September 12, 2012Thousands of Missouri citizens, many from this area, worked hard to pass the Puppy Mill Initiative in November 2010. Despite its approval, lawmakers went to work to dismantle this law the very next year, ignoring the will of the people.
This prompted calls for a tough "Will of the People" law that would restrict Jefferson City lawmakers from altering citizen initiatives, unless they could muster hefty majorities in each house for such action.
"Will of the People" sounded like a good idea to me. I supported it in this column. However, the idea went nowhere and legislators on both sides of the political fence scolded me for how wrong I was to support such a radical measure. After all, legislators are the ones paid to make laws and to be responsive to citizen needs.
Well, alrighty then!
So, next session, are lawmakers going to be responsive to hundreds of people who worked on campaigns to hike the minimum wage and to stop the state scandal of payday loan rate abuse? Will they be responsive to the tens of thousands of citizens who signed petitions to try to get these measures on the state ballot?
Or, will they be responsive to the payday loan industry which paid their lawyers plenty to foil the petition drive? And, will they be beholden to well-financed interests that fought the minimum wage hike?
Let's withhold judgment and see how responsive the paid lawmakers are to the "Will of the People" next session. But let's not withhold our applause for Rev. David Gerth, head of the Metropolitan Congregations United, which worked so hard on behalf of these worthy causes.
Let's also recognize the hard work of petition gatherers who collected more than 350,000 signatures in support of these causes. Here's the test for 2013: Will the 197 paid state legislators acknowledge the citizen call of the 350,000?
Doctor In The House
Speeches on health care, its costs and its delivery found a place at both party conventions this 2012 election season. Dr. William Fogarty Jr. fears the fiery political oratory may be generating more heat than light.
Fogarty, who serves on the local leadership committee of Physicians for a National Health Program, finds all the political rhetoric exasperating. He will explain his organization's take on the health care debate at the Ethical Society, 9001 Clayton Road, at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 20.
"If logic dictated what we do in America – which it doesn't – we would have Medicare for all," said Fogarty, whose group meets in Clayton. "Medicare works well at a far lower cost than private insurance. It has higher levels of patient satisfaction.
"Talk to most doctors and you will find far more unhappiness with the insurance companies, than with the government's Medicare," Fogarty added. "Some $400 billion is now lost to administrative costs of health insurance companies annually. This could be saved to cover the 25 million who remain uncovered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)."
The ACA, tagged by its critics as "Obamacare," has inspired negative reactions and harsh political rhetoric. Fogarty said the reaction underscores his premise that America and its citizenry are illogical when it comes to a good health care system.
"All the polls show that Americans like a system where you cannot be cut off care for pre-existing conditions; where prescription costs are held down; where the young can stay on their parents' policies until 26," said Fogarty. "Then you ask them if they like the Affordable Care Act and they scream, 'No!'"
Fogarty said it makes no sense, because all of the positive attributes for care are under ACA. Fogarty said he has no desire to be embroiled in politics, but it's hard to avoid politics when talking about health care now.
"It's hard not to get political with this," said Fogarty. "The Democrats have done a poor job promoting ACA and health care for all. Republicans have just been disingenuous. There is no doubt they are in the back pocket of the health insurance industry.
"I see ACA as a step on the way to Medicare for all," said Fogarty. "ACA is not my first choice, but progress is slow and it's a first step. The irony (of GOP opposition) is that ACA has two key Republican ideas: an insurance mandate that everyone must pay; and, a health insurance company policy exchange for many participants to choose from."