April 18, 2014

House early voting proposal advances to Senate on bipartisan vote

A proposed constitutional amendment to set an early voting period has passed the House with bipartisan support, despite some Democrats decrying the measure as a “sham” and misleading to voters.

Representative Tony Dugger (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Tony Dugger (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

It would allow nine days of early voting excluding Sundays ending the week before federal and state elections beginning with the 2016 General Election.

Representative Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) asks if the bill is only meant to be a counter proposal by Republicans to an initiative petition that if passed would allow early voting for six weeks and require accommodation of voters on Saturday and Sunday for three weeks before federal or state elections.

“The question that pops in my mind is why is the most popular day of voting across the country … a Sunday, why is that purposely excluded in this amendment?” Newman asks. “The very day that men and women of every stripe, of every profession, the day that most working voters have off.”

“I’m telling you beware,” Newman says, “this is political attempt once again to convince us that the majority party here actually cares about increasing access to voters.”

Of the claim that his legislation is a “sham,” Representative Tony Dugger (R-Hartville) says, “I don’t think so. I mean, it’s clear what I’m doing.”

Dugger says Sundays during the early voting window were exempted to preserve it as a day off for those who would have to work if early voting continued on that day.

“Sunday is basically a day for families to get together. A lot of people attend church on Sunday, get together for lunch,” Dugger tells Missourinet. “We would literally be forcing thousands of people to go to work on Sunday because you’re going to have to have the Secretary of State’s Office open, you’re going to have to have every election authority’s office open in the state plus every [early voting] center.”

The proposed amendment was passed 126-24. It moves on ot to the Senate.

2016 presidential primary moving to March (AUDIO)

Majority party state lawmakers are trying to prevent a repeat of 2012, when Missouri spent seven-million dollars on a meaningless presidential primary.

The National Republican Party refused to recognize the results of the Presidential primary because the legislature refused party demands to hold it later.  GOP convention delegates had to be picked in caucuses.  Senate Elections Committee Chairman Jay Wasson of Nixa says, “Nobody wants to have a caucus again, at least  most nobodys that I know.”

 Wasson supports Senator Will Kraus who wants to move the primary to March. Kraus had thought of having it in April, but local elections officials talked him out of it. He says waiting until June would make the primary “irrelevant,” leaving March the best possibility.

He says the 2012 primary was a flop because only one major candidate campaigned here. And he says the caucuses deprived the large majority of voters a chance to say who they wanted as their nominee.

The Senate will send the March primary bill to the House later this week.

AUDIO: debate 17:37


Ethics bills slow to move in legislature (AUDIO)

The people who are paid to influence the way our laws are written have sat quietly as proposals to limit that influence start to be aired at the Capitol. 

Type the word “ethics” in a House and Senate database listing this year’s bills and you get a list of about two dozen proposed pieces of legislation specifically referring to ethics, campaign finance reform, and lobbyist regulation.  Many of them want to limit big money in campaigns. Some want to keep legislators from also serving as political consultants while in office, raising money during sessions, and becoming lobbyists immediately upon leaving the legislature.  Few, however, have gotten a committee hearing as the sessions speeds toward the halfway point.

Lee’s Summit Senator Will Kraus, who has explained his bill to a committee in a room packed with lobbyists, maintains laws don’t make people ethical…and he doesn’t think Missouri politicians are UNethical. “That being said,” he says, “my constituents overwhelmingly support caps.” So his bill limits campaign donations.  But Senate Leader Tom Dempsey of St. Charles doubts campaign limits will restore public confidence in state government.  It sure hasn’t done it with the federal government, he says.  “It hasn’t done anything to reduce the influence of money in politics…It hasn’t changed the perception among  the people we serve, the people that you referenced, in terms of making things look better,” he tells Kraus.

Senator Jamilla Nasheed has told the committee changes need to be made because the public perception of politicians continues to decline. “Many of our constituents believe we are bought and paid for by special interest groups,” she says to the committee. “Many of you know that is farther from the truth. But we can dispel that myth.” 

She proposes to do that by limiting campaign contributions to any candidate in any election to $2,600. Missouri has no contribution limits now, and Dempsey fears approval of limits now would give candidates who already are raising money for 2016 campaigns will be put at a substantial advantage over those who announce their intentions after the limits would go into effect in January.  

None of the lobbyists watching the so-far rare hearing on ethics legislation this year had anything to say to the committee during the hearing.

AUDIO: hearing 10:46


House sends voter photo ID bill, proposed constitutional amendment to Senate

The state House has passed legislation aimed at requiring voters in Missouri to have photo identification to vote.

With party-line votes the House approved a proposed change to Missouri’s Constitution (HJR 47) necessary to allow the photo ID bill to become law, along with the bill (HB 1073). The proposed amendment would go to voters in November. If voters reject that issue the bill would become null.  The measures were sponsored by Representatives Stanley Cox (R-Sedalia) and Tony Dugger (R-Hartville), respectively.

Both items now go to the Senate for consideration.

The bill would require a person wishing to vote display to election officials a valid Missouri driver’s or non-driver’s license, military identification or any unexpired ID that is issued by the United States or Missouri that has that voter’s photo and signature.

Republicans say the bill is needed to prevent voting fraud. Democrats argue the legislation is intended to keep certain populations from voting.

See earlier stories on this issue.

House gives initial approval to voter photo ID

The state House has given initial approval to legislation aimed at requiring voters in Missouri to have photo identification at the polls on election day.

Representative Tony Dugger (R-Hartville) and Representative Stanley Cox (R-Sedalia) offer the voter photo ID bill and the proposed constitutional amendment that would allow it to become law, respectively.  (photos courtesy, Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Tony Dugger (R-Hartville) and Representative Stanley Cox (R-Sedalia) offer the voter photo ID bill and the proposed constitutional amendment that would allow it to become law, respectively. (photos courtesy, Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

One piece is a proposed change to the state Constitution that would allow the other piece, the voter photo ID bill, to become law. The legislature passed such a requirement several years ago but it was ruled unconstitutional, which is why supporters want to now change the Constitution to allow it to become law. The fact that such a change would be necessary is one of the arguments made by opponents against its passage.

Representative Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) told a Republican supporter of the legislation it is based on false arguments.

“The real purpose of this is to keep older black women from voting, but your purpose is to cure voter impersonation fraud.”

As Democrats have done in years past, Kelly challenged Republicans to provide evidence of at least one case of voter identification fraud having happened in Missouri. They did not offer such evidence.

Democrats argue that many older black women for various reasons might not be able to obtain the source documents needed for them to acquire photo IDs.

Representative Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) says that argument is insulting to such women.

Engler tells a fellow Republican, “For these districts’ [representatives] in urban and the St. Louis area to say their women are too dumb … they can’t get IDs, ‘They’re smart enough to decide whether to have an abortion or not. We want them to have that decision, but they’re not smart enough to get an ID.’ How callous is that?”

Another favorable vote will send the voter photo ID proposals to the Senate. The proposed constitutional change would require voter approval if it clears the legislature.

The legislation is HB 1073 and the proposed constitutional amendment is HJR 47.