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House Bills Sponsored by JeffCo Reps

15 Jan

The Missouri legislative session is underway, and with GOP supermajorities in both houses and a GOP governor, we should expect a lot of big items to be passed in the next few months. I’m going to take a look here at what bills our local representatives are pushing. I will look at the activities of the two state senators that cover Jefferson County in a separate post.

Shane Roden, R, 111th district, Cedar Hill –  He has a bill allowing adult motorcycle riders to go helmetless if they have proof of health insurance (motorcycle helmet freedom is a big issue with him) and another bill concerning firefighters and cancer and hazardous duty. On another interesting note, he is cosponsoring a medical marijuana measure. Roden is a paramedic and firefighter.

John McCaherty, R, 97th, High Ridge – He also has a motorcycle helmet law, but it requires everyone under 21 to wear a helmet, while Roden’s bill only requires helmets for those under 18. McCaherty has a bill regarding custody of in vitro human embryos and one about school library media services programs. He is co-sponsoring a bill to add crimes against police to the hate crimes law.

Rob Vescovo, R, 112th, Arnold – He is the most active local rep as it pertains to bill filing, and has several significant bills. One would require public entities to issue bonds via public sale, or competitive bidding. I wrote here about a state auditor’s report that stated that this change would save Missouri taxpayers millions of dollars by forcing the financial companies that work with public entities to get the best deal on bonds.

Another Vescovo bill would prevent political subdivisions from giving preferential treatment to unionized companies in public construction projects (aka project labor agreements, which drive up costs to taxpayers). This bill was introduced last year but did not come to a vote.

Another bill requires written contracts for school superintendents and assistant superintendents, and limits the amount of  severance pay that these officials can receive. This will stop the outrageous payouts to disgraced superintendents like Fox’s Dianne Critchlow.

Vescovo is also co-sponsoring the hate crimes against police bill, and is cosponsoring a bill to modify rules about expert witness testimony at trial (implementing the Daubert standard).

Dan Shaul, R, 113th, Imperial – No bills at this time.

Becky Ruth, R, 114th, Festus – She is trying again this year to create a Waterways Trust Fund to divert money to ports. She also wants to add two new genetics diseases to newborn screening requirements (she has added other diseases in the past) and add a teacher to the State Board of Education. Finally, she has a bill to create a tax deductible First-time Home Buyer Savings Account. Ruth is a former teacher and a current realtor.

Elaine Gannon, R, 115th, DeSoto – She is sponsoring a resolution urging the creation of a Joachim Creek Joint Task Force to battle repeated flooding in DeSoto, and she has a bill making some minor adds to high school equivalency degree testing programs. Gannon is a former teacher.

Ben Harris, D, 118th, Hillsboro – No bills at this time.


Big Labor Power Waning in JeffCo

16 Nov

According to liberal Post-Dispatch columnist (is there any other kind)?) Tony Messenger, unsuccessful Missouri Democratic candidate for governor Chris Koster began his election day in Arnold, speaking to union grocery workers.

This is not too surprising, as JeffCo has long been seen as a union stronghold. But the results of Tuesday’s election suggest that those days are in the past.

One of the major issues of the gubernatorial campaign was right to work. GOP candidate Eric Greitens was all for it, while Koster was strongly against it. One would think that this would have made a big difference in our county. But Greitens carried Jefferson County by a 53.6 percent to 42.7 percent margin, even bigger than his statewide 51.3 – 45.4 win.

In local legislative races, two incumbent representatives who have cast votes in favor of right to work were on the ballot. Rob Vescovo, Republican in the 112th district, won a rematch with Robert Butler by a 59.6 percent t0 40.3 percent margin. Two years ago, Vescovo won with 60.0 percent of the vote, so his right to work support had virtually no effect on his margin of victory.

Likewise, Dan Shaul, Republican in the 113th district, won re-election by a 57.8 to 42.1 margin. Two years ago, he received 56.9 percent of the vote against an arguably weaker opponent. His foe this year, Karen Settlemoir-Berg, actually works for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

While most Republican legislators from JeffCo still oppose right to work (RTW), it is clear now that supporting it is not a career-killer for local politicians like it has been perceived to be in the past. But now that Missouri has a Republican governor, only a bare majority in the Legislature, instead of a veto-proof one, will be needed to pass a RTW law. It is likely that, in a few short months, RTW will be passed and signed and will be taken off the table as a political issue.

Is Jeff Roorda Campaigning for County Council?

27 Sep

Update: As of 10/6, I am seeing some Roorda signs along the roads of the 4th district.

November’s showdown for the district 4 seat on the county council features two familiar faces in JeffCo politics; former councilman and former Rock Ambulance board member Charles Groeteke on the GOP side and former state representative Jeff Roorda on the Democrat side.

Interestingly, I have not seen any evidence of a Roorda campaign. I have seen no signs, no website, no ads. I haven’t even seen a website smearing his opponent, like the one that popped up during Roorda’s 2012 race for state representative. Have you seen any of this, or seen him in any parades? Let me know in the comments. He has been on CNN a few times recently to defend cops involved in shootings. He has become CNN’s go-to guy for this duty. He also has a book coming out just after election day about what he calls the “war on police.”

One thing Roorda has been doing, however, is raising money. As of the beginning of this month, he had raised over $32,000, mostly from lawyers and unions, compared to $8,000 for Groeteke. But Roorda has only made about $7,000 in expenditures (not including over $8,000 in loan repayments to himself and his old candidate committee). The expenditures were mostly putting on a golf tournament and giving charitable gifts to police and veterans groups from the campaign account. He spent a mere $200 on signs. Groeteke has spent about $3,300, including $2,100 for printing and mailing.

There are 41 days until the election. Roorda could start campaigning yet, though it is getting kind of late, but he has the money necessary to launch a late blitz. He has a fundraiser on Friday.

Fundraising Idea

I have a suggestion for Groeteke for raising some money. Every time Roorda goes on CNN, his critics launch an avalance of anti-Roorda messages on Twitter (see here). What Groeteke could do is put up a fundraising page, and when these tweet storms are happening, put out his own tweets that say “Hey, I am running AGAINST JEFF ROORDA in November. Help me defeat him!” with a link to the fundraising page. I bet he could get some contributions out of this. I would downplay Groeteke’s GOP ties on the website, though, since Roorda’s opponents are mostly members or supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement and probably not big fans of the GOP.

JeffCo Reps and the United for Missouri Scorecard

7 Jul

United for Missouri, a conservative organization, has released its 2016 Legislative Scorecard, in which it ranks representatives based on their votes on selected bills. Rep. Rob Vescovo (R, 112th district, Arnold) received a 99.9% score from the group (he missed some of the votes, so he did not reach 100%). I will look at how the rest of the JeffCo delegation was rated.

United for Missouri (UfM) “is committed to educating and mobilizing citizens about the impact of limited government and economic policy on the state and the impact of the federal government exceeding its Constitutional limits on achieving growth, opportunity and prosperity.” It selected 19 bills from the 2016 session that fit within this mission, and tallied how each legislator voted. Here’s how Jefferson County’s House members fared:

  • Rob Vescovo, R, 112 – 99.9%
  • Shane Roden, R, 111 – 90.3%
  • John McCaherty, R, 97 – 88.7%
  • Dan Shaul, R, 113 – 84.0%
  • Becky Ruth, R, 114 – 73.3%
  • Elaine Gannon, R, 115 – 70.7%
  • Ben Harris, D, 118 – 24.0%

Here is UfM’s list of bills. It includes voter ID, paycheck protection, ethics bills, court reforms, a gas tax hike, and a prescription monitoring database. The bills are weighted, so for example, Gannon got four votes “wrong,” but one of them was paycheck protection, which had UfM’s highest weighting. Roden missed on two votes; one for data storage center tax breaks (he voted yes; UfM doesn’t like targeted tax breaks), and one for the ethanol subsidy. Four House members received 100% scores, and two got 99.9%.

In the Senate, three GOP members scored 100%, including two that are running for higher office (Will Kraus for Secretary of State and Kurt Schaefer for Attorney General). Missouri’s senators scored as follows:

  • Paul Wieland, R, 22 – 94.7%
  • Gary Romine, R, 3 – 73.5%

Wieland got one vote “wrong” – he voted for the gas tax increase (which was not enacted).

These numbers probably aren’t too surprising to anyone that follows our legislators, but it’s interesting to see their voting records quantified.


Legislature Wrapup

23 May

The Missouri legislative session ended on Friday the 13th. Here is a recap of how our representatives voted on certain measures during the last few weeks of the session. On many measures, all local GOP representatives, or all reps (including the one Democrat) voted the same way on a bill. I generally don’t mention those bills.

Paycheck protection: This was already vetoed by the governor, and it was back for override votes. It failed in the Senate by one vote. Paul Wieland switched from a no the first time around to a yes on the override, and Gary Romine went from absent to voting no. The House votes were the same as the first time, with Becky Ruth, Elaine Gannon, and lone Democrat Ben Harris voting no. Here’s a Missouri Times article on Gannon and Romine and their status as pro-union Republicans.

Medical marijuana: A bill to allow its use only by cancer patients in hospice ultimately failed in the House. It actually passed what is called a perfection vote 91-59, with all JeffCo reps voting yes, except Ruth who was absent. But on the third reading two days later, it failed 66-87. Though many reps flip-flopped, the JeffCo reps stayed with their votes (Ruth was absent again). But a broader medical marijuana initiative is likely to be on the ballot this fall.

Ethanol inventive extension: This bill to extend the subsidy through 2020 passed the House 104-47, but did not get a final vote in the Senate. This is an issue that divides conservatives, and two local GOP Reps, Rob Vescovo and John McCaherty, voted no, while the rest of the JeffCo delegation supported it.

Critchlow law: Vescovo’s bill regarding the use of administrative leave for public employees passed both houses this year after falling short in the Senate last year. It requires a hearing within 60 days of an employee being placed on administrative leave. In the original House vote this year, Ruth, Gannon, and Harris voted no. The Senate amended the bill and passed it unanimously, and on the subsequent House vote all JeffCo reps supported the bill.

JeffCo GOP Caucus Report

10 Apr

Republicans across Missouri gathered Saturday for county caucuses, the first step in choosing delegates for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Jefferson County Republicans met at Windsor High School.


The caucuses take on extra importance this year, even though Missouri had a primary, because of the possibility of an open convention if Donald Trump does not get the necessary delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot. If that happens, delegates are then free on later ballots to vote for who they like, so Trump and Ted Cruz are jockeying to get their supporters selected as delegates. These county caucuses are the first step in choosing Missouri’s 52 delegates to the national convention, 37 of which Trump won via the primary vote.

In the primary, Trump won JeffCo with 49% of the vote to Cruz’s 38%.

The 2012 JeffCo GOP caucus was surrounded by controversy between the establishment and Ron Paul supporters. This was in the back of many people’s mind coming in to today (especially those who brought snacks – the 2012 caucus lasted nine hours).

How it Went Down

The caucus, which was scheduled to start at 10, did not get underway until 10:45 due to delays in getting the final number of attendees tabulated. Part of this was due to having to sign in those who arrived close to 10:00 and part was apparently due to issues with the voter data sent from the county clerk’s office. More on this later. It was declared that 162 people were registered, but that two had already left. But when the district numbers were added, they only came to 157. The body agreed to go with that number.

Things were a bit more complicated in JeffCo due to the fact that we are split up between three Congressional districts – the 2nd, 3rd, and 8th. After the county caucuses come the congressional district and state conventions; each of which get to choose some national delegates. So at the JeffCo caucus we had to select 6 slates, one for each district to both conventions. But in reality each district selected the same slate twice to send forward.

County councilman Bob Boyer was selected as caucus chairman, as he was in 2012, then it was on to the delegate selection. Attendees were divided up into three seating areas, one for each Congressional district. In each district, two slates were proposed: a “Make America Great Again” pro-Trump slate stocked with local elected officials, county GOP committee members, and activists, and a second slate, which became the “Make America Really Great Again” slate, made up of pro-Trump relative outsiders (with a couple of exceptions).

In the 2nd district, which was allotted 12 delegates by the state party, the outsider slate submission (a printed sheet containing names and addresses) was disqualified before the vote because it contained a duplicate name. Therefore, the establishment slate, which included five current/former/future Arnold city council members, Bob Boyer, and Ken Horton (current treasurer candidate and former Tea Party leader), had no opposition and was selected.

In the 3rd district (34 delegates), both slates were disqualified, the outsider one for having another duplicate name and the establishment one for having the aforementioned Ken Horton on it (at an old address – he is no longer in the 3rd district). Since this left no slates to be considered, both sides got to fix and resubmit their lists. Dave Day, speaking for the outsider slate, spoke to the crowd about how his list was tried and true Trump supporters, not establishment members. Derrick Good, speaking for the establishment slate, defended his slate as the people who work for the party to get candidates elected. He said he was tired of the negativity towards the establishment, and proclaimed his own support for Trump from day one, including an unsuccessful attempt to win a position as Trump’s state director. His slate included three state representatives, Senator Paul Wieland, and county executive Ken Waller (these individuals, some of whom have endorsed Cruz, were not present). A vote was held, and the outsider slate won by one vote.

Almost immediately, a question arose, and much conversation was taking place around the head table. From what I was able to gather, a caucus attendee was seated with the wrong district, thanks to some or other confusion, in part related to data from the county clerk. Discussion took place on what to do with this newfound information, leading outsiders to think “here we go again, they are trying to steal our victory.” In the end, we moved on, but it sounds like this slate could possibly be challenged in an appeal to the state party. It seems to me that the mistake, found at a convenient time, was noticed too late and the slate selection should stand.


Photo via Mark Paul

In the 8th district (18 delegates), the establishment slate won by a wide margin. So in the end, two establishment slates won, but the outsider slate that won has more delegates than the other two combined (because most of JeffCo is in the 3rd district).

The above is what I saw and heard at the caucus. If I made any errors, please let me know.

Platform Considerations

I did not stay for all of the proposed amendments to the draft state GOP platform, but here were some that I heard, along with the vote results. Successful amendments get passed on with the selected delegates to the next conventions.

  • Make Missouri’s primaries closed (so only registered Democrats/Republicans can vote in them). Since Missouri voters don’t declare a party when registering, this would require some major changes. This would stop candidates like Trump, who draws many independent and Democratic voters. This would give the party more control over who wins the primary, but it would keep out the types of crossover voters that help the party win general elections. This amendment passed by a large margin.
  • Use paper ballots in elections. This is based on fears of hacking and manipulation of voting machines, which also have no paper backup. This passed unanimously.
  • An amendment to remove right to work from the state platform was proposed by Arnold councilman Jason Fulbright. JeffCo is home to many pro-union GOP elected officials. This vote ended in a tie, which meant that it failed.
  • Disallow individuals found by the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) to have an ethics violation (mostly these are for campaign rule violations) from being GOP delegates. This, I believe, was aimed at county GOP central committee members who were found to have violated campaign finance rules in 2012. The argument against this was a claim that it was easy to get an MEC violation, for things like not putting “paid for by” information on campaign signs. This amendment failed by a large margin.

Legislature Spring Break Update

27 Mar

The Legislature will reconvene this week after a two week spring break. Unlike college kids, who get wild and crazy over spring break, Missouri legislators calm down during spring break, spending time at home with their families. They save their wild and crazy conduct for Jefferson City.

Here is an update on some noteworthy votes taken in the past month. I post these on Facebook as they happen, but I like to collect them here since it serves as a better long-term record. Items posted on Facebook disappear pretty quickly and are not easy to retrieve.

Beer bill (SB 919): This bill “would allow beer companies to lease portable refrigeration units to grocers and convenience stores, and allow those same stores to sell beer in reusable containers known as growlers.” Opponents argued it would benefit big brewers at the expense of small brewers, by letting companies like Anheuser-Busch take up more space in stores. Proponents said it was a good deal for everyone. JeffCo senators Paul Wieland and Gary Romine voted yes on this bill, which passed the Senate.

Prescription drug monitoring program (HB 1892): This bill would make Missouri the 50th state to implement a database to track prescriptions in order to prevent people from shopping around to acquire opiods from multiple doctors. This bill passed the House. Voting yes on this bill from JeffCo were Reps. Ben Harris (the lone JeffCo Democrat), Dan Shaul, and Elaine Gannon. Voting against it were Reps. John McCaherty, Rob Vescovo, Becky Ruth, and Shane Roden. Here is why McCaherty said he opposes it in his weekly newsletter:

My issues with this version of the bill is more on the lines of its usage. Physicians and pharmacist are not required to use the database, and in states where there is lot requirement, such as Florida the data is accessed less than 2% of the time. Is the answer to create a database that is used so little??

Thus, in his mind the benefits of the bill did not outweigh the risks to privacy, including risks from hackers.

Paycheck protection (HB 1891): This bill passed the House in February (I wrote on it here) and made its way to the Senate, where it passed before being vetoed by the Governor. However, an override attempt is likely to take place, as the bill passed by sufficient margins for an override. Senator Wieland voted against it, while Senator Romine, who was present during the early part of the over seven hour debate, was absent when the vote was taken. Convenient absence in an election year?

SJR 39:

This proposed constitutional amendment, if approved by the qualified voters of this state, prohibits the state from imposing a penalty on a religious organization who acts in accordance with a sincere religious belief concerning same sex marriage, which includes the refusal to perform a same sex marriage ceremony or allow a same sex wedding ceremony to be performed on the religious organization’s property.

The state cannot penalize an individual who declines, due to sincere religious beliefs, to provide goods of expressional or artistic creation for a same sex wedding or wedding reception.

This bill was filibustered for 39 hours in the Senate before passing, drawing national attention. This is similar to bills that have gained attention in other states. Senators Wieland and Romine voted for it.

Critchlow law (HB 1432): Rep. Vescovo’s bill to curb the overuse of paid administrative leave for wrongdoers like Dianne Critchlow and Melissa Click. This bill passed the House, as it did last year before dying in the Senate. Reps. Vescovo, McCaherty, Roden, and Shaul voted for it, while Reps. Ruth, Gannon, and Harris voted no.

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