The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


January 21, 2014

Darvin Bentlage, guest columnist: Losing to politics

GOLDEN CITY, Mo. — As we start a new year, I have nothing but dread for this year’s state legislative session. Missouri lawmakers seem committed to treating their constituents as second-class citizens while crafting legislation with the express intent of giving corporations and their wealthy donors free rein to do as they please in our state.

I am a farmer from Barton County and can bear witness to the fact that our state Legislature has been in full attack mode against non-factory farmers and rural Missouri in general for many years.

In 2011, legislators passed Senate Bill 187, which severely limits the damages a factory farm can be liable for. It also limits the legal recourses available to force those farms to address the nuisances or hazards they have created for farm families that have lived here for generations. This is a prime example of the Legislature fighting tooth and nail for giant agribusiness while throwing independent family farmers and other rural citizens under the bus. I could list many more examples of our state Legislature catering to the whims and big donations of Big Ag, but space is limited.

Rural health care has also been in the cross hairs of the state Legislature. The Affordable Care Act has taken effect despite the Republicans’ 40 or so attempts to repeal it at the federal level. Yet here in Missouri, we still see our lawmakers fighting for the “crime” of trying to insure hardworking, low-income Missourians while they throw as many roadblocks as possible for those of us seeking affordable health insurance.

The refusal to adopt a state-run exchange or embrace the expansion of Medicaid keeps Missouri from accepting the federal funds to start the process. These federal funds are tax dollars that we have paid. By expanding Medicaid, Missouri would get those dollars back to help citizens here rather than fund programs elsewhere in the country.

It would be nice if, after all their failed attempts at repeal, Republicans put our country and the well-being of the American people before partisan politics and worked to make the Affordable Care Act function to the maximum benefit of our citizens. Our state Legislature should fully expand Medicaid this session to keep the rural health care system from disintegrating.

Finally, I wish Missouri lawmakers would learn Latin and read the state motto engraved on the rotunda ceiling: “The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law.” The motto does not mention the corporations that they give tax breaks to or that they protect by taking away citizens’ rights. Lawmakers should stop denying rural Missourians the same opportunities offered in other states.

Darvin Bentlage lives in Golden City and is an independent family livestock and grain producer.

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