Claire McCaskill holds town hall at UMKC

claire-town-hallBy Joe Lambe

Can raucous tea party skewering of government be giving way to more relaxed concerns?

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said the most common thing people asked her about in a series of recent town hall meetings was legal marijuana.

“That surprised me,” she said, but even more people asked about it Wednesday at UMKC in her fifth town hall meet.

McCaskill, formerly the Jackson County prosecutor, said she thinks states need to take the lead in deciding legalization, not the federal government.

“I think we’ve got a great opportunity to see what happens in Colorado (where they just legalized it),” she said, a state that offers a case study.

Another question was why she voted for the “job killer” ObamaCare.

Her answer: She believed many people did not understand it was private insurance and did not realize the good things it does.

Among them, it provides insurance to people with pre-existing conditions and allows children to stay on the parents’ insurance until age 26.

The uninsured go to hospitals for treatment and taxpayers pay, she said.

She would welcome working with Republicans to fine-tune the health care law but none have offered, she said.

“I have not seen them take one vote on a replacement,” she said. “What do they want to do –  go back to the old way?”

It angers her that Missouri is among states refusing to expand Medicaid under the law, a measure that would cover many more poor people and would be funded by the federal government.

State taxpayers will still pay healthcare for those people, she said, but the state refuses take federal money for it purely out of hatred for the president.

“I don’t get it,” she said.

She also spoke of the need for both parties to work together to fund highways and bridges.

Her points: Missouri ranks 10th among states with the most structurally deficient bridges. It also has more highway miles to maintain than all the roads combined in neighboring Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska.

At the same time, Missouri ranks number 45th among states in funding for roads and bridges.

Half of the money spent on it comes from the federal government, she said, but that money is shrinking as the gas tax brings in less and less because of more fuel efficient vehicles.

She and others in both parties are proposing creation of a $50 billion bond sale to raise money for roads and bridges.

International companies with millions of dollars parked overseas to avoid taxes could bid on the bonds by agreeing to bring some money back and pay taxes, she said.

That gambit could raise $750 billion in road and bridge money, she said.

She also said that things were getting better in general, with 48 straight months of job creation except in local, state and federal government.

“We have shrunk the size of government,”and the stock market is way up, she said. “No one can say the sky is falling.”

The former resident of Midtown’s Coleman Highlands neighborhood now lives in the St. Louis area, but …

“This community is a part of me,” she said. “ I can’t tell you how much I love Kansas City because I’d really get in trouble with St. Louis.”

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