May 26, 2015

Voter photo ID initiative petition filed by Missouri Secretary of State candidate

A Republican candidate for Missouri Secretary of State has filed an initiative petition aimed at requiring voters in Missouri to show photo ID at the polls.

Republican Secretary of State candidate Jay Ashcroft (picture from Facebook)

Republican Secretary of State candidate Jay Ashcroft (picture from Facebook)

Jay Ashcroft’s petition, if successful, would ask voters to change Missouri’s Constitution to allow photo ID to be required when voting. The state legislature would then have to develop the framework of voter photo ID.

The petition would have to get about 160,000 signatures in six of the state’s eight congressional districts to make it to a statewide ballot.

Ashcroft believes Missouri voters will support his petition.

“So we make sure that eligible voters have the opportunity to vote, and that the people that follow the law that vote are not disenfranchised by people that violate the law and either vote when they should not or vote more times than they should,” Ashcroft told Missourinet.

Representative Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis County)

Representative Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis County)

St. Louis Democratic state representative Stacey Newman said requiring a photo ID could disenfranchise more than 200,000 current voters who lack a photo ID, many of whom she says could have difficulty getting the documents needed for such an ID. She argues photo ID also seeks to stop a problem that doesn’t exist.

“We don’t have any documented instances, an instances in Missouri that have been prosecuted, in terms of in-person voter fraud on election day, and that’s the only kind of fraud this measure would prevent,” Newman said.

The state’s Constitution would have to be changed because the state Supreme Court found photo ID unconstitutional in 2006.

Legislative efforts to enact voter photo ID have failed. In 2011 the legislature passed both a proposed constitutional change and the statutory language of how voter photo ID would work, but the ballot language of the former was struck down in court and Governor Jay Nixon vetoed the latter.

Effort would expand Veterans Memorial at Missouri Capitol

Outside the State Capitol is a memorial to those who have fought in the wars the United States has been in since Missouri became a state in 1821, through the memorial’s dedication in 1991. Jefferson City dentist J.C. Standlee launched an effort to extend it to include the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

J.C. Standlee discusses the Veterans Memorial with Senator Mike Kehoe (center) and Jefferson City resident Sarah Topp.  (photo from Facebook)

J.C. Standlee discusses the Veterans Memorial with Senator Mike Kehoe (center) and Jefferson City resident Sarah Topp. (photo from Facebook)

“We have a generation of young men and women who have sacrificed and served our country and our state when they were asked, and I just think it’s important that they have some place to honor them,” Standlee told Missourinet.”

There’s a problem, though. When the memorial was designed, room wasn’t left for additional granite obelisks to be added.

“They’ve got the eight obelisks lined up in a row there, but there’s really no place else to put the two that we need for Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Standlee. “The design challenge there is going to be how do we include two more memorials, to more of the obelisks, and not take away from what is there currently.”

The focus now is on raising more than $10,000 to draft a design, so supporters can come up with an estimate and begin raising money toward the expansion. Legislators are being asked to donate toward the cost of that design.

Standlee said while everyone hopes there will be no more wars to add, the new design will likely leave room for expansion.

“We should probably look to the future and maybe design it in a way that 100 years from now, those memorials can be added to it a little more easily than what we’re trying to do now,” said Standlee.

Bonding proposal for new Missouri veterans home to be back in ’16

A proposal that would have asked voters to allow the sale of bonds to pay for one more veterans home in Missouri fell short in the legislative session that just ended, but its sponsor tells Missourinet he won’t lose anything by getting it passed in 2016 instead.

The state veterans home at St. James (courtesy; Missouri Veterans Commission)

The state veterans home at St. James (courtesy; Missouri Veterans Commission)

The proposal offered by Representative Lindell Shumake (R-Hannibal) would have asked voters to approve $50-million in bonding.

Daniel Bell with the Missouri Veterans Commissions says there is a need for more skilled nursing care for veterans.

“We currently have seven veterans home in the state with a total of 1,350 beds. On our waiting list altogether, we have about 1,900 veterans waiting to get into our homes,” Bell told Missourinet.

A new home would provide 150 beds.

Shumake said he will offer the proposal again in 2016, and said nothing would be lost by passing it then instead of in the past session.

“It would not have been able to get onto the ballot before 2016 anyway,” said Shumake. “If we can pass it through both houses next year and it would be qualified to go onto a general election ballot, then timewise we would be in the same timeframe.”

The resolution made it out of the House this year but was one of the issues that never came to a vote in the Senate, during the filibuster that followed a vote on “right to work.”

During House debate of the proposal, Representative Glen Kolkmeyer (R-Odessa) said he experienced for himself the need for more beds for Missouri’s veterans when the health of his father, a Korean War veteran, turned in January.

“I got my dad on the list and they told me it was a 14-month waiting list to get my dad into Warrensburg,” said Kolkmeyer. “Ladies and gentlemen, we need to do better.”

Kolkmeyer’s father died in April.

Brother ‘elated’ Missouri man serving life for pot offenses will get parole hearing

After 21 years, the family of the only man serving life without parole in a Missouri prison under an outdated sentencing law has learned he will get a parole hearing.

Jeff Mizanskey (courtesy; Facebook)

Jeff Mizanskey (courtesy; Facebook)

“I’m elated. I am so happy right now,” Michael Mizanskey told Missourinet, after learning that his brother Jeff Mizanskey would get a parole hearing.

Jeff Mizanskey, of Sedalia, was sentenced for marijuana possession and distribution under a persistent offender sentencing law from the 1990s that has since been changed. His family, lawyers, members of the public, and state lawmakers have all joined an effort to see him released.

Governor Jay Nixon (D) has commuted Mizanskey’s sentence so that he will get a parole hearing. Michael says his family will be there to speak.

“We’ll say that we miss our Jeff. We miss Jeff dearly. He’s missed so much. He’s been a model prisoner all his time in there,” Michael Mizanskey told Missourinet. “He’s never said, ‘Why me?’ and blamed anybody except himself, and he’s done his time.”

Michael Mizanskey testified in favor of a bill aimed at getting his brother, Jeff Mizanskey, released from prison.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Michael Mizanskey testified in favor of a bill aimed at getting his brother, Jeff Mizanskey, released from prison. (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

In his time in prison, Mizanskey has been written up twice: once for having a dirty cell, and one for putting a piece of mail in the wrong box. Michael thinks he has an excellent chance at being paroled.

“I hope to God it is,” he said. “With that kind of record in over 21 years, who else would be better for parole?”

Michael Mizanskey says his brother has a strong support group waiting for him if he is able to get out of prison.

“He’s got a place with me whenever he wants it. I have a place for him. He has a lot of support,” said Michael Mizanskey. “He is very well-loved. He was a great guy. He always was a great guy, did anything for you, and he has a lot of friends out there.”

“I just want to thank Governor Nixon for doing the right thing,” he added, “and commuting his sentence so he can have a chance at parole.”

A Corrections Department spokesman says Jeff Mizanskey’s hearing will be set sometime this summer.

Missouri governor commutes sentence of man serving life for pot offenses, issues 5 pardons

Governor Jay Nixon (D) has pardoned five non-violent offenders and has commuted the sentence of the only man serving life in a Missouri prison for marijuana-related offenses.

Jeff Mizanskey

Jeff Mizanskey

Nixon’s action makes Jeff Mizanskey eligible for parole. Mizanskey was sentenced to life without parole in 1996 as a persistent drug offender, under sentencing laws that have since been rewritten by the legislature.

Mizanskey has been the subject of multiple efforts seeking his release, including petition campaigns and the filing of legislation in the session that ended last week.

The pardons Nixon granted were to five people who have completed their sentences for crimes committed as far back as 1958.

Those individuals are:

  • Michael Derrington has been a substance abuse counselor for almost 30 years and received the Helen B. Madden Memorial Award from the National Council of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in 2008 for his work in the field. In 1979, he was convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession in St. Louis County and paid a $100 fine.
  • Nicole Lowe lives in Tennessee and has been employed as a loan officer with various banking and mortgage companies. In 2000, she was given a suspended execution of sentence in St. Francois County after being convicted of misdemeanor stealing for taking two deposits from her employer. Lowe returned the amount she stole and successfully completed a two-year term of probation.
  • Bill Holt worked as a school bus driver for nearly three decades. In 1958, he was convicted of misdemeanor non-support in Douglas County and spent less than two weeks in the county jail before being placed on probation. Holt successfully completed his probation.
  • Doris Atchison has completed a vocational heating and air condition program. In 1970, she was convicted in Cape Girardeau County of misdemeanor stealing of items valued at $1.46 from a local store. For the crime, she paid a $45 fine.
  • Earl Wolf has worked as a carpenter and as a truck driver. In 1961, he and two others broke into a grocery store in Mercer County and stole several items. He was convicted on misdemeanor burglary and larceny charges and received a three-year term of probation, which he successfully completed.

Earlier stories:

Decision on release of Missouri man serving life for pot could come by ‘relatively’ early summer

Legislature asked to free Missouri man sentenced to life for pot

Petition:  release Missouri man in prison 21 years for pot crimes (VIDEO)