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5 Ideas

Sunday, July 8, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:16 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

[1] CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING

What impact do you think losing a congressional district would have on Missouri’s influence in national politics?

According to political scientists and analysts, Missouri could lose a congressional seat following the 2010 census.

Population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau predict Missouri’s growth will be less than the national rate. If the state loses a congressional seat, it also loses a vote in the electoral college, which means Missouri would have less weight in deciding who will be president.

After redistricting for the 2000 census, each of the nine congressional districts in Missouri had a population of about 620,000. Based on 2010 estimates, each of the nine districts would represent about 658,000 people, a population growth rate of about 5.8 percent.

But if Missouri lost a seat through redistricting, each of the eight projected districts would contain more than 740,000 people, a growth rate of 19 percent.

“Losing a congressional seat would almost be like adding one more person for every five residing in each district,” one political analyst said.

Currently Missouri has nine congressional districts but because national population determines how many seats, or districts, each state has, one of Missouri’s seats could be moved to a state with positive population growth.

[2] DELAYED DECISION

How much of a risk do you think a bio research lab in Columbia would pose for Missouri livestock?

On June 20, the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association board of directors voted to withdraw its letter of support for a National Bio- and Agro- Defense Facility that could be housed in Columbia.

Jeff Windett, the executive vice president of the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, said after learning more about the lab, the organization decided the facility would pose too much of a risk.

Spokesmen for the Department of Homeland Security had said they would release a list narrowing down the 17 possible sites to three to five sites by July 1, but the list has still not been released.

The lab, which could be located off New Haven Road, would study diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease and classical swine fever.

Windett said a breach in security at the lab would put the cattle producers’ livelihoods in jeopardy. He said the proposed location would be very close to a major thoroughfare where cattle are transported.

“If there was a breach in security, with those diseases it would have a devastating effect, not only on Missouri but on the states around us,” he said.

[3] SCOOTER FREE

Why do you think Bush commuted Libby’s prison term?

President Bush spared former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby from 2½ years in prison, just hours after a federal appeals panel ruled Libby could not delay his sentence in a CIA leak case. Bush left intact a $250,000 fine and two years probation for Libby, saying the commutation still “leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby.”

Libby was convicted in March of lying to a grand jury and the FBI and obstructing the investigation into the 2003 leak of a CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity.

The president’s announcement came just as prison seemed likely for Libby. He recently lost an appeals court fight that was his best chance to put the sentence on hold. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons had already designated him inmate No. 28301-016.

Bush’s statement made no mention of the term “pardon,” although he said he would not rule out a future decision on Libby’s sentence. Bush justified the commutation by saying the jail term was excessive and did not fit the crime for a “first-time offender with years of exceptional public service.”

[4] MIDWIFERY LAW

What qualifications do you think midwives should have and in what ways should they be regulated by the government?

A Cole County judge issued a temporary restraining order against a new midwives law scheduled to take effect Aug. 28. The law would let some lay midwives deliver babies in Missouri without the threat of criminal charges and prison sentences.

The midwives provision was secretly attached to a bill intended to make health insurance more affordable, but physician groups sued last Thursday, claiming the midwife language violates the Missouri Constitution by going beyond the bill’s title and changing its original purpose.

Under existing Missouri law, midwifery is illegal unless done by physicians or certain specially trained nurses working under a physician’s supervision. A violation is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

The bill’s original title, when introduced in the House, described it as relating “to portability and accessibility of health insurance.” The title of the bill that passed described it as “relating to health insurance.”

The physicians’ lawsuit contends midwifery isn’t covered by either of those titles, but a state attorney defending the law said there was a legitimate connection between midwifery and health insurance because midwives hold down medical costs.

[5] ABSOLUTE DEFENSE

How do you think this legislation will affect the way Missourians practice self-defense against an intruder?

On Tuesday, Gov. Matt Blunt signed a bill known as the “Castle Doctrine” into law. The law gives no legal recourse for the family of someone killed or injured while invading a home and protects homeowners from civil lawsuits. One sponsor of the bill called it “absolute defense for self-defense.”

The bill received overwhelming support among Missouri legislators, with the House passing it 151-6 and the Senate 29-3. It will take effect Aug. 28.

Previous “duty-to-retreat” laws bound citizens to avoid conflict even in dangerous situations, and then to do everything in their power to retreat instead of using force. When people resorted to the use of force, they had to prove that they had first tried to retreat. The Castle Doctrine eliminates that requirement.

John White of the Columbia Police Department’s Community Service Unit says that Missourians already had the right to protect themselves, and he doesn’t think the law is going to bring much change.

Sponsors of the bill say the legislation clarifies that right.


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