Following a candidate forum, the News Tribune held at Jefferson City Hall, the newspaper sent out additional reader-submitted questions that had not been asked because of time constraints.
Here are the responses from Jane Beetem, Pat Rowe Kerr and Dave Griffith, the Republican candidates for the Missouri House of Representatives District 60 seat.
Responses appear in the order the candidates appear on the Aug. 7 ballot.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity.
From readers: Nearly 20 years ago, a legal settlement was reached between 46 state attorneys general and major tobacco companies to partially reimburse the states for Medicaid costs incurred while treating smoking-related health conditions caused by their products. After that time, a couple of "Little Tobacco" companies came into being. Every state except Missouri enacted amending legislation to require them to reimburse the states' Medicaid costs. Missouri was sued over the 'loophole' in 2003 and lost. The state is at risk for a lawsuit for each of the subsequent years to a total of over $1 billion in payments forfeited. For several years, bills have been filed to close this loophole, but it has never been brought to a floor vote. Would you support or oppose state legislation to close the loophole which allows non-participating manufacturers to sell cheap cigarettes and places the state at risk for additional lawsuits?
Beetem: Smoking has been proven to be detrimental to our health. Government should regulate all businesses fairly, so all tobacco manufacturers selling products within our state should help cover the state's cost of treatment for health issues due to smoking. I would probably favor including other manufacturers under the settlement agreement for covering Medicaid costs for smoking-related health issues, but would need to review (1) the amount received from other cigarette manufacturers and where these funds have been directed, plus (2) the amount Medicaid has spent on smoking-related health issues.
Kerr: This is really asking about applying a higher rate of taxation to what is called little tobacco products. I would not support any tax increase, and for that reason I would oppose this legislation. It is a mistake for the government to enact taxes in an attempt to change behavior, which is what a tobacco tax intends to do. This is not government's place. The issue is that there is no real way to 'close the loophole' without essentially adopting a higher tax rate. Many health care plans have monetary and supportive systems to encourage individuals to make better choices.
Griffith: This is an issue that Missouri votes have had the opportunity to decide numerous times and each time they have rejected it. I think this is an issue that should be decided by Missouri voters, and it is incumbent legislators to find solutions that Missouri voters can support.
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From readers: Will you accept money from the National Rifle Association? Explain.
Beetem: I accept donations from all legal donors according to existing campaign laws. Accepting a contribution does not mean I'm obligated to vote in the interests of that contributor, unless it matches those of my constituents. I intend to vote in the best interests of my constituents. The NRA has given me an AQ rating, as I support the Second Amendment (the Q is given to candidates who have no voting record as elected officials). Running for office does require money to get your message to the voters. I thank those in the community who have supported my campaign for office.
Kerr: I am a proud member of the NRA and will always support the Second Amendment. I believe that our right to keep and bear arms should not be infringed, and will fight any attempt to do so. Liberals are constantly attacking gun rights, and I will stand with the NRA and protect the Second Amendment. I believe the premise of this question is flawed; to my knowledge, the NRA's political arm, the NRA-PVF, does not contribute directly to candidates. Guns are not the problem. We need increased mental health resources with specific program designations and time requirements to address safety concerns.
Griffith: I have not received a donation from the National Rifle Association. However, I am proud to say have received the highest rating the NRA gives for my stance on the Second Amendment. I believe in the right to bear arms and I believe limiting access by placing further restriction on guns is not in the best interest of Americans.
From readers: Do you support de-funding Planned Parenthood? Explain.
Beetem: Yes, I would support de-funding Planned Parenthood. But then we must find a way to provide the non-abortion health services that Planned Parenthood provides, primarily but not only for women. I support making sure that taxpayer funds only pay for women's health services but are never used to pay for abortion. I will always vote to prevent government funding of abortion. If Planned Parenthood cannot assure us that taxpayer funds will not be used to fund abortion, then they should not receive government funding.
Kerr: Yes. Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize abortion, and taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood should end. There are many organizations like the local Pregnancy Help Center and the Hope Center that provide ancillary services to women without advocating for abortions, and these are the organizations that should receive support. I would also would like to significantly increase awareness of resources and organizations as well as access to adoption assistance.
Griffith: I would fully support de-funding Planned Parenthood, I am a pro-life advocate and protecting the unborn is a key tenet to my campaign. Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest abortion provider and should not be receiving taxpayer dollars. I will always stand to protect the unborn.