House candidates meet at campus forum Wednesday

In a forum hosted by various student organizations Wednesday night, House candidates from the 21st, 23rd, 24th, and 25th (unopposed) Districts answered questions at MU. Among the topics discussed was Proposition C, corporate sponsorship at the University, and the fair tax.

The aim of Proposition C, also known as Missouri Health Care Freedom, is to inhibit the federal government’s ability to require citizens to buy health insurance and to disallow punishment of those who forego obtaining insurance. Candidates were asked Wednesday about their thoughts on the issue.

Incumbent Stephen Webber of the 23rd District, D-Columbia, said that health care has become an incredibly political issue.

Democratic candidate for the 21st District, Kelly Schultz of Shaw, said similarly that the term “health care” is not popular on the House floor. She said that the proposition is yet to change anything.

Unopposed 25th District incumbent Mary Still, D-Columbia, said that President Obama’s health care plan has “been demonized.” She said that people don’t have a clear understanding of what it is, so they say that they are opposed, even though in fact, she said, they like some of the elements it has to offer.

Candidates were next asked about corporate sponsorship at MU.

Still said she was very concerned about Cerner’s relationship with the university. “I know that we’re doing it because we have to,” she said, but she thinks MU should rely on its own staff to the extent that it can.

Schultz said that she supports corporate partnerships because they create a win-win relationship between students and corporations. The businesses bring revenue to the university, and students are given a chance not only to learn but to create relationships with the businesses prior to graduation. This offers students a chance for jobs for which they are qualified, and the businesses can know they are hiring someone who is trained.

Chris Kelly, Democratic candidate for the 24th District of Columbia said that the sponsorships are vital to research for the university, particularly within its medical fields. Like Schultz, he agreed that when graduate students observe research that is underway, they are learning information that they otherwise might be devoid of were it not for sponsorships.

Finally, candidates were asked about their opinions on the fact that MU faculty have not received a pay increase in two years.

Kelly responded that to answer such a question would be “philosophically inappropriate” because governance of the university including compensation for employees is up to the university, not state legislature.

Webber said that while he would not be allowed as a House representative to make the decision, a large proportion of his constituents work for MU and so he will speak up for them. Staff salaries and benefits are one of his top priorities, he said, because without faculty and staff MU would cease to run.

Schultz said that if the legislature were allowed to address this issue, it would still be a tremendous conflict of interest for her because her husband is a faculty member at MU’s veterinary school. However, she pointed out that while pay increases have not been a reality in recent years, the cost of insurance has increased. Ultimately, she said, this has resulted in a decrease in take home pay for faculty. Schultz also said that due to hiring freezes, if a faculty member leaves the university, other employees pick up his or her responsibilities. This requires that they perform even more tasks, causing their paycheck value to depreciate even more.

Kelly’s opponent, Republican Laura Nauser of Columbia, arrived following these questions. Nauser is the 5th Ward councilwoman for Columbia and had to tend to business regarding the ward, which overlapped with the beginning of the forum.

Webber and Schultz’s opponents, Republicans Paul Szopa of Columbia and John Cauthorn of Mexico, respectively, were not in attendance.

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