Friends, Allies, and Constituents -
There's much news in Missouri politics, and many heated political campaigns are underway. I will summarize some of the biggest stories below, but first please read these calendar items and plan to attend as many as you can:
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
5-9 p.m.: Gateway Stonewall Democrats (GSD), an organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Democratic activists and their allies, is having an "Enough Is Enough" after work social event at Laclede Street Grill, 3818 Laclede (near St. Louis University). If you're tired of life under GOP leadership and are ready to work for change, drop in to meet some great candidates and sign up to volunteer for them. GSD is providing food.
Also that evening, 5:30-7:30 p.m.: "Taste of the Sixth Ward" event with the 6th Ward Democratic Organization at the home of Patrick & Pamela Cacchione, 3419 Hawthorne Boulevard in Compton Heights. Donor categories range from $25-250. Food and beverages have been donated by venues as diverse as Eleven Eleven Mississippi and Diner's Delight, St. Louis Gast Haus and Everest Cafe. Enjoy!
Saturday, September 30, 2006
9:30 a.m. Voter registration drive and door-to-door canvas in my district. Let's get out the vote to help take Democratic control of the U.S. Senate by sending Claire McCaskill to replace Jim Talent. While we're at it, let's pass the minimum wage and encourage 59th district voters to speak their mind on a variety of ballot issues (tobacco taxes, stem cell research, etc.). Lunch will be served for those who canvas two to three hours. Meet at the 9th Ward Democratic Headquarters, northwest corner of Arsenal and Lemp, enter on the rear. Please RSVP to 772-0301 or this e-mail address ASAP if you can volunteer.
Three St. Louis area Public Service Commission hearings on storm preparation and restoration efforts -
October 3, 5:30 p.m., Hazelwood East School Auditorium, 11300 Dunn Rd.
October 4, 11:30 a.m., St. Louis County Library, Thornill Branch, 12863 Willowyck Drive
October 4, 5:30p.m., Wohl Community Center, 1515 N. Kingshighway
Also precinct captains are wanted to encourage turn out in the Nov. 7 election. Democrats can take back the U.S. Senate if we do our part in St. Louis to get Claire McCaskill elected. To volunteer as a precinct captain or to canvas or phone bank, please call Bob Rice, field organizer, at 314-446-5415.
Taking Back the Missouri House
Speaking of taking back the U.S. House and/or Senate, some great Democratic candidates are running in Missouri this year, and we can make significant progress toward taking back the MO House too. This would help me get more hearings on the social justice oriented bills that I file and enable justice advocates to block more of the bad bills that have made it through during the past four years. Presently there are 95 GOP representatives, 66 Democrats, and two vacancies. Let's cut the gap by more than half this year. You can help by volunteering for or donating to some of these great Democratic candidates. (A few incumbents who anticipate difficult races are also mentioned below.) Here is a partial list - I'll pass on others as I receive them:
State House, District 2 – Rebecca McClanahanwww.rebeccamclanahan.com
State House, District 20 – Don Salcedowww.donsalcedo.com
State House, District 35 – Danny Gregorywww.votegregory.com
State House, District 48 – Chris Moreno
State House, District 55 – Patrick Piercewww.patrickpierce.net
State House, District 73 – Margaret Donnelly (INCUMBENT)http://margaretdonnellystaterep.com
State House, District 82 – Sam Page (INCUMBENT)www.sampage.com
State House, District 87 – Cynthia Kramerwww.votecynthiakramer.com
State House, District 86 – Marty Ottwww.marthaott.com
State House, District 90 – Sam Komo
State House, District 92 – Beverly Whitewww.bevwhite.com
State House, District 93 – Genevieve Frankwww.genfrank.com
State House, District 94 – Jane Bogetto (INCUMBENT)www.janebogetto.com
State House, District 95 – Judi Parkerwww.judiparker.com
State House, District 105 – Michael Frame (INCUMBENT)www.michaelframe.org
State House, District 122 – Kathy Hudson
State House, District 135 – Nancy Hagan
State House, District 138 – Sara Lampe (INCUMBENT) (INCUMB7-725-3553www.saralampe.com
State House, District 140 – Tonya Cunninghamwww.tonyacunningham.net
State House, District 141 – Mark Blevins-725-3553www.blevins4change.com
State House, District 143 – Cathy Hilliard www.campaignwindow.com/cathyhilliardformostaterep
Summary of Major Political News
VETO SESSION: On September 13, the General Assembly met in Jefferson City for the annual Veto Session. EVERY DEMOCRAT IN THE HOUSE signed a petition to try to get Gov. Blunt to declare a Special Session since we were already required to gather at that time so there would be no additional expense to the state. The purpose of the Special Session would be to restore the Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities program to at least 3,000 workers. (The program served far more workers
with disabilities until dismantled by the GOP leadership during the past two years.) Blunt refused to call the Special Session, and motions to create a Special Session were ruled out of order by Speaker Jetton and President Pro Tem Gibbons when attempted by Democratic leadership on the floor of the House and Senate. For those who claim the Democratic party is not progressive enough----and yes, I sometimes join in those criticisms----but there are major differences. Days like Sept. 13
PHOTO ID BILL: On Sept. 15, Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan declared unconstitutional the new state law requiring voters to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Callahan said the law imposes an unconstitutional additional requirement on voters. The photo ID provision was part of Senate Bill 1014, which was sponsored by state Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City. The decision means that, at the moment, the state is barred from enforcing the voter ID requirement for the Nov. 7 elections, although it could be reinstated depending on the outcome of future court action. The rest of the bill, including a prohibition against straight-party-ticket voting, remains in effect. On Sept. 19, the Attorney General’s Office, which is defending the law, filed a motion asking Callahan to clarify his ruling. The case ultimately is expected to be appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court. In light of Callahan’s ruling, the Missouri Department of Revenue has suspended its program of providing free non-voter photo ID cards to voters who don’t have them. Such a card now costs $11.
MOHELA: On Sept. 8, the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA) Board of Directors decided to postpone a planned vote to approve Gov. Matt Blunt’s proposal to sell a portion of the agency’s loan portfolio to fund $350 million in capital improvement projects at Missouri college campuses. The delay came following legal questions raised by Attorney General Jay Nixon and concerns among board members that they could be personally sued for violating their fiduciary responsibilities and, in
some cases, for conflicts of interest. The governor has urged the board to approve the plan at its next meeting.
Three of the seven members of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority then abruptly resigned last week, casting doubt on whether a scheduled Sept. 27 vote to sell a sizable portion of the agency’s loan portfolio will take place. Ed Martin, Gov. Matt Blunt’s chief of staff, told the Columbia Missourian in story published Sept. 21, that it is possible the planned vote could be delayed. Blunt wants MOHELA to sell some of its assets to raise $350 million for college campus construction.
The board exodus began when Charles McClain, citing health concerns, stepped down as state higher education commissioner, a post that gave him an automatic berth on the MOHELA board. Board members Marilyn Bush of St. Louis and James Ricks of Cape Girardeau subsequently resigned due to potential conflicts of interest that likely would have precluded them from voting on the plan. Blunt immediately appointed St. Louis banker Tom Reeves to replace Bush. The governor is expected to name a replacement for Ricks at any time. It is unclear, however, if Ricks’ replacement could vote on the sale since that spot on the board is reserved for a representative of a public higher education institution. All of Missouri’s public institutions stand to receive money from the sale. Officials with the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, which appoints the state higher education commissioner, have said a successor to McClain will not be named in time for the scheduled vote.
I have signed on to a letter with other colleagues, demanding that an independent actuarial analysis be conducted before any MOHELA assets are sold. I also sent my own individual letter of concern to the MOHELA board chair. I believe that MOHELA's chief duty is to carry out its mission of providing affordable loans to Missourians so that they can access higher education. Profits that MOHELA accumulates come from students paying back loans and should be put into additional loans as well as targeted loan forgiveness programs, in my opinion. Missouri has chronically underfunded higher education for years and should look to tax code changes that
create a more equitable, adequate, and sustainable system, rather than attempting one time fixes like the MOHELA sale.
This analogy comes to me related to the proposed sale of MOHELA assets:
When I was director of Reform Organization of Welfare, a statewide anti-poverty organization, one of the bad federal rules that we tried to change was one that forced workers living in poverty to sell an auto valued at over $5,000 in order to receive food stamps. Why rob a family of an asset that can help them get out of poverty in order to qualify a small amount of emergency food aid? MOHELA's assets provide for Missouri's future needs. Let's not risk the future health of our family
in order to generate a small amount of temporary assistance. Let's deal with the systemic problem that leaves us short of higher ed funds year after year.
TOBACCO TAX: Amendment 3, which would increase the state’s tobacco taxes is slated to appear on the Nov. 7 ballot following a Sept. 11 ruling by Cole County Circuit Judge Thomas Brown. Brown ruled supporters of the proposal had gathered sufficient signatures on an initiative petition seeking to put the issue before voters. Secretary of State Robin Carnahan had rejected the measure, saying it fell 274 signatures short in the 5th Congressional District. Brown ruled that 1,004 rejected signatures should have been counted by local election authorities. The measure would
increase the state tax on cigarettes from 17-cents per pack to 97 cents and would increase the tax on other tobacco products to 30 percent of the wholesale value. The group Missourians Against Tax Abuse, which opposes the measure, may appeal Brown’s decision.
I am likely to vote yes on this bill because raising tobacco taxes reduces smoking. Higher tobacco taxes have been proven to be an effective part of a comprehensive tobacco use prevention program. However, higher tobacco taxes are also regressive tax policy, and I hesitate to vote for any policy that has a disproportionate negative income on families with low incomes. Given that tobacco companies target low income citizens to recruit them as smokers while they are young, I believe we must take appropriate steps to fight back. Right now tobacco companies spend more
than half a million dollars PER DAY in MO to recruit new smokers, while the state spends little more than half a million A YEAR to fight back. Comprehensive tobacco use prevention strategies are needed to counter the efforts of the tobacco industry. Having seen too many friends and relatives die of tobacco-related illness, I am anxious to see Missouri cut smoking rates. Families with low incomes especially need help in getting free of an addiction that robs their families of so much.
For details about all the ballot initiatives on the November 7 ballot, go to: http://www.sos.mo.gov
The Missouri Budget Project also offers an analysis of the tobacco tax and minimum wage proposals at their website: www.mobudget.org
TOURISM COMMISSION: Cronyism and corruption continues to cling to the Blunt Administration. A current and a recently ousted member of the Missouri Tourism Commission, both Republicans, are claiming that Gov. Blunt is pressuring the commission to hire a former Republican lawmaker as director of the state Division of Tourism. Raeanne Presley of Branson, who until Sept. 12 chaired the commission, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in a story published Sept. 14, that Blunt replaced her
because she wouldn’t go along with the proposed hiring of former state Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer for the $74,200-a-year job. Presley and Karen Graves of St. Joseph, who remains on the commission, said Luetkemeyer isn’t qualified for the post and that the commission prefers another candidate who has experience in tourism. Presley’s term expired in January, but she had continued to serve on the commission. Blunt
appointed Sharon Garrett of Monett to replace her. Garrett donated $1,225 to Blunt’s 2004 election campaign and $600 to Luetkemeyer’s unsuccessful bid for state treasurer that year.JMO