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Five Ideas

Saturday, September 1, 2007 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 4:03 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

[1] GUN LAW

On Tuesday, the Castle Doctrine Law took effect, eliminating local background checks for prospective handgun owners. Now, only federal background checks will be required.

It’s good news for people who like owning guns but hate filling out paperwork, as well for people who have always wanted a gun but couldn’t have one because of their local police records.

People who worry that handguns will fall into the hands of small-time criminals should consider the fact that the Boone County Sheriff’s Department wasn’t paying much attention to the background checks in the first place.

Maj. Tom Reddin of the Sheriff’s Department said, “It’s a misconception that we kept records so we knew who was doing what... We were just maintaining the records as a requirement of the service.”

While the Sheriff’s Department may not have been using the records, the Columbia Police Department was. While lost records would not prevent a police investigation, said Chief Randy Boehm, “It might take a little longer to track down the owner of a handgun on some occasions.”

How do you think the Castle Law will affect public safety?

[2] MISSOURI IMMIGRATION

The Department of Economic Development will randomly audit employee paperwork and perform surprise visits to state-financed construction sites to ensure all employees have proper documentation of citizenship.

Gov. Matt Blunt said he hopes the order will ensure that “Missouri taxpayers are not in some way subsidizing illegal immigration.”

On Monday, Blunt ordered immigration status checks for people arrested by state troopers, the Missouri Water Patrol and Capitol Police. He pointed to the murder of three college students in Newark, N.J. An illegal immigrant from Peru was one of six people charged.

In Missouri, a person arrested and found to be living in the U.S. illegally could be jailed to await investigation by federal immigration agents. In fact, just a stop by a trooper and an immigration status check can mean incarceration for an otherwise innocent illegal immigrant. Only time will tell what that means for racial profiling.

How far do you think government can go in pursuing illegal immigrants without violating American ideals of fairness and justice?

[3] FIRE DISTRICT AUDITS

The Federal Emergency Management Agency finally suggested that the Boone County Fire Protection District conduct outside audits of their books, and at its Aug. 23 meeting, the board adopted the suggestion as policy.

Each year, FEMA awards grants to the district, which, until now, has accounted for the money using internal audits.

Accusations of mismanagement and misuse of public funds have dogged the district since 2005. An FBI investigation into the Fire Protection District’s accounting practices is ongoing.

FEMA requested the outside audits after seeing an example of the fire district’s internal accounting.

A 2004 Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper series revealed that FEMA paid $31 million to Miami-Dade County for Hurricane Frances, even though the storm made landfall 100 miles away. Yet FEMA has noticed the fire district’s accounting problems.

Outside auditors will visit the district about once a month to look at different aspects of the district’s books. For example, credit card receipts might be examined on one visit and petty cash the next, board member Dave Griggs said.

What do you think independent audits will reveal about spending at Boone County Fire Protection District?

[4] SCHOOL FUNDING

Judge Richard Callahan of the Cole County circuit upheld Missouri’s school funding method Wednesday, ruling that the state constitution provides no guarantee of absolute “equity, equality or adequacy in the dollars spent” or in the facilities available from one school district to another.

About half of the state’s 524 school districts sued the state more than three years ago, claiming that Missouri does not allot enough money to public education and doles out the money unfairly.

Last year, the state spent about $2.7 billion in basic aid to schools based on a distribution formula that sets a per-pupil spending target.

A spokesperson for the Columbia School District said, “The burden falls on local taxpayers when state government doesn’t provide enough funding.”

In K-12 school districts, spending per student ranged from $4,704 in Diamond to $13,846 in Clayton. The difference can be attributed to local tax dollars. Each community decides what they are willing and able to spend.

Do you think the state is spending enough money on public education?

[5] FLIGHTS TO CHICAGO

With help from MU and neighboring cities, officials with the city of Columbia hope to raise roughly $2 million to persuade a commercial airline to carry passengers nonstop between Columbia Regional Airport and Chicago.

The city’s partners include MU, Jefferson City and the Tri-County Lodging Association in Lake of the Ozarks.

The $2 million would be insurance for any losses the airline might sustain.

For now, the partners are being as quiet as possible about the details and were reluctant to talk to the media at such an early stage of the discussions. Even the Airport Advisory Board was excluded from talks.

When asked why, City Manager Bill Watkins said, “Right now we’re working on a need-to-know basis because everything is very preliminary.”

The Airport Advisory Board is made up of citizens who work on a volunteer basis. Their job is to make recommendations to the city about airport matters. Maybe they don’t “need to know” what’s going on.

What place, if any, do you think the Airport Advisory Board has in the discussions?


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