Sometimes it’s easy to overlook some of the simple, common-sense things that our legislators in Jefferson City cannot find a way past.
Two quick examples:
• Years of data make it abundantly clear that texting while driving is incredibly dangerous. No one should be subject to the injury, death and damage that can arrive randomly when another driver’s attention is distracted from the road. Everyone has a story of a close call – or worse. That’s why 47 states have banned texting while driving.
Missouri is not one of them. It only bans that for drivers under 21. Missouri doesn’t even ban cell phones in the hands of school bus drivers.
This is a no-brainer, yet our state just can’t make this happen, though legislation has been filed again this year.
• Every state but one – Missouri – has a statewide prescription drug monitoring program. This is a direct response to the opioid crisis, an attempt to cut down on addicts going from doctor to doctor to score prescriptions for powerful pain meds. Several counties, including Jackson County, started their own program a couple years ago with the thought that it would nudge the Legislature to act on a statewide plan. Didn’t happen.
Former Gov. Greitens in 2017 rolled out a program that amounts to a half-step. The opioid crisis is real, and Missouri is among the harder hit states. We deserve better for the sake of both the individuals affected and for their families and communities.
These aren’t even among the big issues that are, or should be, on our legislators’ agenda: roads and bridges, health care, schools, attracting business and finding the workers for good jobs. But why can’t they address relatively straightforward issues with solutions that have worked in nearly all other states? Inaction causes suffering.
It makes sense that a bill is seldom written, filed, heard in committee, debated and amended, and then passed and signed in a single year. There are 197 representatives and senators in Jefferson City, with a wide range of perspectives and interests, and it takes time to get people on board. But it often takes far too long just to enact the common-sense stuff that shouldn’t be controversial.
Legislators are nearly one month into their four-and-a-half month session. We get the sense that leaders in Jefferson City have a pretty good grasp of Missouri’s challenges and opportunities. But what is the plan – other than what Gov. Parson himself calls his “Band-Aid” plan to fix 250 bridges – on infrastructure? There’s lot of hand-wringing on workforce development, as good jobs go wanting. Lots of talk. Not a new issue. Now, what’s the plan, and will enough elected officials get behind it?
And is it too much to ask that leadership in the House and Senate could say enough is enough? Pass a texting bill. Pass the prescription-drug program. This shouldn’t be that hard.