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Interim Report II--July 24, 2012

With commercials abundant, we all know that another state and local Primary Election is nearly upon us. I urge you, one and all, to go forth, and vote on Tuesday, August 7th.

Important 2012 Ballot Measure

In August, Missourians will vote on Constitutional Amendment 2 which is the result of House Joint Resolution 2: http://www.house.mo.gov/billsummary.aspx?bill=HJR2&year=2011&code=R and will guarantee a citizen’s right to pray and worship on public property and reaffirm a citizen’s right to choose any or no religion.  Following is the wording you will see on your ballot when you head to the polls on August 7th: 

Constitutional Amendment 2-Official Ballot Title:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to
ensure:

  • That the right of Missouri citizens to express their
         religious beliefs shall not be infringed;
  • That school children have the right to pray and
         acknowledge God voluntarily in their schools; and
  • That all public schools shall display the Bill of
         Rights of the United States Constitution.

It is estimated that this proposal will result in little or no costs or savings for state and local governmental entities.  

Fair Ballot Language:

A “yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to provide that neither the state nor political subdivisions shall establish any official religion.  The amendment further provides that a citizen’s right to express their religious beliefs regardless of their religion shall not be infringed and that the right to worship includes prayer in private or public settings, on government premises, on public property, and in all
public schools.  The amendment also requires public schools to display the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution.  A “no” vote will not change the current constitutional provisions protecting freedom of religion.  If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.

The Supreme Court’s Ruling on the
Federal Health Care Act

Given the fact it is one of the most bloated, confusing and controversial pieces of legislation ever foisted on the American people, it was no surprise that the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare was marked by even more chaos and controversy.  While even “reputable” news sources like CNN reported the court had struck down the individual mandate requirement, the unfortunate truth is that the court took an unexpected turn in upholding the provision that will force all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty.  Interestingly, the decision of the court was based on its interpretation that the penalty is in fact a tax – something the White House has asserted it is not.  The court made it clear it would not be constitutional for the federal government to require the purchase of health insurance under the commerce clause.  Instead, the court ruled it is
constitutional for Congress to impose the “penalty” for failure to purchase
insurance its taxation power.

With this ruling, the American people are now staring down the barrel of the largest tax increase in the history of our nation.  Because the health insurance mandate provision was upheld, the entirety of the Obamacare law was ruled constitutional as well.  The court did insert one bit of sanity into its ruling when it decided it would not be constitutional for the federal government to penalize states that do not comply with new Medicaid eligibility requirements contained in the bill.  The court ruled the provision is constitutional only if states lose new funding by not complying rather than by having existing funds cut or withheld.  The intent behind the ruling is good but it is easy to see where the federal
government will still be able to wield a heavy hand in forcing states to
implement the requirements contained in this massive federal overreach.

Teacher Tenure, Last In, First Out

Ensuring that children in Missouri receive the best education available is important to all Missourians.  We know our public school systems help shape the future of our state when children have the opportunity to be educated in a classroom instructed by a quality teacher.  During tough economic times, schools around the state are making necessary budget reductions to ensure they live within their means yet still must work hard to safeguard the quality of education offered to each student.  During this legislative session, the House passed a bill
changing how teachers are released from their contracts during difficult times
when a school may be required to lay off teachers to ensure they keep a
balanced budget.  Currently, teachers employed the longest were given
preferential treatment over the teachers that were newly hired by the
school.  Though some have argued that schools are not bound to that
standard, most schools adhered to it to avoid a costly lawsuit, almost sure to
follow, by a well-funded public employee union.  The stark reality is that
the current lay off process leads to the removal of some wonderful and
effective teachers before some that may have been employed longer but are not
as effective at educating our children.  This process of layoffs is often
called “Last in, First out,” because of how teachers are selected to be
released.  Therefore, it was time for the legislature to act to help give
school boards the flexibility they need when working to balance their budget
and keep the best teachers.

The legislation passed by the Missouri House, but unfortunately never passed by the Senate, stated that the releasing of teachers should no longer be based on the date of hire but instead on their effectiveness of teaching our children.  Newer teachers with a high passion for educating have less fear of being released ahead of less effective teachers for not being employed long enough.  There are several teachers that make a long and successful career of educating our children, and they should be commended as valuable members in our communities.  The passion of great teachers can be seen in our children when they arrive home and
excitably tell you all they learned that day and tell you how they cannot wait
to return to school the next day to learn more.  However, length of
employment is not a conclusive determining factor on the effectiveness of a
teacher.  We must continually look for those changes that will give our
schools the necessary tools that will ensure our children have the opportunity
to receive a strong education that will prepare them for the future.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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