Monthly Archives: October 2012

Prop B could add thousands to Nodaway County schools each year

“That they might have joy” column by Jacki Wood

I’m not one to get political here in this column. After all, the purpose of it is to have more joy. And I don’t usually associate politics with joy, especially during election season.

However, I cover school news here in Nodaway County, which does bring me a lot of joy, and I’ve been hearing a lot of information on Prop B at the school board meetings I cover. Specifically, how it will impact our local schools.

There are two sides to every story and I’m sure you’ve watched, read and heard both sides. The health and education people want you to vote yes for a variety of reasons. And the convenience store folks and those for no new taxes and smaller government want you to vote no for a variety of other reasons.

Here’s the issue…

The American Cancer Society brought the initiative forward to reduce smoking and improve healthcare in the state.

Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the US at 17¢ per pack, well below the national average of $1.49 per pack.

There are approximately 10,000 deaths each year in Missouri related to tobacco use. We also have the 11th highest smoking rate in the country and the eighth highest rate for lung cancer deaths. Additionally, more than 8,600 Missouri youth start smoking each year (Missouri Foundation for Health).

If passed…

Prop B would increase the current cigarette tax to 90¢ a pack, the roll-your-own tobacco products by 25 percent and other tobacco products like chewing tobacco by 15 percent.

The Missouri State Auditor’s office estimates an increase in state revenues of $283 to $423 billion every year. It would also create the Health and Education Trust Fund, with 50 percent going to support public schools, 30 percent to higher education and 20 percent for tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

According to the Missouri Association of School Administrators, here’s how some of our Nodaway County schools would benefit each year if Prop B is passed:

West Nodaway: $36,000 to 55,000

South Nodaway: $28,767 to $42,998

North Nodaway: $35,604 to $53,217

Nodaway-Holt: $35,500 to $53,100

Maryville: $221,508 to $331,087

Funds can be used in the following ways: teacher recruitment, retention, salaries or professional development; school construction, renovation or leasing; technology enhancements, textbooks or instructional materials; school safety; or supplying additional funding for required state and federal programs.

It has also been projected that Northwest Missouri State University could receive nearly $3 million each year.

Opponents have expressed concern about how this money will be used, citing the ineffectiveness of the casino revenue for education.

However, safeguards not used in the past have been put into place with the law requiring all money to be treated as new funding, not used to replace existing money spent on education. It will also be audited annually.

I have several concerns about the issue. I generally want less government, not more. I’m not one hundred percent sure the wording will help keep the funding going to where it’s supposed to go. And I don’t think the increased taxes will cause more smokers to give it up.

But I do have hope that educating our youth will be beneficial. And I also know that our schools are hurting and desperately need this additional funding.

So, whatever you decide about the issue, please get out there and exercise your right to vote.

Advertisements

A jury of their peers: Service of 12 leaves lasting impact

“All rise,” the bailiff bellows, echoing throughout the dark and dated courtroom. “The court is now again in session.”

Members of the jury file in slowly and take their seats in the jury box.

Draped in a long, black robe, the judge asks everyone to please be seated.

The long, wooden benches creak as those in the audience try to get comfortable once again.

Lawyers shuffle papers and whisper with one another, comparing notes before the bantering begins.

“It’s inherently dramatic,” Nodaway County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rice said. “Sometimes you’ll work six months or over a year on a single case. And then you get 12 people who have never heard anything about it and they have to make a decision that impacts (a person’s) life. There are significant consequences.”

Right…to a jury trial

The jury system in the United States can be traced back to 12th Century England when King Henry II used a jury for their knowledge of a particular case. It evolved in the 15th century when Henry VI turned the jury into the trier of the evidence.

The colonists brought these ideals with them to America and the right to a jury trial was included in all 13 of the original states’ constitutions and in the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution.

The Missouri Constitution grants everyone the right to a trial by jury in both criminal and civil cases (see the adjacent box, Jury Service Glossary). With criminal cases, this right only applies to serious crimes, which carry a potential sentence of more than six months.

Right…here in Nodaway County

The Nodaway County Courthouse sits in the very center of Maryville on the downtown square and very nearly the center of the county.

Built in 1881, the red brick structure, trimmed in sandstone with a renovated cupola and clock tower, stands as a beacon of the county and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Once visitors make the climb up the large marble stairs to the second floor, they are advised to turn off cell phones and pagers and have no food or drink before entering either one of the Nodaway County Circuit Court courtrooms.

On this particular fall day, a civil case is being heard by Circuit Judge Roger Prokes and jurors have just returned from a lunch break.

Five men. Seven women. Ranging in age from their early 20s to their 70s. One alternate. A man in his 30s.

Yellow badges identify each juror with a number, not their names.

Some look around at the audience. Some grab notepads to resume notetaking. Some look out the windows to the world outside.

And then the case resumes once again.

Right…time for civic responsibility

Serving on a jury can be seen as a civic responsibility. For Thomas Jefferson, it was more important than all other civic duties including voting.

“I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”

Today, the jury system continues to depend on the service of American citizens.

While a jury trial can be inconvenient for many, Rice believes it’s important for a community to have them.

“A jury trial is a lot of people putting in a lot of time and it’s inconvenient for a lot of folks,” Rice said. “But I think we do that, though, so people are kept accountable whenever they do wrong.”

Editor’s note: this is the first in a series about jury trials. In the coming weeks, we’ll explore the role of jurors, the trial process and more. Some information for this article came from the Missouri Bar Association, mobar.org, and the Missouri Courts System, courts.mo.gov.