December 1, 2015

Dueling petition efforts seek to raise Missouri cigarette tax

Two groups want to put a cigarette tax increase on the November 2016 ballot. The Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (MPCA) has filed two initiative petitions to raise the tax by 23 cents per pack to support the state’s general revenue fund and to help finance Missouri’s roads and bridges. “Raise Your Hands For Kids” has filed an initiative petition to increase the tax by 50 cents per pack to help fund early childhood education and health screenings for infants and young children.

Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association

Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association

MPCA Executive Director Ron Leone said the Association, which opposed a cigarette tax hike proposal in 2013, is trying to be one step ahead of any other campaigns targeting a cigarette tax increase.

“We’re pretty sick and tired of always being on defense and always trying to oppose initiative petitions. So we wanted to, for a change, take control of our fate and go on offense,” said Leone.

“We obviously firmly believe that the people would in fact support a reasonable tax increase that doesn’t hurt consumers too bad, maintains the competitive advantage we have over our higher-tax border states and uses the money to help fund a state priority, which in this case would be transportation.”

Leone said the increase would generate about $80-$100 million annually. He said the money isn’t going to solve Missouri’s transportation issues, but it will help.

“Raise Your Hands For Kids” Board Chairperson Erin Brower said Missouri needs to do more for early childhood development.

Raise Your Hands For Kids

Raise Your Hands For Kids

“Right now, Missouri is ranked 49th for childcare subsidies. Out of 40 states with state-funded preschool, Missouri is 38th,” said Brower. “Really, we just don’t treat early childhood development as a priority in our state. So that’s why we look at the tobacco tax as a dedicated funding stream for something we know is the best economic development choice our state could make.”

Brower says the increase would generate about $225 million annually. She also said the additional revenue wouldn’t fix the state’s early childhood development problems, but she said the money would make an impact and leverage other public and private funding opportunities.

Missouri’s cigarette tax is the lowest in the nation, at 17 cents per pack.

Two Missouri Republicans push ‘Defund Iran’ effort

State Senator Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale) and former Missouri Treasurer Sarah Steelman have joined a national group, called Defund Iran, that says it wants to keep state pension funding from going to individuals, businesses and governments funding terrorism. Steelman said the President’s nuclear deal with Iran strips Missouri of that right.

Sarah Steelman and Senator Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale)

Sarah Steelman and Senator Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale)

Senator Schmitt said the group is considering what direction to go.

“My preference would be probably for a referendum, but we’ll kind of see how it goes. We’ll leave all options open at this point,” said Schmitt. “I mean, it’s September and we have a long way to go between now and May of 2016. I intend to leave all of our options open. The most important thing to me is that the people get to weigh in on this.”

Senator Joseph Keaveny (D-St. Louis) questioned whether citizens of state sponsors of terrorism would be abandoned.

Senator Joseph Keaveny (D-St. Louis)

Senator Joseph Keaveny (D-St. Louis)

“Does this mean that we’re not going to provide humanitarian aid to some of the citizens being exploited by those countries? I’m not sure if we want to be in a position where we’re going to cut off things that we think are very important.”

He believes the group’s efforts are largely political.

“Obviously no one’s going to be in favor of putting tax money to sponsor terrorism. That’s pretty much a no brainer. That’s probably why they decided to put it on the November ballot,” said Keaveny.

Schmitt said national security isn’t a partisan issue.

A vote by Congress is expected this week on the President’s agreement with Iran. It appears that the President has enough votes to avoid a veto.

Two more Republicans expected to enter Missouri Governor’s race

An official announcement is coming Monday from Senator Bob Dixon on his plans to run for Governor. The Republican from Springfield will make the announcement from the front porch of his home and then make visits to the State Capitol and Columbia later on that day.

Senator Bob Dixon (courtesy; Missouri Senate Communications)

Senator Bob Dixon (courtesy; Missouri Senate Communications)

There’s been no official announcement yet, but Republican Eric Greitens appears to be preparing a run for Governor. He spent last week on a statewide tour. Greitens has not held a public office but touts his work in the private sector, and is a former Navy Seal.

“One of the things that great leaders do who can come in from the outside is that we’re not tied down by all the things that have held back the status quo,” said Greitens. “There’s a tremendous amount of work that you can do in the private sector. I also think that we have to have strong leaders in government. Missouri needs a Governor. We all saw the failure of leadership at Ferguson, but it’s not just Ferguson.”

Eric Greitens (R)

Eric Greitens (R)

Republican candidates already announced include former U-S Attorney Catherine Hanaway, State Senator Mike Parson, St. Louis businessman John Brunner, Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, and former state representative Randy Asbury. The only announced Democrat is Attorney General Chris Koster.

Campaign fundraising is in full swing for these candidates. Koster has the most money in the bank with $4.5 million, followed by Hanaway’s $1.5 million and Greitens $1.1 million. Parson has $700,000 in the bank, followed by Brunner with $277,000 and Kinder with $58,000.

Missouri Secretary of State candidate files voter photo ID petition

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 require photo ID 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.

Parson formally announces campaign for Missouri governor

The field of candidates for the GOP nomination for governor in 2016 has gained another member. Bolivar senator Mike Parson has formally announced his campaign for governor, after telling the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association’s Board of Directors earlier this month that he had decided to run.

Senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar) speaks at the monthly meeting of the Randolph County Pachyderms.

Senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar) spoke at the March meeting of the Randolph County Pachyderms.

Parson was elected to the Senate in 2010 and is the chairman of its committee on Small Business, Insurance & Industry. He is a past sheriff of Polk County, spent six years in the U.S. Army and was elected to the state House in 2004.

The first hints of Parson’s interest in a run for governor began to appear after the suicide February 26 of Auditor Tom Schweich, who had just launched his own campaign for governor. Friends and family said Schweich was upset about a whisper campaign he believed was being conducted against him by the state GOP chairman John Hancock, and about a campaign ad that compared his physical appearance to that of TV character Barney Fife.

In the days after Schweich’s suicide, Parson took to the Senate floor to say that if negative campaign tactics played a role in Schweich’s death, the people behind them should be ashamed. He says his own campaign will be, “like no other.”

“I want to change the arena. It shouldn’t be about winning an election at all cost. It shouldn’t be all about the money … you should do things with an honorable intention of how you win an election, and if you win or lose, so be it,” said Parson. “I think at the end of the day we’re going to set a new example.”

Parson acknowledges he faces a challenge to reach the governor’s office. He becomes the third candidate in the GOP race along with former House Speaker and U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway and former state representative Randy Asbury. 2012 U.S. Senate hopeful and businessman John Brunner has formed a committee to explore the possibility of running, and several others are said to be potential candidates. The winner of the primary seems likely to face Democrat Chris Koster, who so far has the backing of several other key Missouri Democrats.

“I think the one advantage that I have over most candidates coming from rural Missouri … I’ve always been able to do well in the agriculture arena but I’ve always been a huge supporter of the urban issues as well,” Parson told Missourinet. “I think that hopefully by having that balance, that I can make the state even better.”

Parson owns a cow-calf operation near Bolivar. He and his wife Teresa have two children and five grandchildren.