New laws will protect families better

New laws will protect families better


Domestic violence invades a home and destroys a family in America all too often. It is referred to as the silent crime because of the untold women and children who suffer in secret.
Each year, women are victims of more than 4.5 million violent crimes, 29 percent of which are perpetrated by intimate partners such as husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends and former boyfriends. It is time for Missouri to move into the 21st century to combat the epidemic of domestic violence in our society.

As a representative with an “A” rating from the NRA, I am an ardent supporter of the 2nd Amendment. At the same time, we must recognize the urgent need for a rational approach to the dangers presented by firearms in domestic violence situations.

A constituent of mine from St. Charles County told me her personal story of domestic violence. Her ex-husband was forced to leave their home by the police to help defuse a domestic violence dispute. But he was allowed to leave, she said, with his firearms in hand. Unlike a drug sting, at which law enforcement officers are required to remove every firearm from the scene, Missouri statutes do not require the removal of firearms from the scene of domestic violence disputes.

I believe we must be extremely careful not to trample the 2nd Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, which guarantees citizens’ right to bear arms. Nevertheless, in the 21st century, we can use new ideas to solve old problems. We can find a way to honor gun owners’ rights and, at the same time, punish those who use firearms to batter, intimidate or murder their loved ones.

The need for change in the world of domestic violence is urgent. Because of the current situation, more and more adults and children are suffering. We need legislation that ensures the best interests of those involved in a domestic dispute– and of society as a whole — by limiting access to guns.

We need to allow law enforcement officers to remove firearms from the scene of alleged acts of domestic violence. We also need safeguards built into the process. Law enforcement agencies must safely store any seized firearm for as long as any relevant domestic-violence court proceeding is pending. The gun owner may reclaim the weapon only after proceedings have concluded.

In order to protect those who might be hurt by domestic offenders, we also have to tighten regulations on those who can carry a gun. Sheriffs should have the legal authority to deny applications and revoke permits or registrations for concealed weapons if the individual is subject to an existing order of protection relating to domestic violence.

This also would apply to people who have been convicted of domestic assault or of violating an order of protection while using or possessing a firearm. The same restrictions should apply the shipment of firearms. And, finally, Missouri must come into compliance with the Federal Violence Against Women Act.

I feel strongly that these measures will do a great deal to protect victims of domestic violence and to prevent further violence.

Sherman Thompson Parker, a Republican who represents parts of St. Charles County in the Missouri House of Representatives, is a regular contributor to the Commentary page.

E-mail: sherman.parker@house.mo.gov

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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

In search of an economic plan that includes those who’ve been forgotten.

By Sherman Thompson Parker

10/26/2005
Economic development is one of the few things that Republicans and Democrats agree on. In the Missouri House of Representatives, the relationship between Ron Richards, R-Joplin, who chairs the committee on economic development, and Fred Kratky, D-St. Louis, the committee’s senior Democrat, personifies bipartisan, urban-suburban-rural cooperation.

I believe this helps explain why Missouri is one the few states in the nation that is turning the economic corner. For the first six months of 2005, employment growth here exceeded that of all but six western states, travel and tourism appear to have had a strong summer and the economy has so far weathered the increases in oil prices.

But the assaults of recent catastrophic hurricanes on the Gulf coast and Florida have reminded the nation that vast pockets of poverty are still prevalent in America. Unfortunately, too many older communities remain distressed for a multitude of reasons. I view these communities as the last frontier of economic development, especially in Missouri.

In order for our nation and state to enjoy the promised prosperity of the 21st century global economy, all of our citizens – especially those who thus far have been left out – need to be productive members of society. Not only will the economic inclusion of the underclass help secure the future for our children and grandchildren, but it also will remedy the corrosive problem of human hopelessness.

To succeed at this task, we must create entrepreneurial incentives to help propel the development of our older and distressed communities. That is why Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis County, and I are teaming up on legislation to create something new in our state: a Revitalization and Reconstruction Commission.

Its mission will be to devise a comprehensive 10-year plan to alleviate the problems of blight, deterioration and declining property values associated with distressed urban/suburban areas in our state. The plan may include incentives to generate venture capital, attract developers to build low- to moderate-income housing and even create new tourist attractions. However, the plan should not inhibit growth and development outside the distressed communities; we believe it’s essential and possible to maintain growth throughout the region. As we envision it, the commission would file a report with the Legislature annually and in detail on its activities.

The legislation John and I will file for the upcoming legislative session – significantly changed from the bill we introduced last year – provides for a nine-person commission, including the state auditor and the state treasurer. The St. Louis and Kansas City regions would be represented by two members each, while Springfield would have one. The remaining two commission members could come from anywhere in the state.

I strongly believe that this commission can be the link between federal economic development programs, state economic development programs and local economic development programs that all target economically distressed communities in the city of St. Louis, Kansas City and older municipalities in Jackson, Green, St. Louis and St. Charles counties.

As we look toward the legislative session that begins in January, John Bowman and I would like to hear from citizens who have constructive suggestions concerning urban/suburban development. Please send your suggestions via e-mail to sherman.parker@house.mo.gov and john.bowman@house.mo.gov.

Sherman Thompson Parker, a Republican who represents parts of St. Charles County in the

 Missouri House of Representatives, is a regular contributor to the Commentary page.

MEDICAID CUTS

MEDICAID CUTS: One way or another, everyone is affected

By Sherman Thompson Parker

09/22/2005
Contrary to certain stereotypes, most of those without health insurance have a high school diploma, were born in this country and are employed in a low wage job for an employer currently not providing health insurance. In other words, it is not only pregnant single mothers, children, the elderly and the disabled, but, rather, our state’s working poor who are left without support if health problems strike.

None of us is immune to the social and economic impact of creating a class of fellow citizens who lack the ability to fulfill basic needs. In Missouri, some 700,000 people lack health insurance. With the state’s recent $145 million in cuts to Medicaid, Missouri will lose an additional $235 million in federal matching funds. Instead of being spent here, that money now will be directed to other states such as Massachusetts, New York, California and our neighbor to the east, Illinois.

Medicaid and the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIPs, have played a pivotal role in keeping down the number of uninsured Americans, but that will soon change. Missouri’s Medicaid cuts are creating more uninsured people, and when they need medical care, they’ll be forced to seek it at hospital emergency rooms – a very expensive proposition. In fulfilling their ethical responsibility to provide a minimum level of care, regardless of a person’s ability to pay, the hospitals will have no alternative but to build these losses into their cost base, which in turn leads to higher premiums for individuals and businesses paying for private health insurance.

From our high school economics classes, we all remember the rule that these burdens are passed on with a multiplier effect, which compounds the burden at each transitional stage. The result is that we end up paying more than what the original costs would have been, and then on top of that, we see an inflationary effect on insurance premiums, goods and services.
In other words, increasing the number of uninsured people is equivalent to levying a hidden tax on our people and our economy.

Small businesses, corporations, middle-class consumers and the working poor who have health insurance cannot afford this hidden tax and the inflationary pressure on prices it generates. It is evidence of a broken health care system that is neither efficient nor responsive to the needs of the community.

I believe my colleagues in the Missouri Legislature had the best intentions when they approved the cuts in Medicaid benefits. Creating a commission to study the program and recommend reforms is a good first step – but I believe it should have been done before enacting Medicaid cuts, not after.

Instead, we now are forced to tell many Missouri citizens that the safety net they relied on for basic health care no longer exists. One such person is a woman from North St. Louis I’ll call Madeline. She’s 76 years old, and I’ve known her all my life. She is a pillar of her community who has worked hard, paid her taxes and raised three children as a single mother. Madeline, who relies on a $1,000 Social Security check each month for income, recently had a serious stroke that forced her to turn to Medicaid for life-sustaining assistance. The new spend-down provisions of the state’s Medicaid cuts now force her to choose between paying for health care, groceries, utilities or rent.

It’s our job to protect all who pay taxes by fighting poverty in Missouri. I know we can do better than passing the buck. For example, we can explore ways to encourage employers to make affordable private health insurance more widely available. We can cooperate with the federal government to try to control skyrocketing health care costs. We can help local health care providers better coordinate services for the poor and uninsured. And we should consider such options as health savings accounts, association health plans and insurance reform.

It won’t be easy. Fixing a broken health care system will take a great deal of time, effort and ingenuity. But how many things in life are more important?

Sherman Thompson Parker, a Republican who represents parts of St. Charles County in the Missouri House of Representatives, is a regular contributor to the Commentary page.

E-mail: Sherman.Parker@house.mo.gov

STEM CELL RESEARCH

STEM CELL RESEARCH: Don’t let radicals stand in the way of saving lives
By SHERMAN THOMPSON PARKER

Friday, Jul. 15 2005

During the 2005 legislative session in Missouri, there was an effort to criminalize scientific research that uses a technique called somatic-cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT.

SCNT is a scientific breakthrough that allows scientists to produce embryonic stem cells in a laboratory by removing the nucleus of a donated unfertilized human egg cell and replacing it with the nucleus of a patient’s cell, such as a skin cell. The stem cells produced develop in Petri dishes and cannot become a human being.

Like many other Republicans – including Sens. John McCain and Orrin Hatch and former Missouri Sen. John Danforth – I believe that early stage stem cell research holds great promise for cures to diseases like Parkinson’s, sickle-cell disorders, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

We must take a common-sense approach to SCNT research to understand its potential. Radical efforts to criminalize it in Missouri would be devastating to the St. Louis region, which has the potential to become the next biotech center of America. The Brookings Institution affirmed this point when they identified four regions in the United States as having the scientific and university research capacity to become biotech powerhouses. They are St. Louis, Chicago, Ann Arbor/Detroit and Houston.

A ban on such research in our state would threaten thousands of existing and potential jobs and billions of dollars in investments and tax revenues generated by research here. Approximately 390 plant- and life-sciences companies in the St. Louis region employ a total of 22,000 employees and generate more than $10.5 billion in direct and indirect annual economic impact. Should SCNT research become a criminal act, this economic opportunity will bypass Missouri for the other cities mentioned above, or to such states as California, where voters approved a stunning $3 billion tax program to fund biotech research.

Beyond the potential economic loss, we would lose the opportunity to develop cures and treatments that might help my family and millions of other families in the world. In Missouri alone, according to the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures http://www.missouricures.com), some 443,000 children and adults either have or have experienced all-too-common medical conditions that could benefit from therapies developed through SCNT research. These include juvenile diabetes and LADA (a similar disease that develops in adults), Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, heart attack, stroke and
Alzheimer’s.

I was not raised in a traditional family setting. I was raised by my grandmothers, Janet Thompson and Lea Parker, whose names I proudly carry and who I affectionately refer to as my mothers. I was raised to believe that being pro-life means that we not only cherish the lives of the unborn, but also cherish a person’s entire life. I have taken this philosophy with me to the Missouri Legislature.

Since 1997, I have cared for my grandmothers and watched them deteriorate due to the debilitating effects of diabetes. My paternal grandmother has had her left leg amputated and now faces the possibility of losing her right leg or right foot. In 2000, she suffered kidney failure, which now requires dialysis treatment three times a week. My maternal grandmother lost her sight in 1994 and never will see my 3-year-old daughter or her six great-grandchildren. Due to their ages and the toll diabetes has taken on their health, it is not
likely that medical therapies developed through SCNT research will be discovered in time to help my grandmothers. It would not be too late, however, to help people like my 32-year-old brother or my 35-year-old best friend, who both suffer from debilitating diseases and injuries.

In an article published last month in The New York Times, former Sen. Danforth wrote: “When we see an opportunity to save our neighbor’s lives through stem cell research, we believe that it is our duty to pursue that research and to oppose legislation that would impede us from doing so.” When Jack Danforth, a stalwart of the Missouri Republican Party, speaks, I believe that Republican legislators should take heed.

If Republicans at the state and federal levels wish to keep their party the majority party, then we must reflect the diversity of cultures, faiths and ideals of America, rather than the exclusive, singular views paraded by Republican hard-liners. I urge my Republican colleagues, as men and women of faith and consensus, to act in the best interests of our constituents and not cower before a loud radical minority within our party.

Government must take action to allow this technology to flourish – with rational guidelines similar to those of the present-day organ donor program. SCNT research has great potential to benefit the human race. We must not let politics destroy its life-saving potential.

E-mail: Sherman.Parker@house.mo.gov

Sherman Thompson Parker is a Republican who represents parts of St. Charles County in the

Missouri House of Representatives.