JCRC’s List of Issues Worth Consideration


The surprise announcement by Missouri Governor Matt Blunt that he will not seek re-election has re-focused needed attention on the upcoming session of the Missouri General Assembly. In a recent report, which was published in our Jan. 23 edition, Sydell Shayer, advocacy chair for the Jewish Community Relations Council, outlined a legislative package of issues of concern to the Jewish community, which we urge our readers to support, and to urge their legislative representatives to support.

There is a disturbing trend by partisans not only to prevent progressive legislation from passage, but to introduce bills which would subvert progressive measures which are already on the books. We have already published an editorial (Jan. 16) stressing the importance of retaining Missouri’s much-admired Non-Partisan Court Plan, which has been in effect since 1940, and serves to remove covered jurisdictions from the need for judges to run for office on partisan political tickets. Shayer points out that there “is an effort to substitute the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan,” which has been a model for the nation with a so-called “Bi-Partisan” Court Plan, which would have the effect of turning the clock back to deep political involvement in the judicial branch of our state government. The St. Louis Jewish Light strongly supports retention of the existing Non-Partisan Court Plan and urges our legislators to reject the ill-advised attempt to re-politicize the courts.

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There is also a proposed initiative to repeal the stem cell research constitutional amendment which the Jewish community worked hard to get passed last year. All streams of the Jewish faith support embryonic stem cell research for its potential to cure many major diseases, such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, cancer and Alzheimer’s as well as spinal cord and other injuries. Similarly, there is another proposed constitutional amendment which is nothing more than a thinly disguised attempt to ban Affirmative Action in government and education. Cleverly worded to make it sound like it would “end discrimination,” the measure would set back the advancement of equal opportunity without quotas in Missouri and should be defeated.

On the affirmative side, health care remains a top concern in Missouri as well as nationally. About 700,000 Missourians are without health insurance, according to Shayer’s report. Those who are insured “are experiencing ever increasing insurance costs.” In addition, in 2005, Missouri reduced its Medicaid eligibility by 100,000 residents. We strongly agree with the JCRC that “this must be reversed.” Access to quality, affordable health care for all, regardless of residence or economic status is a top priority for the JCRC, and the St. Louis Jewish Light strongly endorses that position.

The JCRC also emphasizes its commitment to redress the consequences of poverty in Missouri, and especially in the Greater St. Louis area. The JCRC’s “Confronting Poverty” agenda held a series of sessions in which members learned that in the City of St. Louis, the poverty rate is a staggering 27 percent, and 9.4 percent of St. Louis County lives under the poverty line. Phyllis Markus, JCRC chair of social justice, has focused attention on actions which could help alleviate the consequences of poverty. Pointing out that poverty cannot be eliminated in one fell swoop, the JCRC is supporting such policies as earned income tax credits and equal pay for equal work, plus funding for federal programs addressing poverty that require a state match.

The JCRC is also deeply concerned over the misuse of the immigration issue, “a hot button topic made more so by innuendos, myths and inaccuracies. Shayer’s report, like the moving series on The Jewish Americans being shown on KETC-TV, Channel 9, remind us “that we are a nation of immigrants.”

Regarding immigration, the St. Louis Jewish Light supports the JCRC in its belief that “punitive measures that criminalize actions by immigrants, social service providers and others — actions that would not otherwise be prohibited — are unrealistic, potentially discriminatory, and harmful to individuals and communities.”

We strongly endorse the JCRC legislative package, and commend its leadership and members for working so hard for its implementation. We also strongly urge our readers to familiarize themselves with these important issues, and to urge their representatives in the House and Senate of the Missouri General Assembly to support these goals. The time to act is now!