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Five ideas

Saturday, August 25, 2007 | 5:29 p.m. CDT; updated 6:37 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

[1] VOTER REGISTRATION

Three organizations allege Missouri is failing to comply with the National Voter Registration Act. A study released Thursday by ACORN, Demos and Project Vote chronicles what the groups say is a lack of compliance with the National Voter Registration Act, which requires states to offer voter registration to people when they visit public assistance agencies.

The groups allege the state is doing too little to comply with the law and have threatened to sue if compliance does not improve within 90 days.

The study found that the number of voters registered through social services agencies has fallen to one-tenth of what it was when the law was first enacted. By contrast, the percentage of voters registered through the Department of Motor Vehicles has remained steady.

The Department of Social Services denied the allegations, and in a press release noted that, in 2006, ACORN was accused of submitting at least 1,500 potentially fraudulent voter registration cards in St. Louis. “ACORN is an organization whose credibility has been tainted,” the release said.

What do you think of forcing state agencies to engage in voter registration efforts?

[2] STEM CELL RIFT

Less than a year after Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment protecting stem cell research, a group called Cures Without Cloning wants to amend the law to ban any form of human cloning, including the practice termed somatic cell nuclear transfer.

The group says the Missouri Constitution allows for human cloning and says the amendment would “ensure this dangerous, unproven, unnecessary practice is prohibited,” according to a news release.

The new proposal would not repeal last year’s measure but would reverse a key portion by creating a new definition for banned human cloning activities. It also would bar tax dollars from going to such cloning research.

Connie Farrow, spokesperson for The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures and sponsor of the 2006 proposal, said the new effort is fundamentally deceptive. “We have already banned human cloning,” Farrow said. “We believe that Missourians understood this issue. It’s reprehensible that this group would suggest that Missourians were too stupid to know what it was that they were doing.”

Do you think the proposed amendment would make stem cell research more ethical or make it impossible to practice?

[3] OUTSIDE COUNSEL

The director of the state Health Department announced that the department would use an outside lawyer, rather than the attorney general, in a Planned Parenthood lawsuit challenging the state’s latest abortion-restriction law.

Jane Drummond said Jay Nixon was too closely tied to Planned Parenthood, including having received financial support from the organization. She also said Nixon’s record of supporting abortion rights was one of the reasons for his removal.

“I did not believe I could trust you to defend me and my department vigorously,” Drummond wrote in a letter to Nixon, adding that she has obtained free counsel for the department.

As the state’s official lawyer, Nixon defends laws that have been challenged. And Nixon’s office made it clear the Democratic attorney general did not intend to step aside.

“For the Attorney General’s Office, this is about law, not politics. The legislature passed House Bill 1055, and, as in the past, we will defend the law,” Nixon’s office said in a written statement.

Do you think Nixon’s support for abortion rights would compromise his defense of the state’s law?

BEATING

THE HEAT[4]

More than 17,083 students returned to school Tuesday — 261 more than last year, according to early estimates.

A day later, Columbia Public Schools announced students would be sent home early the rest of the week because of excessive heat.

Not all students are taught in air-conditioned classrooms, and Assistant Superintendent Lynn Barnett said hot classrooms provide challenges to learning and teaching.

Meanwhile, Adventure Club, the district’s primary after-school program, told parents the club would also be closing early because of the heat. Other places that provide after-school care picked up the children at early-dismissal times. Green Meadows Preschool, which serves Mill Creek Elementary, took between 15 and 20 students by school bus to the preschool, where they were cared for until 5:45 p.m.

As for sports, outdoor practices have been under way since Aug. 6, and coaches are aware of heat concerns and are practicing accordingly, with frequent water breaks and trainers at every practice.

What do you think of moving the start of school to September, when it might be cooler?

[5] CAMPUS SAFETY

MU Police Chief Jack Watring said the university’s current emergency plan addresses 90 percent of the recommendations released Tuesday by the state’s Campus Security Task Force.

The report by the 29-member task force, created by Gov. Matt Blunt in April after 32 students were shot to death at Virginia Tech, addressed communication and rapid response; planning and prevention; and risk mitigation and recovery. The task force met five times and heard public comment at two separate meetings, in Kansas City and St. Louis.

Peter Ashbrook, MU’s environmental health and safety director, said the university’s emergency plan is in good shape. The task force recommended that each campus have a plan in place to notify students, faculty and staff in the event of an emergency.

The report recommended that colleges and universities offer on-campus, licensed mental health services 24 hours a day, seven days a week to the entire campus community and make better use of technology to monitor mental health and improve communication on campus.

How much do you worry about your safety when you are on Columbia’s college campuses?


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