Category Archives: Other

Should Missouri Raise the Speed Limit to 75 mph?

Philadelphia, Privacy and Government Ethics

On Thursday, I had the privilege to argue a case in front of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. I spent the afternoon visiting the historic sites surrounding the courthouse – Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell – and a museum on the Constitution. It was fitting that our case was argued in the heart of democracy and our Constitution.

The case was about Internet privacy – in particular, the biggest Internet hacking and tracking scheme in history. I was there as part of a group defending your (and every American’s) right to privacy on the Internet, in particular, your right to be free from computer hacking if you choose a web-browser that is specifically designed to block companies like Google from spying on you.

Just this summer, the Supreme Court ruled in a case called Riley v. California that Americans have a Fourth Amendment right to privacy in the data contained on a personal computing device, and went out of its way to explain the importance of keeping Internet search and browsing history private. You also have statutory rights to privacy under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act which, in many cases, are even stronger than your rights under the Constitution.

The Defendants in the case are Google and a handful of other data-tracking companies who hacked their way around the privacy settings of the Apple Safari and Microsoft Internet Explorer web-browsers. Of course they brought a phalanx of lawyers. This too was fitting. It is in America more than anywhere else that citizens enjoy equality before the law. And it is in our courts where this is most true.

Outside that courtroom, the Defendants include one of the most powerful companies in history. Inside the courtroom, the law and the facts are what drive the case. There’s nowhere else in American government where the average American would have an equal voice to defend their rights to privacy against hacking schemes concocted by companies like Google. In the legislative or executive branches, Google would secure meetings with top officials to persuade them to ignore the privacy interests of ordinary Americans. In the judicial branch, Google cannot plead their case without informing the other side of their arguments.

Unequal bargaining power between powerful interests and ordinary Americans is nothing new. Since the beginning of our Republic, the legislative and executive branches of the federal and state governments have been the target of financially and politically powerful groups and companies. These groups aren’t always the wealthy. It seems today that Washington is rigged in favor of both the poor and the powerful, and that it is the middle-class American who is ignored.

While there’s nothing new about this, I believe there’s a general feeling that it’s getting worse – particularly in state government. Also this week, on Monday, I chaired a committee that called on Attorney General Chris Koster to explain his actions in a series of cases detailed in the New York Times where his office either decided to take no action or to take lesser action after some interactions with companies that were the targets of civil investigations. We did not vote, but I believe it’s fair to say the committee agreed that Koster likely made the correct legal decisions. (All but two members of the committee were lawyers.) General Koster admitted that his office made a mistake in one case in not filing a case in time, but that it was not a purposeful error and they later attempted to make up for it the best they could.

The other prominent case involved 5 Hour Energy. A small group of states had started an investigation into the company for allegedly deceptive marketing. An attorney in Missouri’s AG’s office had apparently had some conversations with this group. An attorney for 5 Hour Energy sought General Koster out at a conference of the Democratic Attorney General’s Association at a swank hotel in California. After that conversation, Missouri’s investigation was soon dropped. The lawyer was neither a registered lobbyist in Missouri nor, to my knowledge, a Missouri licensed attorney.

General Koster presented our committee with a courtroom-style blowup of the allegedly deceptive advertising. He argued that it was not the type of matter with which an attorney general’s office should engage because it was not deceptive and very likely would not have even survived a motion to dismiss under Missouri law. I think he was right. But neither I, nor the committee, will endorse the process that led to that decision.

Like grade school math, it’s not always enough to reach the right result. Process matters. In this case, there was a deeply flawed process. Hotels in California after conversations with people who are not registered lobbyists or lawyers licensed in Missouri are not the appropriate places for policy or legal decisions to be made. And where you have a flawed decision-making process, you’ll eventually make bad decisions.

To his credit, General Koster reported to the committee that he has since changed the process for high-profile civil investigations in his office. There’s a team of experienced lawyers who meet before engaging a high-profile case, and before there’s any decision to settle or exit one. That is an improvement.

To be fair to General Koster, he is not alone. Every governor and attorney general in the country is feted and bombarded by special interests at events hosted by groups similar to the DAGA. There’s the Republican and Democratic Governor’s Associations, and there’s a Republican Attorney General’s Association. For big-time corporations, events hosted by these groups are like shooting fish in a barrel. They can make their pitch to leaders in dozens of states in just a few days. And can do so in an upscale atmosphere.

There’s also a legislative equivalent in the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a little different in that legislators are not “deciders” in the same way that governors or attorney generals are. Depending on the issue, a lobbyist who seeks particular action from a governor or attorney general does not need to rely on anyone other than the governor or AG to make it happen. Legislators must convince a majority of their colleagues to pass the bill (and sometimes a super-majority) which is oft easier said than done.

As the world has become more connected over the past 15 years, these various groups have grown in influence. There is little we can do in Missouri to change that. But I believe there are two things. First, we can pass legislation requiring more immediate reporting of out-of-state travel and perhaps reporting on lobbying at such events. At the very least the public should have a way to determine with whom their elected officials are meeting when they attend out-of-state conferences. Second, we can vote for candidates who best embody our views and who are not likely to have the opinions molded from lobbying in such rarified air.

Gov. Nixon’s Magic Calculator

Pop quiz. First, what does 1+1+1+1 equal? Second, what is 2,000 minus 90?

If you answered 4 and 1,910, congratulations, you’re as smart as a fourth grader. Unfortunately, you’d flunk in Gov. Nixon’s office, where the answers to simple math depend on who’s asking.

Not even a year ago, Gov. Nixon called the legislature into special session to rush through a $2.4 billion subsidy for Boeing’s production of the new 777x jet. In an unusual example of working with the legislature, Gov. Nixon drafted the bill for consideration, and his office remained heavily involved in the amendment process. The legislature moved with record speed, passing the bill in less than a week.

Current law caps the amount of “jobs tax credits” that the governor can award to businesses around the state — or at least the ones that are savvy enough to negotiate the tax credit process. At the time of the special session, Gov. Nixon had a problem. He was in the middle of negotiations for a massive subsidy to Cerner, which, if approved, would not have left enough room for a massive deal for the potential Boeing project. (In January 2014, Gov. Nixon announced a $1.4 billion subsidy for Cerner.)

For all the back-patting and self-congratulating, Senate Bill 1 from that quick special session really only did one thing – it placed an asterisk next to the 777x project or any other “aerospace project” that involved “the creation of at least two thousand new jobs within ten years” of approval by the Department of Economic Development for any proposal received before June 10, 2014. Under Senate Bill 1, the “aerospace project” tax credits would not count against the cap. To go back to the terms a fourth-grader can understand, the legislature agreed to let Gov. Nixon spend $2.4 billion of your money without using his allowance to do so.

Senate Bill 1 specifically defined “aerospace project.” First, it defined the eligible project as singular. It exempted any massive project from the cap, not a series of “projects.” Second, it required the massive project to involve the “creation of at least 2,000 jobs” within 10 years. Third, it set a short time-frame for proposals.

Fast-forward to October: Gov. Nixon announced Boeing would create 700 jobs in St. Louis to manufacture parts of the 777x wing. It’s just the latest in a series of new job announcements for Boeing in Missouri. In December 2013, it announced it would create 400 information technology jobs here. It followed that by announcing a project to add 400 research and technology jobs. In September of this year, it announced 500 new jobs to service and repair the F-22 fighter jet manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

A logical look at these proposals says it’s four separate projects involving distinct aspects of Boeing’s business. But Gov. Nixon doesn’t see it that way. For purposes of Boeing projects, 1+1+1+1 = 1. By using the magic calculator, Gov. Nixon avoid the caps.

This brand of math smacks of Bill Clinton’s infamous answer in a deposition regarding Monica Lewinsky, “it depends upon what the meaning of the word is is.” Gov. Nixon relies on two state statutes. Section 620.2005 defines a “project facility” under the Missouri Works program to include separate buildings used by a qualified company so long as they are located within 60 miles of each other. The recent Boeing proposals probably still don’t qualify. But there’s a trump card in Section 1.030 of Missouri law, which declares that, in Missouri statutes, any word in a statute “importing the singular number” applies to “several matters” as well. In other words, tack an “s” on to every statute that doesn’t have one.

Senate Bill 1′s second math question involves the number of jobs promised to be created. Piecing together 700 plus 400 plus 400 plus 500 does equal 2,000, but Boeing later announced it was laying off 90 workers in St. Louis. Suddenly, we’re back to 1,910 – if you’re using real-world math.

Gov. Nixon’s problems are beyond math. Senate Bill 1 exempts from the cap those projects “involving the creation of at least two thousand new jobs.” Sometimes to understand what a statute says, you must consider what it doesn’t say. Senate Bill 1 does not say “involving the promised creation.” Instead, it requires “the creation” of 2,000 jobs before a project is exempt from the cap. Has Boeing created 2,000 jobs? Or has it promised merely promised to create 1,910 jobs?

I can hear the response now, “But, but, but, that’s clearly not the intent of the legislation because that’s not how these programs work.” It wasn’t that long ago that Gov. Nixon was chastising the legislature for failing to draft bills precisely as they were intended. In 2013, a frustrated Gov. Nixon told reporters that legislators “ought to put their noses down and read the bills they’re passing.” Maybe Gov. Nixon should heed his own advice? Words have meaning. “The creation of” means jobs that have actually been created, not mere promises.

For Gov. Nixon, there’s a simple solution. Ask the legislature to exempt the various Boeing projects from the so-called jobs tax credits cap. Because the credits won’t start in earnest until next year, there’s still time to do this the right way. I would vote no because I don’t think removal of the cap is necessary for the Boeing jobs to be added in Missouri. Yet, I’m confident that the legislature would follow Gov. Nixon’s lead.

Unfortunately, I do not anticipate Gov. Nixon will follow a plain reading of the law on the Boeing subsidy. When he’s against a something, details matter and statutes are to be construed by their actual words. When he’s for something, who cares about details? With few to call him to task and a lawsuit unlikely or impossible, who’s to stop him?

Nothing Noble About Lies in Goverment


Obamacare architect Jon Gruber has confessions for you. “I mean,” he says, “this bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies.” And another, “If you had a law which said healthy people are gonna pay in, you made explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed.” And more, “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.” Not finished yet, “Call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.” And finally, “Yeah, there’s things I wish I could change, but I’d rather have this law than not.”

Got that? Obamacare’s double-cross didn’t begin or end with President Obama’s “if you like your plan, you can keep it” promise. Instead, misdirection was baked into the bill.

Just who is Jon Gruber? He’s an MIT economics professor. He was a key consultant, and many say, the architect of Obamacare. During Congressional debate on the bill, Gruber claimed to be an objective analyst scoring the legislation in favor of the Obama administration. Later, the public learned he was on the Obama administration payroll through a $400,000 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services. The New York Times reported Gruber helped outline the basic principles of Obamacare with executive branch officials, then worked with legislative staff to draft specific language.

Gruber’s comments call to mind the so-called “noble lie” – Plato’s idea that lies are justifiable to advance what a society’s rulers believe to be the common good. During the Bush administration, liberals were obsessed with the philosopher Leo Strauss and alleged neo-conservative celebration of the “noble lie.” Yet no Bush administration insider ever said anything close to what Gruber just admitted.

There are three major (and obvious) problems with the noble lie theory. First, it’s based on a lie. Second, it is anti-democratic. Government of the people, for the people, and by the people fails when those entrusted to speak for the people believe dishonesty is noble so long as it’s for what they believe are the right reasons. Third, the noble lie is a kissing cousin of the “fatal conceit” of socialism – that there is an elite class of society capable of making decisions for us rather than relying on open, honest debate and local decisions.

American voters have grown accustom to lies and stretched-truths in campaigns from both political parties and third-party groups across the ideological spectrum. Even in the context of daily governance, we are skeptical of politicians’ statements. We expect spin. But Gruber’s confession goes beyond spin. He lays bare the knowing manipulations that propelled Obamacare to the legislative finish line.

Gruber also shows disdain for American voters who don’t sip lattes in faculty lounges, “call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever,” he flippantly says. Democracy requires an informed citizenry. As Gruber explained, however, Obamacare was crafted to, first, fool the Congressional Budget Office into scoring the bill as not a tax increase. If the President and Congressional leaders can successfully draft legislation  to conceal their intent from the experts at CBO  – the same conclusions that   the press parrots to the public – how can anyone attribute success of that strategy to “the stupidity of the American people”?

Most Americans don’t have the time to carefully parse through poorly drafted legislation winding its way through Congress, let alone time to read a 2,700 word bill for which even then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi admitted, “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.” Indeed, as a Republic, that’s why we elect representatives to Congress. Because normal Americans work real jobs and raise families. When choosing between deciphering opaque legislation or coaching T-ball, they choose T-ball.  The public is merely the final consumer of information. They trust that there will be at least a modicum of transparency in government. They expect Congress to properly draft and read bills, CBO to incisively analyze and score them and, finally, for the press to aggressively check the facts they report.

This is how freedoms works. Societies obsessed by politics and the consequences of changes in governmental power lean authoritarian. Americans trust they can disengage from the minutiae of politics because life in a free society does not depend on who’s in charge of government. But as government grows and people like Gruber are put in charge of key initiatives and institutions, the need to read the fine print also grows. His comments are Exhibit A for why Americans hate Washington and must always be on the lookout for hide-the-ball liberalism.  

Ebola and Black Swan Theory

History is filled with “black swan” events. The writer Nassim Taleb, who popularized the Black Swan Theory, says these events share three characteristics. First, they are rare and defy conventional wisdom. Second, their impact is extreme. Third, we concoct reasonable explanations for them, retrospectively, to convince ourselves that they were, in fact, explainable and predictable, even though they weren’t. September 11 was a Black Swan. So were Pearl Harbor and the Great Depression. Beneficial events can be Black Swans as well: for example, the creation of the Internet.

Implicit in these commonalities is another: humans are inadequately prepared for Black Swans precisely because they were so unlikely to happen – before they did. But not all Black Swan events are created equal. Some happen in a flash – 9/11. Others take months or even years to develop – the rise of Hitler.  I reference the Black Swan Theory because we may be in the middle of just such an event.

Since March, more than 7,400 people have contracted Ebola in Africa, nearly half of whom have died. The current outbreak is the worst in the history of a disease that was only discovered in 1979. Just last week, a nurse in Spain fell ill, leading the head of the World Health Organization to warn that Ebola’s spread in Europe is “unavoidable.” Closer to home, it emerged in Dallas with the late Thomas Eric Duncan, who contracted the disease in Liberia before boarding a plane to the United States. Beyond Duncan, Ebola scares have been reported in a handful of cities, including Kansas City.

A year ago, the odds of Ebola in the United States would have been more than 100 to 1. It would require an unprecedented and virtually uncontrolled outbreak in Africa. A perfect storm of events have made that long-shot a reality. Peter Piot, the scientist who discovered Ebola in 1979, explains the countries from which this strain emerged are just recovering from civil wars that chased doctors away. In Liberia, a country with more than 4 million people, there were only 51 doctors in 2010. To compound matters, this outbreak started in a highly populated area near the borders of three countries. Their tradition is to bury the dead where they were born – even if it requires moving their body for the funeral. Consequently, Piot notes that Ebola corpses were traveling across borders in pickups and taxis – spreading the disease far and fast. Then Thomas Duncan boarded a plane to Dallas.

Public health officials still believe our health care system can adequately contain Ebola – with good reason. We have the best health care system in the world. We have a better ability to find potentially impacted people than third-world countries, and there’s a promising treatment in Z-Mapp that has already saved at least three sufferers. The odds against widespread Ebola in the United States remain long, and Americans are thousands of times more likely to die from the flu than Ebola.

Still, it’s vital that government prepares for worst-case scenarios. Words aren’t enough. Plans must be clearly articulated and promptly followed. After reading initial reports from Dallas indicating that the hospital had treated, then released Duncan, I sent a letter to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, requesting information on the Department’s plan to keep Missourians safe and avoid the mistakes of Dallas.

I’m a natural skeptic of government. Rather than trust, particularly in critical situations, I seek to verify. Here, I’m pleased to report it appears DHSS is ahead of other states. The Department has convened meetings with health care providers, law enforcement, and educators to discuss protocols if a person is diagnosed with Ebola. The Department has also identified experts in the treatment of hemorrhagic fevers. The Director has the authority to quarantine. And, while their protocol is to immediately contact and work with the CDC, they are assuming that, if the disease is present in several states at the same time, we may not be able to rely on the CDC.

Public health workers save lives with quiet preparation and execution of boring protocols. They don’t star in Hollywood movies, and are rarely credited for their work because the public never learns of the disasters they inoculate. They’re like running water. You never fully appreciate the importance of their role in society – unless they fail.

The Department’s response stands in stark contrast to recent decisions by the Obama administration. The standard protocol for containing hemorrhagic disease requires establishing a quarantine, creating a barrier between the healthy and the infected. Yet, with thousands already dead and predictions from the CDC that as many as 1.4 million people could be infected by January, the Obama administration has refused to stop commercial airline travel from the affected areas. Instead, it announced “screening” procedures to isolate passengers with any symptoms of the disease.

The Obama administration argues that banning travel from west Africa would impair efforts to stop the disease by restricting movement of health care professionals to and from the impacted areas. This argument strains logic. Flights limited to health care professionals or other humanitarian workers, if they agree to comprehensive screening on return, could and should be arranged. Organizing those flights wouldn’t be any more complicated than the logistics of getting hundreds of thousands of troops to and from Afghanistan or Iraq. Further, though it’s possible a person with Ebola could work their way around a ban on direct flights, it would be much more difficult, and the increased time required for the workaround would make it more likely that their illness is detected.

Experts outside the Obama bubble are warning that Ebola may spread easier than initially suggested. For example, though conventional wisdom is that it only spreads through physical contact, some strains of Ebola have shown an ability to spread through the air, according to recent published research and as observed in anoutbreak in research monkeys in Virginia in 1989.  Every time this strain of Ebola passes from one human host to another presents an opportunity for mutation that would allow the disease to go airborne. The likelihood seems small, but it doesn’t appear that scientists have a sufficiently large sample set of Ebola experience from which we can infer with much certainty. (This is an element of the Black Swan theory. Small sample sizes skew probability calculations.)

Experts also warn that the screenings are too easily gamed. Before a flight is boarded, travelers in west Africa are screened for fever. Consider the incentives for a would-be flyer whose running a slight fever.

Unless they were vomited on by an infected person, most probably think they’ve escaped Ebola. That’s human nature. A fever could indicate many things. But they know that if they have a fever and it’s caught at the airport, they’ll be barred from the flight and likely detained with other people who have fevers, some of whom likely have Ebola. So if they’re not sick yet, they will be soon. And, because they’re now trapped in west Africa, they will likely die a terrible death.

Now consider the alternative. They could take aspirin to mask the symptoms for the screening. If it turns out that they don’t have Ebola (which most will believe), they will not have missed their flight and disrupted their life. Critically, they avoided Ebola purgatory – trapped in a holding area with people who very likely have the disease. If they do have Ebola, they probably believe that they are not yet contagious, but know that their only chance of survival would be to reach the United States.

What would you do? Most of us prefer to believe we’d act selflessly, and not board the plane. But, as Mike Tyson says, “Everyone has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth.”

The Obama administration’s refusal to enact a travel ban defies common sense and needlessly endangers Americans. Their alternative, new screenings at five major airports in the U.S. is a joke. As one expert explained, “At the very most, all we are buying here is some reduction of anxiety.” Reduction in anxiety is important, but doesn’t cut it. Rather than continue this farce, the Obama administration should immediately stop direct flights from west Africa, and keep a close eye on Nigeria and Spain.

In the case of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, however, they have a plan. Let’s hope there’s no punch in the mouth – and that these quiet heroes continue to avoid public notice.

Legislature Must Stay In Its Own Lane on Potential Ferguson Committee

Credible sources suggest that a bi-partisan legislative committee on Ferguson is being considered. The committee would have a wide charge, including investigating the immediate circumstances surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown. For four years, I’ve been involved and responsible for many investigations.

It is entirely appropriate and good governance for legislators to thoroughly examine the practices of state government agencies to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse. Sometimes that even requires the taking of “fact” testimony from witnesses. For example, in Mamtek, our committee took testimony from several fact witnesses concerning the issuance of tax credits in a bad deal. Regarding the sharing of conceal-carry permit legislation, the Highway Patrol testified how that information was shared with federal law enforcement officers.

I led those investigations to determine whether there were state laws or policies that needed to be changed. The inquiries were an attempt to uncover glitches in state government that caused those problems. The Michael Brown case is much different.

It would be wildly inappropriate and an invasion of the separation of powers for a legislative committee to take fact testimony on the Michael Brown shooting. We have a branch of government designed to adjudicate individual fact controversies, and it’s not the legislature. It’s the judiciary.

Legislative committees are designed to elicit public opinion, not dispense justice. Unlike the judicial branch, there’s no right of non-legislators to compel testimony, cross-examine witnesses, or present evidence.  The legislature, therefore, all too often devolves into a “fact-free” zone.  As I wrote two weeks ago, “justice requires a thorough inquiry and trial in a court of law, not public opinion.”

Legislative committee hearings on the conflicting accounts given of the Michael Brown shooting would be unjust for both the Brown family and Officer Darren Wilson. Ignoring for a moment that it’s not the legislature’s role, in reality, no competent lawyer would advise their client to present their side of a criminal inquiry to a legislative committee. So, rather than taking an array of factual testimony, the committee would be left with a parade of witnesses more interested in moving public opinion than achieving justice. Worse, with a grand jury already hearing witnesses in St. Louis County and this rumored committee to meet before the end of the year, the committee would be interfering with the actual legal process.

The proper role of the legislature in the Michael Brown shooting is limited to state law and policy. For example, it would be entirely appropriate for the legislature to examine the hiring practices of law enforcement agencies in majority-minority communities, education reform, racial profiling, traffic court abuses in St. Louis County municipalities, police use-of-force justification statutes, militarization of police forces, best practices for riot responses, and as I wrote last week the best way to ensure that investigations and potential prosecutions of police conduct are free from even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Support for “limited government” isn’t just a catch-phrase for reducing taxes. It also means each branch should stay in its own lane. The President shouldn’t pursue a “pen-and-phone” agenda to bypass Congress. The courts shouldn’t legislate from the bench. And the legislature ought not play judge and jury. 

Where Amendment 1 Started

Where Amendment #1 Started

Former Mo. State Representative Tom Loehner

Osage County Family Farmer

                 False claims are being made all the way from Monsanto to the Chinese about where Amendment #1, the Farming Rights Amendment, originated.  Well, I can tell you exactly where it started…on the seat of my tractor.

While serving as a state legislator from Osage County in 2009, I was talking with some of my urban colleagues about agriculture.  It was obvious they didn’t understand where their food came from and moreover how it was produced.  This just indicates that most people today, urban and even some rural, are several generations removed from living on a farm.

Later as I was spreading fertilizer on my farm, I was thinking about this and the fact that we as farmers are experiencing more and more unreasonable regulations and limitations from outside interest groups such as HSUS, the Humane Society of the United States.   I thought about some language we could possibly legislate to provide protection for family farmers like me, and over the next couple of evenings, I would jot down some ideas for legislation and stick the paper in my pocket.

The next week in talking to some of my legislative colleagues, we decided to write language that would go in the state constitution.  In an effort to help protect our state’s number one industry, agriculture, it seems reasonable to place an additional 62 words (the length of Amendment #1) among the over 50,000  words of our current state constitution.

The proposed constitutional amendment was debated in the Missouri General Assembly over four legislative sessions and finally passed in 2013.  I can tell you first hand that Amendment #1 did not originate with any foreign interests, big farming outfits or agriculture corporations; it started on a 6080 Allis Chalmers tractor on a beautiful spring evening on a family farm.

Don’t believe the scare tactics of the opponents of Amendment #1 and their HSUS propaganda.  Please vote for Amendment #1 and help protect small family farms like mine.

Why I Voted for Right-to-Work

This week the House considered right to worklegislation, which would ban contracts that require Missourians to join a union as a condition of employment.  I voted for RTW for three reasons: freedom of association, anti-trust balance, and economic growth.

Freedom of Association

As your state representative, my focus is protecting individual rights and empowering you to make your own choices so long as those choices dont intrude on the rights of others. I am naturally suspicious of the big” – whether it’s big government, big business, or big labor. And I generally oppose any regime that compels people to act when theyd rather not. 

Opponents often confuse or mischaracterize the concept of individualism. It is not a rejection of community. No man is an island, and community institutions are vital, not just to an individual’s sense of identity, but also to a free society: churches, labor unions, business groups – heck, even bowling leagues create a layer of society for accomplishing tasks that government cannot and should not try to accomplish.

A flourishing civil society distinguishes free from unfree societies. Consider: there were no business associations or labor unions in the Soviet Union or its satellites. In Poland, the labor movement helped  overthrow communism. But the key is freedom of association, not compelled association. RTW empowers the worker to freely associate for the obvious reason that it ensures no Missourian can be forced to join an organization as a condition of employment.


In the late 1800s, Congress passed anti-trust legislation to protect consumers and entrepreneurs by making unreasonable restraints on trade illegal. The theory behind anti-trust is that big organizations shouldnt be able to conspire to eliminate competition in the marketplace.

At the same time, the American labor movement was in its infancy, and workers lacked basic rights, including the right to freely associate.

In 1908, the United States Supreme Court held in Loewe v. Lawlor that federal anti-trust laws applied to the actions of labor unions. In a legal environment with no workplace safety standards, no minimum wage, and no child labor laws, anti-trust legislation made labors early difficulties even worse. In 1914, Congress acted accordingly and specifically exempted labor union activities from anti-trust laws.

By World War II, the pendulum had swung in the opposite direction. Despite the greatest battle for freedom in world history, which required huge increases in manufacturing, according to labor historian Jeremy Brecher, During the 44 months between Pearl Harbor and V-J Day, there were 14,471 strikes involving 6,774,000 strikers: more than during any period of comparable length in United States history.Strikes increased dramatically with war demobilization. They doubled in the first month after V-J Day, and then doubled again the next month.

In 1947, Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act over the veto of President Truman to outlaw certain labor practices, empower the executive branch to stop strikes through injunctions, and allow states to pass RTW laws, outlawing closed-shop agreements. Despite his veto, Truman invoked Taft-Hartley 12 times to stop strikes.

Fortunately, the USA of 2014 is much better than that of 1914. Many of the contractual rights unions fought to win from employers are now codified in federal and state law, including but certainly not limited to minimum wages, safe workplace requirements, workerscompensation, child labor prohibitions, anti-discrimination protections, and prevailing wage. Moreover, while it was nearly impossible, if not illegal, to organize in 1914, the right to organize today is clear. Federal law prohibits employer interference with unionization drives.

Since Taft-Hartley passed, 24 states have passed RTW. The first wave of laws happened nearly immediately after passage. In recent years, RTW laws have passed in Michigan, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Idaho. By passing RTW, these states have essentially applied anti-trust principles to protect individual workers in the same way that consumers and entrepreneurs are protected.

Economic Growth

Mark Twain famously said there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.I feel the same way about most of the economic researchon RTW. Union-sponsored studies proveits Hades. Business-sponsored studies proveits Paradise. In these situations, I try to find research that is not tainted by the source of the funding.

Each side has its own irrefutable fact that it loves to cite as proof. Businesses cite the fact that RTW states have grown at significantly higher rates than non-RTW states. Unions counter that non-RTW states have lower average wages than RTW states. Both sides argue that their chosen result is caused by RTW status. However convenient, correlation shouldn’t be confused for causation.

Does RTW lead to higher rates of economic growth?  Very likely yes. Though some studies have come to the opposite conclusion, according to a senior economist at the Boston Fed, a veto-proof majority of serious studies find that the existence of a RTW law exerts a positive, statistically significant impact on economic activity.” 

The most interesting study on the topic was done in 1997 by Thomas Holmes of the Minneapolis Fed. Because of difficulty isolating the RTW variable to compare states with different policies, transportation systems, geographies, climates, histories, and cultures, Holmes examined RTW by comparing manufacturing in every county in the United States next to a border of a state with an opposing RTW policy. From 1947 to 1992, Holmes found that, in counties within 25 miles of a RTW border, manufacturing jobs increased one-third faster in RTW states than in non-RTW states.

Does RTW lead to lower wages? Very likely no. Even though states with RTW laws have indisputably lower wages than non-RTW states, it does not automatically follow that those lower wages are caused by the RTW law. One review of prior studies found that RTW laws have no impact on union wages, nonunion wages, or average wages in either the public or the private sector.William J. Moore, The Determinants and Effects of RTW Laws: A Review of Recent Literature,Journal of Labor Economics, Summer 1998.

Instead of RTW, there may be other factors causing the wage differential. For example, much depends on the starting point. Most RTW states had agricultural economies and were generally poorer than non-RTW states before adopting RTW. These RTW states started the relevant test period with significantly lower wages than the non-RTW states. As explained by Robert Reed, an economist at the University of Oklahoma, the economic past still casts a long shadow on the economic present.”  Reed conducted a study which attempted to account for these historical differences and found that, controlling for a states economic conditions at the time of adoption, average wages in RTW states were 8 percent higher as compared to wages in non-RTW states.

RTWs Likely Impact

In reality, both sides likely overstate their case. RTW is not the most important economic development bill being considered in our state capitol. Tax cuts, education reform, and Medicaid are all more important. But the economic research cited above suggests it will certainly help.

Nor is RTW a death knell for organized labor. Unions will still exist and will continue to work on behalf of its members. The jobs of union leaders will of course become more difficult because they will have to persuade members to join and stay. Without compulsory membership, union leaders will have to adjust to the reality faced by leaders of every other organization in a free society: they will have to convince their members that membership is an actual benefit worthy of their continued investment. 

Good unions will survive. Great ones will thrive. In Missouri, we already have RTW for public sector employees. Yet, these public sector unions still attract robust union rolls full of dues-paying members. These unions dont require compulsion to keep their members. Instead, they rely on promotion and persuasion based on effective leadership and representation.

And the end the individual will have the freedom to choose which organizations they join – a fundamental American value worthy of government protection.

Protecting Missourians’ Privacy

I believe every American has the right to keep the details of their lives private from prying eyes. Big government and big business shouldn’t be able to sell your personal information to the highest bidder without your  consent – and ought to take reasonable steps necessary to safeguard your  information from identity thieves. That’s why I’m proposing five bills to protect different aspects of the personal privacy of Missouri citizens.

Data Brokers – The first bill will protect your rights to keep your purchasing habits private – including your purchases of health care items. It would prohibit any government or business from selling your purchasing history to a third-party data-broker without your written consent.

Personal Health Information - The second bill will protect your personal health information by requiring “navigators” under the Affordable Care Act to be bonded and insured against data identity thieves and prohibiting them from sharing your personal health information without your consent. This is a case of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. The bill I file will be identical to SB 498, first filed by Sen. Kurt Schaefer from Columbia.

Education Records – The third bill would protect the privacy of the educational records of Missouri students. It would prohibit any entity from sharing a student’s detailed educational records without parental consent.

Banning Revenge Porn – The fourth bill would protect the right of Missourians to keep intimate photographs private by prohibiting the publication of private photographs that aren’t suitable for work without the consent of the person in the picture.

Banning Internet Extortion – The fifth bill would protect Missourians from extortionists who place arrest photographs on websites with the goal of extracting payments from people appearing in the photographs – regardless of whether the information published is true or false.

Gov. Nixon’s Post-Session Veto List

Veto reference guide: The following is a complete list of Gov. Nixon’s post-session vetoes, in reverse chronological order from most recent to oldest, complete with links to each bill, veto letter, and respective vote totals on third read in the House and Senate. I’ve done my best to keep my own commentary out and instead to just parrot Gov. Nixon’s stated veto rationale in as short a space as possible. Thus, the short explanations behind the “stated reason” are mere distillations of Nixon’s veto letters and not my own opinions. 

Veto reason: Bill “would exempt a select class of entities from punitive damages in certain instances in some instances and limit such damages in all other instances.” Bill is unconstitutional because it (1) purports to apply retrospectively, and (2) benefits only a “fixed class” of Defendants, thereby violating Art. III, Sec. 40(30) of the Missouri Constitution’s prohibition on special legislation. House 94-63, Senate 24-9.
Veto reason: Bill would “deprive voters of their right to be heard before their property is annexed into a city.” House 144-0, Senate 31-1
Veto reason: “Ill-conceived process” with certain terms undefined, specifically the terms “chief administrative assistant” and “ministerial duties.” House 100-54, Senate 24-9

Veto reason: Designating rock in I-70 median as something other than slave rock. House146-6Senate 29-4. 

Veto reason: “Bad debt” provision disincentivizes utilities from collecting money owed and no compelling need to expand current ISRS. House110-45Senate26-6

Veto reason: unconstitutional because (1) attempts to nullify federal law and mandates arrest of federal officers, and (2) provision prohibiting publication of names of gun owners infringes on First Amendment. House116-38Senate 26-6

Veto reason: would prohibit publication of names of juvenile sex offenders and allow persons to petition judges to have name removed from sex offender list. House150-13Senate28-4.

Veto reason: “Bad public policy to deny individuals who receive poor medical care access to the legal system simply because the person who provided the care was a volunteer.”       House115-41Senate 28-6.

Veto reason: “Riddles with ambiguity that will generate excessive litigation over how and to whom its provisions would apply.” House104-55Senate32-1.

Veto reason: “Proposes a convoluted and cumbersome solution to a process (the submission of fingerprints for foster parents) that can be streamlined in a simpler, more straightforward manner.” House154-0Senate33-0. 

Veto reason: Contains provision on court-approved private probation services by DWI courts that conflicts with language in a bill previously signed by the Governor. House131-18Senate28-3.

Veto reason: Bill would exempt Girls, Inc. of St. Louis from child care requirements. Girl’s Inc. is ‘ an outstanding organization’ but ‘protecting the safety of Missouri’s children should be paramount.’ House143-15, Senate33-0 (consent).

Veto reason: Infringes on employee privacy and would subject employers to ADA lawsuits.     House91-67Senate32-0.

Veto reason: Allows increased foreign ownership of farmland and creates offense of animal trespass. House133-21Senate32-1.

Veto reason: Exempts mining operations within 1,000 feet of school in Cape Girardeau County and allows increased foreign ownership of farmland. House103-50Senate32-0.

Veto reason: “Goes too far when it denies unemployment benefits” to “activities occurring outside the workplace and outside of work hours.” House98-57Senate32-2.

Veto reason: Increases “fees that payday, title, and … installment lenders can charge consumers.” House143-17, Senate34-0.

Veto reason: Changes penalty for minor in casino by reducing the charge but increasing the fine. House133-2Senate30-1.

Veto reason: Ambiguous restrictions on state and local governments would require local gov’t officials to become experts in international law. House118-37Senate24-9.

Veto reason: Under legislation, local governments “would be hampered in their efforts to enforce existing fireworks ordinances around July 4th” and bill “could cause staffing shortages” at veteran’s homes, mental health facilities, and county jails. House114-32Senate28-2.

Veto reason: Increases fees for driver’s licenses “without any improvement in the services.” House97-44, Senate31-2.

Veto reason: “Places unnecessary burdens on public employees for the purpose of weakening labor organizations” and “exempts first responders from its requirements,” thereby violating the Equal Protection Clause. House85-69Senate24-10.

Veto reason: fiscal note, impact on education, prescription drug tax increase, insufficient trigger. House103-51Senate24-9.

Veto reason: “Inject considerable uncertainty into Missouri’s legal system” and “have a chilling effect on foreign adoptions.” House109-41Senate24-9.

Veto reason: Duplicative of HB 133. House154-2Senate34-0.