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Cuba Free Press
Cuba, Missouri
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May 29, 2003     Cuba Free Press
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May 29, 2003
 

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4A May 29, 2003 Opinion The Cuba Free Press Sun is not shining so brightly for opening meetings in Missouri If, like me, you have found yourself frustrated by your local government's lack of respect for the Missouri Sunshine Law, take solace in the fact that you are not alone. The sun is not shining in many parts of the state. The Missouri State Auditor recently released findings of an opening meetings law audit it con- ducted in 2001. They reviewed the records of 152 public governmental bodies across the state and fbund that half of them had failed to follow Missouri's Sunshine Law. According to the auditor's report, 25 percent of those audited did not follow the law properly when they voted to close a meeting, 50 percent did not fol- low requirements to give 24-hour public notice before closing a meeting and 25 percent failed to keep accurate minutes  . Just of their closed sessions. Whilekeepingminutes inking I of closed sessions is not required by the law, the aob [E] Missouri Attorney Viehman General's office has rec- ommended government bodies do so in order to be able to prove they didn't discuss something they shouldn't have, That's probably exactly why those minutes weren't kept! . The auditor also found that four percent of the bodies had discussed topics in closed session in vio- lation of the Sunshine Law. Those things discussed included giving holiday gifts to employees, insur- ance premium changes and naming a building. Auditors also noted that these public bodies took an average of 31 days to respond to their request for closed meeting records, despite the fact that the Missouri Sunshine Law requires that such records be provided within three business days! Why aren't our elected and appointed officials fol- lowing the Sunshine Law? Because they, and their lawyers, know there is little the public can do when they choose to ignore it. They can only be fined $500 for violating the law, and that's only if you can prove they purposefully violated the law. What other law on the books allows a defendant to simply say, "I didn't know I couldn't do that," and walk away without so much as even a slap on the wrist? Our elected officials take an oath to uphold the Missouri Constitution and, the laws of this state, but yet are unwilling to follow or apparently even read the Sunshine Law. Heck, if they read it, then they can't claim ignorance as a defense! It's time this "loophole" in the Missouri Sunshine Law was removed once and for all. As long as igno- rance of the law remains a viable excuse for break- ing it, the sun will never truly shine in Missouri. Stirrin' the Pot By Bob VTdson "-T A New First in Speed Traps 00'-rke so00ys c00t-ck t-hose jeVs Sl.ee.00i.00 ove00- J00st- . Guest Ed!toria/ Session a v00tT senior By Lt. Governor Joe Maxwell This legislative session has been marked by successes that will truly improve the lives, safety, and health of Missouri's seniors. As Missouri's elderly advo- cate, I am proud of two very important accomplishments for the seniors of this state: meaningful reform to the laws that protect our seniors from abuse and neglect in nursing homes and an improved senior prescription drug program. These crucial reform measures were not only passed with days to spare during this session, but both received overwhelm- ing bipartisan support on their way to the governor's desk. This session was marked with an outstanding victory for seniors, the passage of Senate Bills 556 and 311, known as the Senior Care and Protection Act of 2003. After witnessing nursing home reform bills con- tinuously failing to pass dur- ing the past three years, I made it the commitment of my office to see meaningful reforms made to the protec- tions for our senior citizens in nursing homes. By passing the Senior Care and Protection Act of 2003, we will finally be able to put teeth into the laws that govern the protection of our seniors from abuse and neglect in nursing homes. This success would not have been possible without the out- standing support of the senior organizations that gave their time and resources to see this legislation passed. I thank these groups for helping us to achieve the wide bipartisan support and commitment of the House and Senate leader- ship that made passing this legislation possible. I thank the leadership and all our leg- islators for finally passing this legislation that will increase the quality of care received by seniors in our nursing homes and protect them from abuse and neglect. Additionally, the legislature has ensured that Missouri sen- iors will continue to be able to I receive generic prescription drugs through the Missouri SenioRx Program by passing Senate Bill 307. By fixing a glitch in the rebate rates, generic drug manufacturers will be able to continue their participation in this program. In doing so, the more than 20,000 Missouri seniors enrolled in the program will be able to continue to purchase less costly generic medications through Missouri SenioRx. This legislation received the unanimous vote of both the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives, and I thank each of these members for their dedication to Missouri seniors. Despite these legislative successes, the budget sent to the governor cuts funding to many of our necessary senior services. My office will contin- ue to work toward restoring this funding for our seniors who rely on vital services such as senior transportation and home-delivered meals to be able to live a productive and healthy life. These cuts and our cesses both need to continually pass legislation and services that protect fit our senior citizens made our country into the land that it is I look forward to needs of Missouri's senior population and in the implementation new legislative throughout the months. WHO'S TO BLAtA00 FOR THeMAI>C0W RANCtlI00RS LIVI WITH HOPPERS, PRAIRIe FI LOW/I00.RKI00TS, FeEP BILLS, AN' VIRUS00FS... BOVINE ASYLUM .. IF WI WIRI IN TH' BIZNI00SS, We'D GeT OUT OF RANCHIN'AN' INTO POLITICS.! Your Thoughts Schools need help LETTER TO THE EDITOR "The teaching contract for one of our excellent new teachers was not renewed fo_r next year." "The board decided to close our school and send the students to the neighboring school they told us was overcrowded last year." "The shipment of new textbooks that were needed so badly has been canceled." "Most of our classes will be overcrowded to the point of being a safety issue." These are not scenarios that might hap- pen; these are actions that have already been reported to me from around the state as school districts prepare for the drastic cuts in state aid to elementary and sec- ondary education in the budget passed by the Missouri legislature in Jefferson City. Unfortunately, as bad as the legisla- ture's cuts will be for olr children, the sit- uation is likely to get even worse. The pro- posed cuts are based on revenue projec- tions that already appear to be overly opti- mistic. Thus, the actual state aid to schools will likely be far less, which will multiply the difficulties already facing our teachers, principals and superintendents. Schools were not being adequately funded before the current fiscal crisis, and in view of the past year, the latest projections of lowered aid to schools will be devastating. In addition, Missouri is cutting other programs such as Medicaid and child-care programs that will negatively impact low- income families with children. While policy makers hope the economy will improve soon, no one is predicting when the turnaround will come. We can- not put our children on hold; their educa- tion will not walt for an economic turn- around. Our state budget is at a crisis level. Missouri PTA is concerned that Missouri will not be able to provide equi- table opportunities for high-quality educa- tion for all children without looking at ways to generate additional revenue. Our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our state, rely on us to provide a quality life for them, which begins with an ade- quate public education. Funding our schools at an level is critical. School districts must overwhelming state and Federal dates, such as the No Child Left Act and the Individuals with Education Act, and it is " the Missouri legislature act in a bipartisan manner to provide term solution to what has become icant revenue shortfall. This is a problem we must immediately. We don't have months to hope for an economic around; we don't have another rect an over-crowded classroom; we have another child to leave behind. Share your views... The Free Press welcomes comments and suggestions from our will consider for publication any letter or article submitted. To be letters must be signed and include an address and daytime phone The publication of any letter or article does not necessarily reflect the ion of this newspaper. We reserve the right to edit any letter or letter or article submitted. Letters should be 200 words, or less. Mail: Letter to the Editor Cuba Free Press PO Box 568, Cuba, MO 65453 Fax: (573) 885-3803 E-mail: news@cubafreepress.coO CUBA FREE PRESS I I0 SOUTH BUCHANAN CUBA, MISSOURI 65453 PHONE 573-885-7460 Publisher & Editor ROB VIEHMAN Circulation JANICE RANSOM Advertising SANDY MORICE Printing RUSS NEW Post Office Publication No. $6S- 180 May 29, 2003D Volume 44 Number I Cuba Free Press www.cubafreepress.com Address all communications in care of the Cuba Free Press, P.O. Box 568. Periodical Class Postage paid at Cuba, Missouri. Published weekly each Thursday morning at Cuba, Mo. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to CUBA FREE PRESS, P.O. Box 568, Cuba, MO 65453. Single . Copy Price 70 +S#ux o 75 SUBSCRIPTION RATES CRAWFORD C0. MISSOURI OTHER 2 years $54.00 2 years $72.00 2 years Tax 4.04 Tax 5.38 IPay S58.04 1 [Pay $77.38] I year $30.00 I year $40.00 I year Tax 2.24 Tax 2.99 I Pay $32.24 J