September 17, 2014

Recount confirms ‘Right to Farm’ amendment’s passage

A recount of the votes cast in August for and against the so-called “Right to Farm” amendment to Missouri’s Constitution is complete, and it confirms the measure did pass. The margin narrowed, from the issue passing by 2,490 votes to 2,375.

The issue was the subject of heavy spending by both proponents and opponents.

Backers say the amendment will guarantee the right to farm and ranch in Missouri and protect that sector of Missouri’s economy, particularly from groups they describe as “out-of-state extremist” organizations who threaten modern farming practices. Opponents say the issue gives too much power to large farming operations and will let them shirk regulations.

Amendment 10 sponsor says Missouri veto session a good lesson for voters

One backer of a proposed change to the state Constitution hopes Missouri voters were paying attention during this week’s veto session.

Representative Todd Richardson (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Todd Richardson (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Poplar Bluff Republican Todd Richardson sponsored the resolution that became Amendment 10 on the November ballot. It would give the state legislature the power to overturn a governor’s decision to withhold money from the state budget, in addition to the power it has now to overturn a governor’s line-item veto in the budget.

Richardson says such authority could play out much like what happened on Wednesday.

“You saw the legislature go through a process of evaluating where state revenue was after the budget was passed and making a decision to override the governor on a number of the line items in the budget that he vetoed,” says Richardson.

See the language of Amendment 10 on the Secretary of State’s website (scroll down)

Richardson says in addition to other differences between a budget veto and a budget withholding, the latter remains a place where he says the balance between the legislative and executive branches is off kilter.

“The one gap in area where the governor has had unchecked power, where nobody has had the ability to put any check on that, is through the governor’s power to withhold,” says Richardson.

He and other critics, mostly Republicans, accuse Democratic Governor Jay Nixon of using budget withholdings, which are not permanent and can be released later, as a way to force the legislature to do what he wants. Such was the criticism last year when Nixon withheld $400-million pending the outcome of an attempt to override his veto of an income tax cut bill. The override attempt failed and the money was later released.

Critics of the amendment, however, say that it would swing the balance of power too far back toward the legislature, because a governor is required to balance the state’s budget; a responsibility the legislature does not share.

Recount starts on Right to Farm Amendment (AUDIO)

The Secretary of State has started a recount of the vote on the Right to Farm Amendment that was narrowly approved by voters earlier this month. The amendment passed 499,581-497,091.  The 2490-vote margin amounts to .24% of the 996,672 total votes.  State law provides for a state-paid recount if the voting difference is .5% or less.

Spokesman Wes Shoemyer of Missouri Food for America, the opposing group, says the recount is being sought as a matter of keeping faith with opponents, noting, “This was a grass roots…effort for us. And I just  think that when people work that hard, not to do everything possible to secure a victory would do a real disservice to politics in the state of Missouri or issues in the state of Missouri or, frankly, the people of the state of Missouri.”

The recounting is done by county clerks who have until September 15 to finish the job. Backers of the Right to Farm Amendment say a recount is futile. Shoemyer says it will only take one vote changed in one-third of the elections’ 3899 could reverse the result.

Five counties had set recount dates within hours of the state’s call for checking of the ballots.  Washington County has scheduled its recount for Aeptember4.  Lincoln, Henry, and Crawford Counties will do their recounts on September 8. Boone County has scheduled five days for its recount: September 4-5 and September 8-10.  All counties must finish their work by September 15.

AUDIO:: Shoemyer interview 3:54

The Four: time for campaign reform (AuDIO)

Two Republican State Representatives who survived heavily-financed efforts to oust them from office last week think it’s time to reign in what they think are abuses in campaign finance.

Representatives Jeff Messenger of Republic and Lyle Rowland of Cedarcreek, both in southwest Missouri, were targets of retired financier Rex Sinquefield and his political action committee.  They and two others targeted for defeat in last Tuesday’s primary had refused to support a veto override on a tax break bill Sinquefield wanted to pass.

Messenger doesn’t appreciate the kind of campaign launched against him.  He says his people “didn’t want the type of politics coming out St. Louis in our district.”  And Rowland is even stronger, citing the old statement that   “figures don’t lie but liars figure.”   He says that’s what happened in the campaign he won last Tuesday.

Both, as the others, say they won because they stood up; to outsiders thinking they could buy their seats in the House.  Messenger says the campaigns emphasize the need for campaign finance reform, observing, “It’s not right for an organization to come out and try to sway an election, and that seems to be all based around how much money can be generated.”

And Rowland, who withstood a $130,000 campaign against him hopes for the same thing. “I am only hoping that.  I would support some type of reform because it is completely out of control,” he says.

The legislature has done a lot of talking about campaign finance and ethics legislation for years.  But its members have not been threatened as four of them were last week.

AUDIO: Messenger interview 12:45

AUDIO: Rowland interview 13:24

The four: Sinquefield tried to buy seats in House (AUDIO)

The Republican caucus of the Missouri House is meeting today in Kansas City to start planning for the upcoming veto session.  But four of them are likely to have some things to say.  We hear from two of them today; the other two on Monday.

They are the four who beat billionaire Rex Sinquefield’s candidates who were chosen to take them out.  Sinquefield wanted them to enact a tax cut over the Governor’s veto last year and they had not voted his way.  He and his political committee, the Club for Growth spent a half-million dollars trying to beat them. All four have nothing good to say about the Club for Growth, although they are not as harsh in their comments about Sinquefield.  However they say it’s time he became concerned about the people he has put in charge of that operation.

Representative Paul Fitzwater of Potosi admits hard feelings. “I’m kind of bitter,” he says.

Kirksville Representative Nate Walker withstood the heaviest financial assault and although “it was an ugly, brutal type campaign. But we stood up and we won.”

Fitzwater says it is clear what Sinquefield was trying to do, and it’s something voters cannot allow—buying seats in the legislature. “They just can’t come down here and flash their money and think they can buy a seat,” he says. “And that’s what they tried to do. They tried to buy, not one, but four Missouri House seats.”

Walker voiced the same concern, but from a different angle: “When you get too much money from one particular interest group, then the perception is–and maybe the truth is–you’re going to be pretty heavily influenced and maybe not be your own person.”

Fitzwater thinks the elections pointedly emphasize the dangers of a well-heeled special interest getting control of Missouri’s political system.  “If we don’t stand up to these special interest groups like this and let them run over us like they’ve been trying to do, why do we have a legislature?  Why do we have it?”

House Speaker Tim Jones has boasted of having 110 House Republicans after Tuesday, more than needed for veto overrides.  But whether he has 110 votes is up for discussion after the four threatened Representatives won this week.

We’ll have comments from the other two victors, Representatives Jeffrey Messenger and Lyle Rowland, Monday.

AUDIO: Walker interview 16:02

AUDIO: Fitzwater interview 12:22