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HOUSE COMMITTEE ADVANCES PHOTO VOTER ID BILL
The House Elections Committee on Jan. 24 voted 7-3 in favor of legislation that seeks to require voters to show government-issued photo identification at their polling place in order to cast a ballot. At present, however, the General Assembly lacks the constitutional authority to impose such a requirement. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed similar legislation last year and is expected to do so again should the latest version, HB 1104, be sent to his desk.
The Republican-controlled legislature enacted a photo voter ID law in 2006, but the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers cannot impose restrictions on voting rights other than those specifically listed in the state constitution. The General Assembly in 2011 approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would authorize the imposition of a photo voter ID requirement, but it doesn’t go on the statewide ballot until November.
Supporters say the photo voter ID requirement would prevent voter fraud, but Missouri has never had a documented case of voter impersonation at the polls – the only type of fraud such a requirement could prevent. Opponents assert that photo voter ID is just a thinly disguised effort to disenfranchise poor, disabled and elderly voters, since they are the least likely to have a photo ID and tend to vote for Democrats. The Missouri Secretary of State’s Office estimates that about 250,000 registered Missouri voters don’t have a government-issued photo ID.
GUN CROSSHAIR STICKERS TARGET SIX STATE LAWMAKERS
The Missouri Capitol Police and State Highway Patrol are investigating a potential threat against six state lawmakers after stickers resembling gun crosshairs were placed on the nameplates outside of the lawmakers’ offices on Jan. 24. After two of the lawmakers removed the stickers, they were later replaced with larger gun sight stickers.
The targeted lawmakers included all four Democratic women in the Senate – Jolie Justus and Kiki Curls of Kansas City, Robin Wright-Jones of St. Louis and Maria Chappelle-Nadal of University City. The others with gun stickers found on their nameplates were House Minority Leader Victor Callahan, D-Kansas City, and state Rep. Scott Dieckhaus, R-Washington.
Senators of both parties denounced the potential threats during open session the afternoon of the incident and vowed punishment for those responsible. Although the stickers may have been intended as a prank, House and Senate administrators are treating the incident seriously.
LAWSUIT CHALLENGES NEW HOUSE REDISTRICTING PLAN
A bipartisan group of plaintiffs are asking the courts to declare unconstitutional a new plan redrawing the boundaries of the state’s 163 districts in the House of the Representatives. The plaintiffs contend the redistricting plan violates the Missouri Constitution’s requirement that districts be contiguous since six of the new districts cross major rivers yet have no bridge crossings, making it impossible to get directly from one part of the district to the other, except by boat. They also argue the redistricting plan fails to meet constitutional standards that districts be as compact “as may be” and as equal in population “as possible.”
The case was filed as an original action with the Supreme Court on Jan. 23, but the court on Jan. 26 redirected the case to a lower court for a determination of factual issues. The Supreme Court on different grounds recently invalidated the new redistricting plan for the state’s 34 Senate districts. Both the House and Senate redistricting plans were drafted by a panel of six judges of the Missouri Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court also has given a lower court until Feb. 3 to reconsider the validity of Missouri’s eight new congressional districts, which the Republican controlled General Assembly enacted last spring over of gubernatorial veto.
All three new redistricting plans were scheduled to be used for the 2012 election cycle. Time is of the essence in resolving the various redistricting challenges since candidate filing for the Aug. 7 party primaries is set to begin on Feb. 28. It remains uncertain as to what will happen if valid districts for the affected offices aren’t in place by that time.
GAMBLING INDUSTRY OPPOSES FEE HIKE FOR VETERANS
A lobbyist for Missouri’s casinos told the House Veterans Committee on Jan. 24 that the industry will oppose bipartisan legislation to increase casino entrance fees by a $1 per person and earmark the estimated $50 million a year in new revenue for the state’s veterans homes. Gov. Jay Nixon recently proposed the fee hike to shore up the Veterans Trust Fund, which is on the verge of being used up by mid 2013.
The current casino entrance fee, which is paid by casino operators, is $2, with half going to the state and half going to the local community in which the casino is located. All of the state’s share used to be earmarked for veterans programs until the late 1990s, when most of it was redirected toward early childhood education programs. Over time, the $6.5 million a year from the existing fee that still goes into the Veterans Trust Fund has proven insufficient to keep up with the costs of veterans services.