Feb 19, 2015 – Weekly Capitol Update

HOUSE AGAIN APPROVES PHOTO VOTER ID LEGISLATION

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Feb. 19 advanced a pair of measures to the Senate that seek to require Missourians to show government-issued photo identification in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote. HJR 1, a proposed constitutional amendment authorizing lawmakers to impose a photo voter ID requirement passed 118-39, while HB 30, companion implementing legislation, passed 118-37.

A constitutional change is necessary because the Missouri Supreme Court in 2006 struck down similar Republican-backed photo ID legislation, ruling it “imposes a severe burden on the right to vote” in violation of the voting rights provision of the Missouri Constitution. If passed by both legislative chambers, HJR 1 automatically would go on the November 2016 ballot for voter ratification. Because of the court’s earlier ruling, HB 30 would have no effect until and unless HJR 1 was ratified.

This session marks the 10th straight year Republicans have sought to impose a photo voter ID requirement. Although they claim it would combat fraud, Republicans remain unable to cite a single case of voter impersonation at the polls in Missouri, which the Supreme Court noted is the only type of voter fraud a photo ID requirement could prevent. More than 250,000 legally registered Missouri voters currently don’t have a government-issued photo ID. Those Missourians consist primarily of racial minorities, senior citizens and the disabled, groups that tend to overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.

 

GOV. CLAIMS ‘IMPOVERISHMENT’ ON $86,000 SALARY

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is asking lawmakers to provide him a daily expense allowance, arguing he’s experienced “gradual impoverishment” living on an annual salary of $86,484, The Associated Press reported on Feb. 19. The lieutenant governor is the lowest paid of Missouri’s six statewide elected officials, earning about $24,000 a year less than the average pay for those officials.

During his 10 years as lieutenant governor, Kinder, a Republican, has chosen to maintain his primary residence in his hometown of Cape Girardeau while keeping an apartment in Jefferson City. In order to offset that expense, Kinder asked the House and Senate budget committees to provide him the same $103 daily per diem lawmakers, who earn just $35,915 a year, receive on days the legislature is in session.

Kinder, however, would like a per diem for any day he is in Jefferson City, not just when the legislature is meeting. Although the office’s only constitutional duty is to preside over the Senate, the lieutenant governor also sits on a number of state boards and commissions that meet throughout the year.

Aside from the governor, who resides in a state-owned mansion near the Capitol, none of the other statewide elected officials are provided housing in Jefferson City at taxpayer expense, and none receive a per diem.

In April 2011, Kinder reimbursed the state $52,320 for hotel stays he originally charged to taxpayers over several years. The reimbursement came weeks after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that taxpayers had picked up the tab for more than 300 nights Kinder spent at luxury hotels while in St. Louis on mostly personal and campaign business.

Kinder was first elected lieutenant governor in 2004 and is only the second person in state history to win three terms in the office. He has announced his intention to seek an unprecedented fourth term in 2016.

 

SENATE PANEL HEARS BILL TO SHIELD POLICE FOOTAGE

The Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee on Feb. 18 that would prohibit the public from obtaining footage from police cameras without a court order. At present, footage from police cameras generally is considered an open record under the state’s Sunshine Law.

Police routinely use footage from dashboard cameras and body cameras as evidence against offenders and to defend against false allegations of wrongdoing. But the publication of footage by the press and others also frequently exposes actual incidents of police brutality and misconduct.

Supporters of the measure, including the Missouri Police Chiefs Association, say it is necessary to protect the privacy of police and suspects. Opponents say that making it more difficult for the press and the public to review evidence of potential police misconduct will increase public distrust of law enforcement.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill, SB 331. The measure is sponsored by state Sen. Doug Libla, D-Poplar Bluff.