mental Health Crises: Prevention and Helping Those In Need In Missouri

by Mike Ferguson

(St. Charles, MO) – It’s among the most under reported, yet widespread, challenges in our society today.

The impact of mental illness.

A lack of understanding of the many forms it can take and stigmas associated with the term itself continue to result in residual crises for families throughout Missouri.

A mental health crisis for one person can lead to legal and financial crises for entire families, according to Pat Mobley. He is part of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri’s team and specializes in providing legal aid for those facing mental illness challenges.

Among the situations in which Mobley may be involved are evictions from rental properties and foreclosures when mental illness is a factor in the financial situation.

MWSnap191“For someone with a mental illness to be homeless all of a sudden, that’s going to be a terrible thing for their mental illness and for their mental health outcome. So, if it’s a doctor and a social worker who are helping this person, they may not know what to do to prevent that person from becoming homeless.

“But if I, as an attorney can come in and work with the landlord, work with the landlord’s attorney, if we can provide some social services [such as] link them up with United Way so they can get caught up on their rent, that person is then going to have stable housing and stable housing leads to a better mental health outcome.”

As with all legal aid offices in Missouri, there are income guidelines to qualify for the services. Mobley believes it’s crucial for those who qualify for the services to make contact and use them.

“They are doubly stigmatized. They are low income first of all, so they have limited access to justice because they can’t afford a lawyer. Then someone with mental illness may have trouble understanding exactly what’s going on when it comes to the legal process and they are also going to be taken less seriously if they walk into a courtroom and are symptomatic.”

There are multiple legal aid offices throughout the state and every county is covered with one of them.

Dealing with the effects of mental illness is crucial but addressing the symptoms when they are first displayed is also important. There’s a new push in the state to increase the number of Missourians who are certified in Mental Health First Aid.

It’s the same concept as traditional first aid only, obviously, it teaches how to recognize and address mental health conditions until professionals can work with the person involved.

Jermine Alberty is with the Missouri Institute of Mental Health, working through the University of Missouri – St. Louis. He points out there’s a need for more awareness of mental health issues because we all probably know someone affected by it.

MWSnap192“One out of five people could have a mental illness in this country in any given year.”

Mental Health First Aid is not designed to diagnose mental health conditions. The purpose is to prevent major crises from happening through early assistance.

“The goal of that whole thing is about help…you teach how to recognize signs and symptoms, teach them how to recognize warning signs and then you teach them how to intervene.”

While mental health issues often only make the news when horrific crimes – like school or mall shootings – happen, Alberty says those who are trained in Mental Health First Aid will likely deal with common and small-scale events.

“If someone started having a panic attack and telling you that they felt like their heart was beating out of their chest or that the room was closing in, how would you remain comfortable enough to help that person?”

While personal crises are just that; personal, Alberty thinks there’s a long-term benefit to the entire state if more people become Mental Health First Aid certified.

“If we had [mental health] first aid in the community and intervened early, we would have many people who would hopefully not go on to develop serious mental illness.”

On the web:

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri: http://www.lsem.org/

Mental Health First Aid – Missouri: http://mhfamissouri.org/

Missouri Institute of Mental Health: https://www.mimh.edu/

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/mental-health-crises-prevention-and-helping-those-in-need-in-missouri/

Jun 23

Public and Private Sector Support For Missouri’s Small Businesses

by Mike Ferguson

(St. Charles, MO) – Technology seems to be evolving at a pace some of us have trouble keeping up with but that’s how Missouri’s economy is going to grow in the future. Specifically, the growth of high speed internet access is changing how businesses in all industries operate and grow.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners need to keep that in mind as well.

On “Missouri Viewpoints”, AT&T Missouri President John Sondag points out that the increased coverage areas and connection speeds are not just for faster downloads of videos and music. They are also not just for computers that are connected to a home internet system. The improvements in wireless technology are having a major impact on industries that formerly were not considered technology businesses.

“It’s more than just getting stuff faster, you have to look at the applications that are going with it.

MWSnap190“Missouri is a huge agricultural state. A big part of our economy is agriculture. You are seeing farmers today that when they are utilizing a wireless connection, when they are out on their combines, they’re downloading weather reports, they’re downloading moisture reports, they’re checking the commodities markets. When you combine that with GPS, there are a lot of things that help them to plow, to plant and to cultivate their fields.

“It’s enhanced their productivity.”

That evolution of high speed internet technology is among the tools that small business owners have to compete both locally and worldwide.

Greg Tucker is with the University of Missouri Extension’s Small Business and Technology Development Centers. He says improved technology is one reason entrepreneurs have a chance to succeed in today’s global market.

His office is a state-funded support system for those who want to go into business for themselves and for those who are already running a small business in the state.

MWSnap189“We offer free one-on-one counseling to those who want to start a business or especially to those who are already in business.”

They also offer templates and forms that help would-be business owners develop business plans and other parts of a business foundation.

While local and state government often works hard to attract large employers, Tucker points out that supporting small business is crucial to Missouri’s future.

“You’ll see reports that say about 85% of all new net jobs are created from businesses with fewer than fifty employees.”

While the Centers do not finance businesses, they do help business owners connect with those who can be part of a start up.

“We provide resources and contacts to help them address regulations, help them address the financing requirements, to look in to planning and zoning which, especially in our rural communities, can be an issue for small business.”

The service is provided at no charge to Missouri residents and businesses and Center offices are located throughout the state..

On the web:
AT&T Missouri www.ATT.com
MU Extension Small Business and Technology Development Centers: www.MissouriBusiness.net

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/public-and-private-sector-support-for-missouris-small-businesses/

Jun 13

Summer Safety In Missouri

by Mike Ferguson

(St. Charles, MO) – Summer may be known as the most care-free time of year, but taking care to do a little planning could keep the fun times coming and save a life at the same time.

While the extreme heat hasn’t come to the Show Me State yet this year, it’s likely to move through at some point. Nicole Hawkins from the Red Cross wants everyone prepared to avoid heat related illnesses, including dehydration and heat stroke.

Everyone can be impacted by the heat. Hawkins suggests keeping a particularly close eye on small children and the elderly, who are the most at risk.

When extreme heat and is in the forecast, some simple steps can make a big difference.

MWSnap187“Getting enough cool water to drink, staying away from caffeine during those times. If you don’t have a place with air conditioning to go, head to a mall or library. Somewhere that’s easy like that.”

You may have heard someone say when you are thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Hawkins explains there is some truth to that. That’s why keeping water on hand during the summer is important. Beyond thirst, other signs of problems from the heat to watch for include “…if someone stops sweating and it’s really hot out, that’s a clear sign that something’s wrong and you need to get inside and cool off.

“If someone feels confused or disoriented, that’s an even bigger problem.”

In that case, she says medical attention is needed right away.

In this week’s “Missouri Viewpoints”, Hawkins also has advice for planning road trips and information on the Red Cross’ new swimming app that can help you teach your child to swim.

Being in the water is, of course, a Missouri tradition in the summer. Missouri State Highway Patrol Corporal Stacey Mosher works with the Water Patrol Division and reminds boaters that they may need to get in front of a computer before they get behind the wheel of a boat.

MWSnap188“Anyone born after January 1st, 1984 has to keep in mind that to operate a boat on Missouri’s waterways, you have to have a boat education card. A successful completion of a class and that education card has to be carried with you at all times.”

The class can be taken online and the card can be printed from your computer.

In addition to teaching about Missouri’s waterway laws, the course also has some safety advice. It can also be taken at some Highway Patrol Troop Headquarters around the state.

Mosher encourages all boaters to keep a charged cell phone with them. By dialing *55, you will be connected to the Patrol division. That service also works for those on the highways.

In addition to the safety precautions all boaters should take, Cpl. Mosher recommends a basic mechanical check before you go out on the water – especially when using older boats. In particular, she recommends making sure the cables are in good shape and the battery is not drained.

“When you’re out listening to your radio and you’ve got phones plugged in and you’ve got chargers plugged in with ipods and ipads, all that is a drain on the battery that once only had to start the boat.”

She also recommends keeping plenty of drinking water and a first aid kit on board.

On the web:

Red Cross: www.RedCross.org

Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Water Patrol Division: http://www.mshp.dps.missouri.gov/MSHPWeb/WaterPatrol/

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/summer-safety-in-missouri/

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