Legislative Column for Oct. 10, 2014

Judging the November Ballot

“Pay attention to what you’re doing. When you judge, you aren’t doing it for a human but for the LORD. He will be with you when you hear a case.” 

King Jehoshaphat’s instructions to judges

Ballot issues are usually a challenge because complex legislative language must be reduced to no more than 100 words for the ballot. Then an attempt is made to summarize the measure’s potential cost to Missourians despite future uncertainties and ambiguities.

The Nov. 4 election, like every other, requires that we pay attention to what we are doing as we decide on candidates and ballot issues. Following is a summary of the November ballot as well as my position on each of the four proposed constitutional amendments. If you’d like to do your own research, you can begin at www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2014ballot/ and page down past August to the November ballot issues.

Amendment 2
(Proposed by the General Assembly.)

The federal government and nearly all other states allow “propensity evidence,” which is evidence that an accused has demonstrated a propensity to offend in like manner to the crime for which he/she is being tried. As a result of a Missouri Supreme Court ruling in 2007, Missouri does not allow such information as evidence. This restriction has increased the difficulty of successfully prosecuting sexual crimes against minors. Although Amendment 2 will reauthorize the introduction of propensity evidence, it still provides protection for the accused in requiring a judge to certify the evidence as pertinent to the case. I am convinced that passage of amendment 2 will promote justice on behalf of sexual-crime victims under age 18.

I will vote YES on Amendment 2.

Amendment 3
(Proposed by initiative petition.)

Amendment 3 has produced the most controversy of the amendments because it introduces education reforms that the education establishment largely opposes. I intend to write another report next week that will solely address this amendment, but in summary, my support is based on the conviction that this amendment will make it easier to recognize and reward the best teachers. It mitigates or removes some of the barriers that currently exist and considerably empowers local school boards in the evaluation of teacher effectiveness. The wide window of possible costs results from that restoration of local control and the inability of auditors to predict how school boards choose to fulfill their role as governors of the teacher evaluation process.

I will vote YES on Amendment 3.

Amendment 6
(Proposed by the General Assembly.)

Although this amendment is essentially a loosening of Missouri’s current absentee voter law, I oppose it because of concerns that it sets a bad precedent in ensuring sound elections. A no-excuse expanded time period for voting threatens the integrity of both the campaign process and the election process. It is impossible to overestimate how important reliable elections are to our Republic, and Missouri’s existing absentee voter policies give adequate flexibility to ensure access to the polls.

I will vote NO on Amendment 6.

Amendment 10
(Proposed by the General Assembly.)

This amendment clarifies expectations on how a governor should prepare his annual budget proposal. It also provides a check on any governor who tries to manipulate budget withholdings for political purposes. Frustration with the current governor’s approach to budgeting and spending demands that something be done to prevent similar abuses in the future. If Amendment 10 passes, a governor is prevented from counting his chickens before they are hatched. He/she could not forecast revenues, for example, based on the anticipation that the General Assembly will pass a tax increase— it has been done.

Amendment 10 also provides a path for the Legislature to override a governor’s operating fund withholdings similar to the procedure now employed to override a veto. Abuses to the governor’s power to withhold funds make it necessary to provide a check and balance on behalf of those agencies that are being used as political pawns.

I will vote YES on Amendment 10.

Thank you for reading this legislative report. You can contact my office at (573) 751-2108 if you have any questions. Thank you and we welcome your prayers for the proper application of state government.