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Why do we have some blog posts here instead of our current blog home? A long story. If you’ve found your way here, you can find items posted between March, 2008, and February 2010. Use the search box or browse the archive links in the sidebar.

Written by learfield

March 19, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

We’ve moved. Again.

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Seems like every few days someone comes out with a new tool that makes blogging just a little bit easier. Posterous has been a good platform for the men and women in the Missourinet newsroom, but we’ve reached the point where we need a few more features, so we’re blogging now on WordPress. Click here for the new location.

All of the posts at this address will still be available (look for a link in the sidebar on the new site).

For those of you who follow us via RSS, you’ll need to update your reader. The new link is: …you can find it next to the little orange icon in the top right corner of the new blog home page.

We’ll try to stay put for a while at the new address.

Missourinet Web Guy

Written by learfield

February 13, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The educated voter and some education from a state rep

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In the original version of this post the author wrote with a misunderstanding of Rep. Jason Smith’s questions of the Governor’s power to appoint successors in vacant statewide offices. We appreciate Rep. Smith’s courtesy in calling attention to a more accurate description of his position and of his legislation.  In doing so he has cast new light on an issue we discuss and raised a new question. — Bob Priddy

We’re working on making a connection here. It involves the concept of the educated voter, a cherished part of the American tradition and a state representative surprised that he didn’t know something that we would bet a lot of other people don’t know either. Join us as we wander through this process.

First we have Senator Chuck Purgason of Caulfield who thinks educated voters can do a better job of determining the ethics of public office-holders than the office-holders can.  As the Senate began discussing the ethics reforms bill put forth by Senator Charlie Shields, Purgason argued that the effort ultimately would prove futile because scofflaws would find ways around whatever standards are set within three years.  The responsibility for honest government, he argued, rests with the informed voter.

Purgason’s trust in the informed voter, however, goes only so far.  He thinks term limits are still a good idea although the term limits law keeps informed voters from having a chance to send their state legislators back for more terms after eight years in the House or Senate if they want to do so.  (We’re posting an interview with him at the end of this blog.)

Shields argues that his bill is designed to minimize temptations for office-seekers and their backers, and office-holders and those who court them.  He also says his bill will help voters become better educated because it will make the records of campaign financing more open.,

Here’s the problem:  You can lead a voter to information, but you can’t make him think. 

That doesn’t mean people like Senator Purgason shouldn’t have trust in the voters. He thinks more voters are becoming more educated these days.  It doesn’t mean Charlie Shields should drop his efforts to make election and government processes more open to those voters. 
Now we shift to the other legislative chamber where Representative Jason Smith of Salem wants to change the state law to require elections to fill vacancies in all statewide offices.  The Governor appoints people to fill those vacancies until the next general election now.  Smith says he was “surprised” to lean the Governor had appointment power for all statewide offices except one.  Recent history indicates at least one former Governor might be equally “surprised.”  State law requires a special election to pick a new Lieutenant Governor but allows appointments of other statewide office-holders.

This is an opportunity to educate some voters, at least one reporter, and perhaps once, present, and future Governors.  .  . 

Here’s some history on appointments of statewide officers: 

The last time a Governor appointed a successor to fill a vacant statewide office was when Roger Wilson appointed Jean Carnahan to replace her husband, Mel, who had been elected to the United States Senate posthumously in 2000.  She served until Jim Talent beat her in 2002 for the right to serve the rest of Mel Carnahan’s Senate term. He lost to Claire McCaskill in 2006, concluding a wild seven-year stretch in which foura people served as Senator (Ashcroft, Jean Carnahan, Talent, and McCaskill), a fifth person was elected but did not serve (Mel Carnahan), we had three elections for the same seat.   .

A few weeks before Jean Carnahan was appointed by Governor Roger Wilson, Wilson had appointed Senator Joe Maxwell of Mexico to succeed Wilson as Lieutenant Governor after Wilson became Governor on the death of Mel Carnahan. Maxwell was the Lieutenant Governor-elect at the time.  But state law (Rep. Smith refers us to section 105.030.) pretty clearly indicates the position should have been left vacant until Maxwell started his term.

In 1994 Mel Carnahan appointed Richard Hanson to succeed Secretary of State Judi Moriarty who had been impeached and removed.  He also appointed Bekki Cook when Hanson resigned. 

The state auditor’s office was a textbook for appointments for about a decade.  When Auditor Christopher Bond became Governor in 1973, he appointed John Ashcroft to finish his term.  When George Lehr quit as Auditor in 1977, Tom Keyes was appointed to finish Lehr’s term.  And after Jim Antonio became the first Auditor in years to win a second term then resigned, Ashcroft appointed Margaret Kelly to succeed him in 1984.  .
The history of appointed office-holders in Missouri for the last four decades is a pretty good one. All of the appointees served responsibly.  Some were later elected to full terms or were elected to higher office. 

Nonetheless, surprises lie in state statutes and even seasoned lawmakers (and veteran reporters) are surprised to find them.

The unique status of Lieutenant Governor in the chain of succession might be the reason it is the only one of the top state offices singled out in present law for a special election.  Missouri does not elect the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor as a unified ticket entry.  That’s why we have had Governors and Lieutenant Governors of differnet parties from time to time, including today.  If something were to happen to Peter Kinder, a Republican, for example, would it be fair to Missouri voters for Jay Nixon, a Democrat, to appoint a Democrat to the office that voters had chosen a Republican to hold?   The same question could be asked about the other statewide offices.  But the special status of the office of Lieutenant Governor elevates the issue. 

Wonder if Roger Wilson knew he was violating 105.030 that day in 2000, or would seem to a layman reading the law to have violated it?  
We have a call in to him to find out.
AUDIO: Interview with Senator Purgason  (8 min)

Written by learfield

February 12, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Winston and Rod

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Winston was taking his owner on an exploration of some snow under one of the trees next to the Capitol when I walked out of the building last night. 

He provided a bookend moment when I saw him.  One bookend was an article by fellow Capitol scribe Tony Messenger in the morning’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It was about former House Speaker Rod Jetton.  Winston was the other bookend of the day.   

Winston is an English bulldog who keeps Senate Majority Floor Leader Kevin Engler company in his Capitol office.  There’s something therapeutic after a long, sometimes heated, day in the political pressure cooker that is the legislature in going for a walk and inspection tour with a friend like Winston.  It’s good to have somebody like him around.   

It’s easy to recall the words of George Graham Vest at times like that.  Vest, a former United States Senator (and before that, a Confederate Senator) from Missouri, delivered his famous “Eulogy on a Dog” speech to a Warrensburg jury more than a century ago. I tell the story each year on ACROSS OUR WIDE MISSOURI.  Vest told the jury that day:

“The best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us, may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads.

“The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.”

Our only Missouri-native President, Harry Truman, put it more pithily:

“If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog,” or words close to that.  

I recall a few years ago when Senator Danny Staples of Eminence was about to leave the Senate, a victim of term limits, he related how he had returned to Jefferson City to do some office work after finishing his work in his last regular session of the General Assembly.  He had cast his last vote, presided over his last committee meeting, spoken for or against his last bill.  Staples said he went to a local restaurant for lunch and when he walked in to the place he saw a table full of lobbyists.  Not one of them spoke to him.  None of them invited him to join them for lunch.  So Staples went to a corner table, and said that for the first time in years he had to pay for his own steak and beer for lunch.   

Every couple of years, when a flock of new lawmakers come to town to start their legislative careers, they find themselves with a lot of new friends.  As time goes by, those new friends might pay them a lot of attention in various ways.  But when time runs out, when that lawmaker’s last vote has been cast, when the last vestige of power has been exercised, those friends often drift away quickly.  There’s nothing more that lawmaker can do for them.  It’s time for that person to buy his own steak and beer and sit alone at a corner table while his once-friends lunch and talk among themselves.   

People in public life would do well to remember the parable of Danny Staples, which was brought starkly back into mind when I read the Post-Dispatch article about the rise and fall of Rod Jetton, who now is unemployed, unable to get a job–even as a garbage collector, he says.  His wife has left him.  He’s living with his daughter.  He faces criminal charges of sexually assaulting a woman.  The FBI has been doing some serious sniffing around about his dealings as Speaker.  A federal grand jury is believed to be looking into some of his activities.

“There’s nobody who’s going to step up and defend me,” he told Tony Messenger, “I can’t do anything for anybody anymore.”  

Maybe he should get a dog.   

–Bob Priddy



Written by learfield

February 9, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Robin Carnahan campaign takes in 877K in 4th quarter

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The Robin Carnahan for U.S. Senate campaign has released fundraising totals for the 4th quarter of 2009.  The Secretary of State raked in $877,000 in the quarter … bringing to more than $4-million the amount raised since she announced her candidacy a little under a year ago.  Carnahan has $2.1 million on hand.

All Missourians running for federal office are required to file 4th quarter fundraising and expenditure totals with the Federal Election Commission by January 31st.

Steve Walsh


Written by learfield

January 30, 2010 at 12:13 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Poll gives Carnahan lead over Blunt, Purgason in US Senate race

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We, in the media, love to discuss and tear apart polls. A recent Rasmussen Reports survey gave Republican Roy Blunt a 6 percentage point lead over Democrat Robin Carnahan in a head to head match-up in Missouri’s 2010 U.S. Senate race. Today we have a new poll which was sent to me by longtime Democrat Tony Wyche – and it shows Carnahan out in front slightly.

The YouGovPolimetrix survey has Carnahan with a 43 to 39 percentage point lead over Blunt among decided voters … and shows Carnahan with a 40 to 34 percentage point lead over State Senator Chuck Purgason, who is also in the contest for the GOP nomination.

I must confess … I am not familiar with the polling firm – YouGovPolimetrix – but we present the results for your consideration, just the same.

Steve Walsh


Written by learfield

January 27, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford to speak at Northwest Missouri Stsate University

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Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville will roll out the red carpet for the Chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council as part of the university’s Distinguished Lecture Series.  Former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford will speak in the Mary Linn Auditorium of the Ron Houston Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, February 3rd.

Ford served five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before launching a U.S. Senate bid that fell short. Ford is considered a moderate Democrat who finds common ground with Republicans on several issues.

Oh, by the way, Ford is also an analyst on MSNBC … meaning there’s a good chance he hasn’t been seen by a lot of people since he left the political arena.

Steve Walsh

Written by learfield

January 27, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

90 days in the Jeff City “Big House” … then you have to leave

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The legislative session in the thriving Metropolis of Jefferson stretches from early January through mid-May … plenty of time to get a lot of legislation passed. Some might even suggest it’s a little too much time.

State Senator Luann Ridgeway of Smithville is among them.

She’s put forward SJR 38 – a proposal that would set the wheels in motion to change the Missouri Constitution to reduce the annual legislative session to 90 days, running from January through the end of March.

Ridgeway believes shortening the legislative session would restore the concept of the citizen legislator … a concept that would see our lawmakers spending more time at home and less time bickering at the State Capitol. She thinks some of the differences that are encountered during the session could first be brought up and ironed out in hearings that would be held prior to the whole General Assembly convening in Jefferson City.

Legislative pay could remain the same … and so would the per diem … but with fewer lawmakers at the Capitol four days a week during the session the amount of state money set aside for such expenses would be reduced.

One question from yours truly … what would the lobbyists do with all the extra time and with the money they now spend on food?

Steve Walsh

Written by learfield

January 26, 2010 at 2:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Missouri Dems kicking off bid to take back the House

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Missouri Democrats are launching an effort to take back the Missouri House of Representatives. It’s a two day swing through southeast Missouri next Friday and Saturday.

The "Road to the Majority" Tour begins Friday evening in Festus and Sainte Genevieve … and continues Saturday with stops in Cape Girardeau, Sikeston, New Madrid, Caruthersville, and Poplar Bluff.

State Treasurer Clint Zweifel headlines the fundraising tour … spreading the party message that Democrats can deliver jobs to working class Missourians.

Republicans have run the Missouri House since 2003. Democrats had controlled the House for about a half century prior to the 2002 elections.

Steve Walsh

Written by learfield

January 22, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

When Political Rhetoric Meets Political Reality

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Welcome to the game of  "Damned if  You Do, Damned if You Don’t"  

Here are the rules.

You have to follow the law.

You have to play the political game.

You have a job.  It pays you about $105,000 a year until at least January 23, 2012. 

You want to keep your job.

You have to play the political game if you want to keep your job.

If you play the political game you have to turn a blind eye to the law.

If you turn a blind eye to the law, you will please certain political interests and individuals and they might not object to you keeping your job.

If you turn a blind eye to the law, you will violate the law which might disqualify you from continuing in the job.  

The game is being played in the Missouri Senate where, on one wall, is carved the quotation attributed to Irish politician Daniel O’Connell (1776-1847) and to British politician William E. Gladstone (1809-1898): "Nothing is politically right that is morally wrong."  

Another Gladstone quote, which is not carved on any walls in Capitol, is "It is the duty of government to make it difficult for people to do wrong, easy to do right."  

What will you do when rhetoric and reality collide?

Background:  Several years ago the Missouri legislature decided farmland should not be evaluated for tax purposes for its market value but should, instead, be valued for its productivity.  Farm groups liked that approach because it protected farmers who found suburbs have grown out to the edges of their property, driving up the market value of their land and causing taxes to unrealistically exceed the value of the crops or livestock raised on that land.  Seems pretty fair, doesn’t it?  The Tax Commission says productivity value is about 20% of market value. 

Every couple of years, property is reassessed in Missouri.  Residential, commercial, agricultural.  The state tax commission determines the value of eight categories of farmland.  Some land is so good that you could plant an eight penny nail and night and harvest a crowbar the next morning.  Some land raises 150 pounds of rocks per acre.   The tax commission has to decide the productive value of those two kinds of land and everything in between. 

Land values go up and down.  One year, the Missouri legislature sets up programs to subsidize development of an industry that will give some farmers lucrative new markets for their crops, particularly corn.  Farm groups liked that idea.  It would create new markets and give farmers higher prices for their corn. 

You are one of the three members of the state tax commission.  You must, by law, pay attention to studied done by the University of Missouri Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute.  FAPRI comes to you and says the productivity value on 35% of Missouri farmland has gone up.  Productivity value on 65% has gone down.  Those figures are rounded off. A few decimal points of percent are the all-rock land that stays the same.

The Tax Commission proposal is to approve findings that the productivity value of about one-third of the farmland is up 29%.  The productivity value of about TWO-thirds of the farmland is DOWN 25%. 

You know that the state senate is controlled by a political party that has made the phrase "no tax increases" a very popular political mantra.  You know that the state’s most politically-influential farm organization does not want any tax increases on farm land.  You know that your own job is at stake because you have been appointed by a Governor who also has vowed not to seek any increases in taxes–and your appointment is subject to confirmation by the Senate.  

If you vote to follow the law, which requires a reevaluation of farmland (and which means a tax CUT for owners of two-thirds of the farmland, you will be voting for a tax INCREASE for owners of one-third of the land), you are placing your $105,000 job in jeopardy because you’ll anger the farm organization and you’ll anger the "no tax increase" majority in the chamber than will decide whether to confirm your appointment..  And the majority listens closely to the farm organization.

Never mind that by voting to sustain the new values for the eight categories of farmland you are also voting for a tax cut.  By voting "yes," you are voting to increase taxes on some people and increased taxes of any kind on any body is about as popular in the state Capitol as a heart attack—regardless of the law?  

So do you vote "yes" because you feel you have to follow the law and because your vote means a tax cut for the owners of the majority of Missouri farmland.  Or do you vote yes, deny a tax cut to the owners of the majority of Missouri farmland but protect the owners of the better quality land from paying taxes based on the improved value of their property—and make it highly likely you’ll keep your $105,000 job?

The legislature has the power to reject the commission’s findings. It must take or reject everything. It cannot cherry-pick. The farm organization says it should.  Resolutions have been introduced to throw out the commission’s tax cut for owners of 65 percent of Missouri farmland (the figures, by the way, come from the tax commission) and increases for owners of 35 percent. So far we haven’t heard anyone speak on behalf of the 65-percenters. Before you read any more, answer this question: 

How would you have voted on the FAPRI recommendations? 

Now you can read again.  

This is no game for Bill Ransdall, who was appointed to the Tax Commission last November 3.  Ransdall is a former Presiding Commissioner of Pulaski County and before that, served eight years in the Missouri House of Representatives. His resume includes experience in small business and farming.  

His nomination came up for senate confirmation today.  Senator Jason Crowell of Cape Girardeau is blocking Ransdall’s confirmation.  He says he’s just trying to hold Governor Nixon to his promise of "no tax increases,"  and Ransdall, who could have voted "no" voted "yes" to a plan increasing taxes owners of the state’s best farmland.  Ransdall’s Senate sponsor has withdrawn his motion for confirmation of  Ransdall’s nomination.  Senate leader Charlie Shields says Ransdall’s job is not entirely down the drain, but it’s in the curved part of the pipe under the sink.  

Our high school political science textbooks didn’t tell us about this part of things, did they?

And maybe Gladstone didn’t quite have it right when he said, "It is the duty of government to make it difficult for people to do wrong, easy to do right."  

If you were Bill Ransdall, how would you have voted? 

If you were Senator Crowell, what would you do?  

If you were a 65-percenter how would you feel about your organization landing on the side of the 35 percenters?  

If you were a 35-percenter, how magnanimous would you be?  

If you were a researcher with FAPRI, how would you feel after doing this research?

If you were a residential or commercial property owner whose evaluation in the marketplace is about five times the productivity valuation standard, what would you think?

And finally:   What’s the solution to all of this?   

Bob Priddy, News Director

The Missourinet

Written by learfield

January 21, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized