MPANewsBook: Statehouse News for MPA Members
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Headline: A note from Phill [Entered: 10/04/2012]
We’ve just finished the feature stories on the four statewide ballot issues. The links are at http://mdn.org/2012/elect/ballot.htm [ http://mdn.org/2012/elect/ballot.htm ].
This edition of MPANews has short summaries of the ballot measures with links to the full in-depth print story.
Also, the four features are listed in our NewsBudget list I wrote you about at http://mdn.org/newsbud [ http://mdn.org/newsbud ].
If you have not checked out our election website yet, please give it a look. As Jordan wrote last week, the campaign website has candidate information boxes with basic biographical information about the statewide candidates.
From our homepage you can access and use brief candidate profiles and biographical information. The information boxes also have links to candidates’ social media profiles.
Also included in the campaign homepage are links to our TV ad database for each candidate and basic information on the ballot measures.
Please let Jordan know (314-406-9528) if you have any comments or suggestions on how we can improve our campaign information for you.
I’ll be in Washington from Friday to Monday, but you can reach me on my cell at 573-353-7525.
* Get MDN’s campaign homepage [ http://www.mdn.org/2012/ELECT/INDEX.HTM ]
Headline: Missouri voters will decide whether to raise the tobacco tax this November. [Entered: 10/04/2012]
By Taylor Beck
This November, Missourians will vote on whether to approve a cigarette tax hike.
The initiative, Proposition B, would put an additional 73 cents per pack tax on cigarettes, increasing the total state tax to 90 cents per pack. Missouri currently has the lowest tobacco tax in the nation at 17 cents a pack.
Prop B is estimated to bring in $283 million to $423 million a year, according to an estimate from the state auditor. The proceeds would be divided between K-12 education, higher education and tobacco prevention and education programs.
Supporters of Prop B, like Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said increasing the tax will discourage smoking in Missouri and provide important education funds.
“For potential teenage smokers, there’s a strong correlation between price and starting to smoke. And so, we know the tax will produce revenue that we need, and we also hope that it will discourage teenage smokers,” Kelly said.
Ron Leone, executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, said Prop B’s 760 percent cigarette tax increase is devastating.
“It will hurt Missouri consumers, it will force small businesses to close, it will cause people to lose their jobs and it will generate less tax revenue for local and state coffers that are already stretched thin because of the great recession,” Leone said.
Twenty percent of the proceeds from the tax would go toward tobacco abstinence programs, 50 percent for K-12 education and 30 percent to higher education.
* Get the print story [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/CIGTAX.HTM].
Headline: St. Louis police force hopes to eliminate state oversight on the November ballot [Entered: 10/04/2012]
By Katie Kreider
Missouri voters will decide if St. Louis City will gain control of its police force on the November ballot.
St. Louis and Kansas City are the only two cities in the country that have police forces governed by a state board.
For the past few decades, St. Louis has tried to regain control of its police department, but the legislature has been unable to pass the measure.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is a longtime advocate of local control.
“We’re looking for accountability, we’re looking for efficiency, we’re looking to save money and we’re also looking to make a better department that is going to help reduce crime in our city as well,” Slay said.
Currently, the St. Louis police department is controlled by a five-member board, with four appointments made by the governor and the mayor as the fifth member.
Supporters said passage of this proposition will hold police officers more accountable and will help eliminate the high levels of crime in the city.
The American Civil Liberties Union says passage would limit citizen input and deny them a civilian review board.
Slay said the ACLU has already taken this issue to court and the case was dismissed.
* Get the print story. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/STPOLICE.HTM]
* Get the bill. [http://www.mdn.org/cgi-bin/bills/billhttp.exe?FORM=SB&NUMS5&YEAR 12]
Headline: Missouri governors will have more power over Missouri courts if the Missouri Plan is amended in November. [Entered: 10/04/2012]
By Christine Roto
On Nov. 6 Missouri voters will have the option to change the way top Missouri judges are selected.
Missouri Constitutional Amendment 3 is the culmination of a multi-year effort by a St. Louis County lawmaker to change the judicial nominating process.
The Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan has been in place for more than 70 years as a way to eliminate partisanship in the selection of judges in Missouri. The intent of the plan is to have judges selected based on merit instead of political affiliation.
The plan is in charge of selecting judges to the state Supreme Court and Appeals Court. It also applies to lower level courts in St. Louis City and Jackson County. Greene, St. Louis, Clay and Platte counties have adopted variations of the plan to select judges.
The current system removes appellate level judges from having to campaign in partisan elections. Nominees for state appeals court and Supreme Court judges are selected by a seven-member panel composed of three gubernatorial appointees, three lawyers selected by the Missouri Bar Association and the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
“The original Constitution had the proper checks, and currently there is no check on the judicial branch of government as far as how we choose judges to the highest court. The Missouri Plan is currently controlled by one special interest group — the trail attorneys,” said Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis.
Lembke sponsored the amendment in the General Assembly.
The proposed change would eliminate the chief justice from the panel and give the governor four appointees to the commission instead of three, which would make his appointees the majority.
Lynn Whaley Vogel, president of the Missouri Bar Association, said there is no reason to amend the plan because it has served as a model for other states to eliminate partisanship.
* Get the print story. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/NPCP.HTM]
Headline: Proposition E puts health care exchanges on the November ballot [Entered: 09/26/2012]
By Wes Duplantier
Although the U.S. Supreme Court has already affirmed the constitutionality of the federal health care law, Missouri voters will get to cast ballots in November on another of the law’s key components — insurance exchanges.
Passage of Proposition E on the November ballot would prohibit Gov. Jay Nixon or any state agency from setting up a health insurance exchange without the approval of the legislature or the state’s voters.
A health insurance exchange is a web-based marketplace for consumers to compare insurance plans. The exchanges are a central part of the federal health care law passed in 2009. They are intended to create competition to help individuals and small businesses purchase insurance to comply with another part of the law that mandates most people own health insurance.
Nixon has said that his administration would not move to set up an insurance exchange by decree. But conservatives say they want to make sure the Democratic governor is barred from doing so if he wins a second term, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law in a 5-4 decision on June 28.
The Supreme Court’s ruling, however, makes it nearly certain that the requirement for health care exchanges will take effect unless congressional Republicans repeal the law.
That has groups who supported the law, such as Missouri Health Care for All, arguing that Missouri should simply prepare its own exchange.
“Prop E is really just an attempt to continue to use health care reform for political gain because there’s really going to be no practical effect because health reform, the Affordable Care Act, is the law of the land,” said MHCA President Susan Talve, a St. Louis rabbi, in a telephone interview.
* Get the print story.[ http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/EXCHANGE.HTM ]
* Get the bill, SB 464 [ http://www.mdn.org/cgi-bin/bills/billhttp.exe?FORM=SB&NUMF4&YEAR 12 ]
* Get the Proposition E ballot language [ http://www.mdn.org/2012/ELECT/BALLOT.HTM ]
Headline: Akin failed to report about 10 years of state employee pension income
By Katie Kreider
Embattled Republican Senate candidate U.S. Rep. Todd Akin failed to report $129,000 in pension income he has received over the past decade from his time working in the Missouri House, his campaign said Thursday, Oct. 4.
Akin spokesman Steve Taylor said that Akin failed to include the income in his financial disclosure forms and that the St. Louis congressman has amended 10 years of those reports to fix the errors.
Akin acknowledged the mistake in a letter to the House Ethics Chairman U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner of Alabama on Tuesday, Oct. 2, according to a report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“This is an unintentional oversight and I regret any inconvenience this may cause,” Akin wrote in his letter.
This is the second time Akin has failed to adequately complete the disclosure forms. Akin amended about $350,000 in property holdings in 2010, according to the Post-Dispatch.
Headline: Former Mamtek CEO Bruce Cole ends extradition fight. [Entered: 10/03/2012]
By Andrew Weil
Former Mamtek CEO Bruce Cole will be coming back to mid-Missouri after ending his fight against extradition from California, according to the office of Missouri’s Attorney General.
Nanci Gonder, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Koster, said Cole appeared in an Orange County, Calif., court on Wednesday, Oct. 3.
Cole faces multiple felony stealing and security fraud charges in relation to the failed Mamtek artificial sweetener plant in Moberly.
Gonder also said the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office will arrange for Cole’s transportation back to Missouri and the Attorney General’s office will be leading the prosecution.
Headline: Don’t hog the bacon, Missouri won’t see a shortage anytime soon. [Entered: 10/02/2012]
By Lauren Bale
A bacon shortage in the U.K. left many Americans worried the popular meat might become scarce in the U.S. as well.
Missouri Pork Association Executive Director Don Nikodim said Americans do not have to worry about a shortage, but bacon prices may increase due to the drought.
The drought has led to an increase in the price of feed for pigs.
Nikodim said it is too soon to know how high the price of bacon will rise.
“Just enjoy bacon, enjoy it often and go out and stock up if you think you need to,” Nikodim said.
The drought will likely affect bacon and other pork product prices next year.
Headline: Gov. Nixon challenges hunters to donate 10,000 deer to help feed the hungry. [Entered: 10/04/2012]
By Matt Evans
Hitting almost every Bass Pro Shops store in the state of Missouri, Governor Nixon is challenging hunters to donate 10,000 deer to help feed the hungry in the state.
The Share the Harvest program is now it it’s 21st year. The program is led by Cheryl Fey of the Missouri Department of Conservation.
“Let’s not let that deer meat go to waste in today’s economy. And for some folks, deer meat is healthier,” Fey said.
Last year, hunters donated more than 6,000 deer across the state.
During the weekend urban hunt, the Missouri Conservation Federation is footing the bill for all the fees associated with donating a deer to the program.
Headline: The National Rifle Association endorses Chris Koster for Attorney General [Entered: 10/04/2012]
By Nick Thompson
The National Rifle Association endorsed Democrat Chris Koster this week in his re-election bid for attorney general. Koster is the only Democratic candidate running for statewide office to receive such an endorsement from the NRA.
Koster received an “A” rating, which is given to candidates who have a proven record supporting the second amendment. The NRA gave Koster’s Republican challenger, Ed Martin, an “AQ” rating.
“AQ” ratings are given to candidates who answer a candidate survey on gun rights favorably, but do not have a proven record.
Koster campaign spokeswoman Rachel Levine said Koster has shown a commitment to the second amendment throughout his political career.
When Koster was a prosecutor in Cass County in 1999, he appeared in an NRA television commercial.
Headline: EPA awards Joplin with $2.4 million to clean up contaminated soil. [Entered: 10/04/2012]
By Elizabeth Hagedorn
The Environmental Protection Agency has announced it will give Joplin $2.4 million to help the city test and cleanup soil contaminated with lead and cadmium.
EPA Region 7 spokesperson Chris Whitley said parks and residential areas are being targeted for the cleanup.
“It’s up to the city of Joplin to prioritize those properties. Essentially what they’ll be looking for are areas frequented by children,” Whitley said.
The EPA estimates around 1,500 to 2,000 areas in Joplin will need soil remediation.
Headline: Missouri’s Lieutenant Governor [Entered: 10/04/2012]
By Phill Brooks
A vice president under Franklin Roosevelt, John Nance Garner, is given credit for coining the phrase that the vice presidency “isn’t worth a warm bucket of spit.”
Some claim he used the word p**s rather than spit. And in researching this column, I discovered there’s question as to whether Garner said either statement. Regardless of the debate about Garner’s quote, you’ve got to wonder if the same thought has not crossed the minds of some of Missouri’s lieutenant governors.
Missouri’s lieutenant governor is similar to the vice presidency — a fancy title, but a job with few real powers.
Similar to the vice president’s role as president of the U.S. Senate, Missouri’s lieutenant governor is the president of the state Senate. But legislative rules strip the lieutenant governor of the traditional powers you’d expect for a presiding officer like ruling on points of order, assigning bills to committee and appointing committee chairs.
It was Lt. Gov. Bill Phelps who forced the historic test of a lieutenant governor’s legislative powers. In 1972, Phelps campaigned as “Full-Time Phelps” with the promise that he would work full-time on the job.
I remember Phelps as a feisty fellow. And almost immediately after taking office, the new Republican lieutenant governor sought to expand the traditionally limited role of his presiding powers over the Democratic-controlled Senate.
He was rebuffed in one of the most dramatic scenes I’ve seen in my decades covering Missouri’s Senate. The Senate’s top Democratic leader, Bill Cason, simply locked the lieutenant governor out of the chamber so he could not preside.
Senate staff were ordered to block access to the chamber to anyone except senators, legislative staff and reporters. Blocked that afternoon from entering the chamber to take the dais, Phelps went to the state Supreme Court.
The court eventually held that the Senate had to allow him to enter the chamber to assume his constitutional role as “ex officio president” of the Senate. But against the advice of some of his Republican colleagues, Phelps asked the court what it meant to be the chamber’s president.
The reply was that Senate rules can define those powers. So the Senate simply adopted rules and procedures that stripped the lieutenant governor of any effective powers except to vote in case of a tie.
In 2004, Democrat Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell tried to test those rules by refusing to recognize the GOP leadership to shut off a filibuster on the last day of that year’s session. Maxwell’s actions were criticized by both Republicans and Democrats.
This is a bit of an institutional issue. Even when the lieutenant governor is of the same party as the majority in the Senate, members tend to look upon the lieutenant governor as an outsider, a representative of the executive branch.
But the lieutenant governor is not a formal member of the administration. He runs separately rather than on a ticket with the governor. And like now, there have been several times when Missouri has had a governor of one party and a lieutenant governor of another party. Current Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder’s time in the Senate pretty much is limited to opening the day’s session.
Missouri’s constitution does transfer the powers of governor, and even the governor’s salary, to the lieutenant governor anytime the governor is out of the state. But years ago, the state Supreme Court held that was an antiquated provision. The court found that provision no longer applied because it was written in an era when communication technology was so limited that a governor could not easily run the office when out of the state.
Several of the lieutenant governors I’ve covered over the decades started with high hopes they could be major players in the office.
Ken Rothman expressed confidence that he could use the office as a base for major policy initiatives after his 1980 election. Rothman seemed ideally suited to change the nature of the lieutenant governor. He had been the House speaker, in an era when that job was called the second most powerful position in state government. He had built a solid bipartisan coalition in the House and was one of the state’s most effective speakers in recent memory.
But in the Senate, Rothman found himself largely ignored by the more conservative body, some of whose members still were bitter about his role in House-Senate legislative fights of the past.
I still clearly remember the frustrations Rothman voiced to me that even we reporters were ignoring him. The problem was that he no longer was a center of power or news.
So why run for lieutenant governor? It’s politics. It’s a position that gives one a heightened role in the party, both as a private adviser and as a public standard bearer.
And for a few, it has been a stepping stone for higher office. Tom Eagleton used it for his successful race for the U.S. Senate. So did Mel Carnahan who moved on to governor.
Many others, however, have found it a political dead end. During my time, the office represented the final state election success for Bill Morris, Phelps, Rothman, Harriet Woods, Roger Wilson, Maxwell and, so far, Kinder.
Only two of the nine lieutenant governors I have covered were elected to higher office — although, of course, Wilson moved into the governor’s chair upon Carnahan’s death.
Phill Brooks has been a Missouri statehouse reporter since 1970, making him dean of the statehouse press corps. He is the statehouse correspondent for KMOX Radio, director of MDN and a faculty member of the Missouri School of Journalism. He has covered every governor since the late Warren Hearnes. Past columns are available at http://www.mdn.org/mpacol.