Five Ideas: What do you think about these events that came up in the news this week?

Saturday, October 20, 2007 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:06 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Appeal for school funding

A Cole County judge ruled Tuesday that Missouri has met the constitutionally required 25 percent school-funding formula, ending a lawsuit filed by half the state’s public school districts, including Columbia Public Schools.

The districts, known as the Committee for Educational Equality, sued in 2004, claiming Missouri doles out too little money to fund public schools and that the money was divvied up unfairly. The plaintiffs said the state did not meet the requirement that 25 percent of the state budget be used for public schools, as required by the state constitution.

In another decision from Aug. 29, Judge Richard Callahan ruled that Missouri did not distribute funds unfairly just because the money is tied to local property taxes. Tuesday’s ruling ends the districts lawsuit.

It’s not yet known if the school districts will appeal. Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Phyllis Chase said last month the school board would vote whether it should be party to an appeal.

Should the school districts appeal the ruling, and if so, should Columbia Public Schools join the appeal?

Phones on the road

Based on a recommendation by the Columbia Police Department, the City Council will not consider an ordinance outlawing the use of cell phones while driving.

Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade proposed a study in August to learn if there is a correlation between traffic accidents and cell phone usage. The police department was charged with the study, which also included researching similar ordinances around the country.

“Research that we did indicated that there aren’t any very effective ordinances dealing with that issue,” Police Chief Randy Boehm said.

Boehm said similar ordinances weren’t effective because drivers weren’t stopped just for using their cell phones, and that the police department doesn’t have the resources to pull people over for cell phone usage.

“We are already very busy with other issues on our plate,” Boehm said.

The department was also unable to find any link between accidents and cell phones, Boehm said, and could only speculate that they were a distraction.

Should the City Council move on to other issues, or is this ordinance necessary for the public safety?

Health insurance expansion

Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., is facing criticism for voting against a health insurance program for children that he had a hand in formulating.

The federally funded State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, expired last month. Congress voted to renew and expand the program, but President Bush vetoed the legislation. The House failed to override that veto Thursday and was preparing for compromise talks, according to The Associated Press.

Both of Missouri’s senators and five state representatives voted in favor of the legislation.

“He does not have a problem with spending extra money,” said Hulshof’s spokesman, Scott Baker. “In fact, he thinks the president’s unrealistic on what his goals are, that it’s way too stingy.”

Baker said Hulshof was concerned the expansion would cover health insurance for families who could actually afford to purchase their own insurance.

Regardless, the Missouri Association for Social Welfare is hoping Hulshof will change his position, said Executive Director Bob Quinn.

If Hulshof supports SCHIP, should he support the House effort to override the president’s veto?

Spirits in parks

Any hopes by private groups for selling alcohol in the city’s parks were dashed last week when the City Council voted against an ordinance that would have made the sales legal.

The proposal was discussed for two hours, with most residents arguing against the proposal. Only two spoke in favor of allowing alcohol sales in the parks.

“The message I’m getting from the public is the status quo is fine,” said Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe.

Those who spoke in opposition of the ordinance said allowing alcohol sales would negatively affect children.

Not just anyone would have been able to sell alcohol. Sellers would need a permit. To get a permit, which would cost at least $100, the seller would need a park special-use permit, a state and city liquor license and liability insurance totaling $2 million.

Mayor Darwin Hindman voted for the ordinance, explaining that the city already allowed alcohol in its parks, just not the sale of alcohol.

If alcohol is legal in the park, why shouldn’t alcohol sales be allowed?

Victim protection

Gov. Matt Blunt on Wednesday announced a plan to recommend covering the cost of exams for rape victims who either lack insurance or whose insurance companies refuse to pay.

“No victim of sexual assault should be forced to pay for an exam to prove their injury,” Blunt said. The governor is recommending that the General Assembly pay more than $2.3 million to cover the cost of the exams and another $1.8 million to protect victims.

The General Assembly has taken other steps recently to protect victims of sexual assault.

The governor signed a bill in July that allows the state to pay for rape exams. The legislation also prevents the public disclosure of victims’ names, protects those who report a rape or sexual assault from being forced to take a lie detector test, allows victims to use an alternative mailing address at the secretary of state’s office and increases penalties for repeat offenders.

How do you think this plan would affect the criminal justice process in rape cases?

— compiled by Grant Smith

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