Sunday March 02, 2008
Good idea, wrong plan The Missouri House of Representatives passed HB 1763 on February 28. This bill will put additional requirements and burdens on those collecting signatures for initiative and referendum petitions in Missouri such as:
- Prohibit collecting signatures for more than one petition at the same time.
- Require petition collectors to be residents of Missouri and a U.S. citizen.
- Require a petition circulator to register with the Secretary of State's office prior to collecting signatures as opposed to registering by the deadline to submit petitions.
- Outlaw paying paid petitioners by the signature and allow for discarding the signatures of any petitioner paid by the signature.
- Prohibit those who have been found guilty or pled guilty of forgery from collecting signatures.
- Makes knowingly signing a name other than one's name a class one election offense.
Having helped collect signatures for Missouri Citizens for Property Rights
' two eminent domain petitions, I have some concerns with a couple of the provisions of HB 1763 and its Senate counterpart, SB 909
Representative Michael Parson
, the sponsor of HB 1763, has stated in at least two stories that "I think initiative petitions need to be difficult to put on the ballot"
and "To change our constitution ought to be difficult to do."
If that is his intent, the General Assembly should put a Constitutional amendment before Missouri voters asking them to raise the necessary percentage of voters from 50% to 66% to approve any amendments to Missouri's Constitution. This would make it harder to change our State Constitution and likely mean the end of many of the divisive petitions Missouri has seen over the past few years, while still allowing those initiatives with a broad measure of support the opportunity to be enacted.
Secondly, I disagree with eliminating the ability for a petitioner to circulate multiple petitions. MO-CPR is required by the Missouri Constitution to circulate two separate petitions as they are seeking to make changes to two different articles of Missouri's Constitution. If the group and its petitioners had to collect signatures (much of which has been done by volunteers) under the proposed legislation, it would require twice as many people and infringe on the right of Missouri citizens to place initiatives on the ballot, as guaranteed by Article III, Section 49
of the Missouri Constitution.
Finally, the requirement that a petition circulator be a Missouri resident does not seem to be well-defined. Would this be anyone living in Missouri for a set period of time? Would a circulator need to be registered to vote in Missouri? Regardless of how a resident is defined, any out-of-state signature gatherers would not be voting on the measures they are collecting signatures for - the final decision would be up to Missouri's voters.
SB 909 is currently before the Financial & Governmental Organizations and Elections
for perfection and will likely be going to the Senate floor very soon. In addition to contacting the Senators on the committee, also contact your Senator via this link
if you know who your Senator is, or you can find your Senator on this page
( Mar 02 2008, 09:47:28 PM CST )
Friday August 31, 2007
Ticket scalping legalized - much ado over the right thing? The recent passage of state bill HB1 in a special legislative session included a provision to repeal state statute 578.395, which prohibited the "scalping" of tickets to sporting events, and allows a ticket holder to sell their ticket above face value.
Several Democrats have called this an attempt to enrich Governor Blunt's brother, who is a lobbyist for Ticketmaster. It may be possibly be, but I believe this was good change in the law. The argument that this provision should not have been considered in the special session does have merit.
Democrats also claim that Ticketmaster is set to benefit from this change in the law by arbitrarily setting prices for events sold through their system. However, other than their so-called convenience fee, Ticketmaster has not raised prices on non-sporting events they sell, even though those events were not covered by the repealed statute (non-sporting tickets could be sold for above face value).
Where Ticketmaster may earn some extra money is by allowing resale of tickets via their website. However, there is nothing forcing a ticket holder to resell their tickets via Ticketmaster. They will be able to use newspaper ads, posts in sports forums, online auction sites, and other venues to maximize the price they receive. Additionally, the professional sports teams in Missouri are preparing to facilitate transactions of verified tickets between their fans.
All in all, I believe this change is a benefit for Missouri citizens. People who buy and hoard tickets in hopes of turning a profit will now have to contend with people who legitimately bought their tickets and now need to sell them for whatever purpose. This could theoretically drive down the prices of resold tickets and allow a fan who missed out on the original sale of an event to gain entrance at a more reasonable price. Additionally, if ticket scalping becomes less of a profit-driven enterprise, it stands to reason that more of the original tickets to an event will be available to "true fans" for purchase at the original price.
( Aug 31 2007, 10:42:52 AM CDT )
Tuesday August 21, 2007
Columbia city council approves red light camera vendor; oversight and openness suggested Early on the morning of August 21st, I attended the Columbia city council meeting to speak to the red light camera vendor that the city was proposing to contract with to monitor 16 intersection approaches. Some time back, the council had previously approved an ordinance to allow red light cameras as a traffic control device. I was the only person to speak and asked the following questions:
1. I asked if the $28.50 awarded to Lasercraft per ticket comes out of the existing fine structure or if it would be on top of the existing fine; it will come from the existing fine.
2. I asked that timeliness of the ticket delivered to the owner of the violating vehicle be as quick as possible. I don't know how practical that will be since Lasercraft first has to review the ticket, then send it to someone at the Columbia Police Department, who would then send it to the city prosecutor.
3. Without Chief Boehm in attendance, this point will have to be brought up in another venue, but hopefully it made a council member or two think about it. The Lasercraft system has an ability to monitor the cameras in live streaming mode. Lasercraft suggests tight control on that particular access. I asked if the CPD would have any policies and procedures to determine who can view those live feeds to ensure that they are available when needed (i.e. looking for a getaway car from a robbery) as opposed to someone just watching the cameras for entertainment or curiousity's sake. I think more openness and transparency in the process may make people more accepting of the system (this also ties into item 5 below).
4. I asked if current city ordinance would allow the use of the speeding functionality that is presumably in the cameras (unclear if the city has to purchase that option or if all Lasercraft systems have that ability); the answer is no.
5. The material from Lasercraft mentioned they would work with city staff to solve any engineering problems that could reduce red light running at the selected intersections. I asked that that any changes be publicized so people would know this is not just a revenue collection system.
The contract was approved 5-2 with Councilwoman Nauser (she voted against the ordinance to allow red light cameras some months back) and Councilman Skala dissenting. They both urged higher fines as deterence mechanism.
( Aug 21 2007, 11:31:06 AM CDT )
Tuesday July 31, 2007
Boone County Libertarians petitioning for eminent domain reform The Boone County Libertarian Party staffed what I believe was its first booth at the Boone County Fair this past week. We were there for two primary purposes - to find new libertarians and gather petitions for the Missouri Citizens for Property Rights eminent domain petition. Ron Calzone of MO-CPR came to help out on Tuesday night, and also showed up with his wife and two of his daughters on the last night of the fair.
All in all, I think we had a good showing even if we did not register until very late and likely did not get as premium a spot as we would have liked. We made several contacts with possible libertarians, passed out literature, and collected a couple hundred signatures at the least.
The eminent domain abuse signs that Ron had previously given us worked well to draw people into the booth. We mounted one to the canopy pole after a couple days and angled it where the crowd walking to the grandstand could see it from at least 75 yards away. We knew it was working when we could see someone make a beeline for our booth and ask to see the petition.
MO-CPR is currently looking for both donors and volunteers to help them with the task of amending the state constitution to stamp out eminent domain abuse. Please visit their website and consider helping out!
( Jul 31 2007, 12:06:14 AM CDT )
Friday July 27, 2007
Eminent domain abuse more prevalent in Columbia than thought? While reviewing the minutes for a recent Columbia city council meeting, I ran across a possible eminent domain action that I had missed when viewing the agenda previously. A local factory had been attempting to acquire a piece of land from a neighboring property owner to create a second entrance into their factory. The existing entrance requires crossing three railroad tracks without gates or signals. You can view the material submitted at this link.
It is interesting that the safety of employees and visitors to the plant is deemed a public purpose and "OK" for the city to condemn if necessary (at least Honeywell will cover all the costs).
Another interesting note is on page 4 of the above PDF and page 17 of the council meeting minutes, which indicates the city has taken similar steps in the past.
Is it possible that Columbia, formerly thought to be free of the eminent domain abuses in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas, could have problems of our own that need to be addressed?
I asked the public works department if they had any statistics or data on how many similar ordinances there were that would benefit a private party, and received the below response:
The City has an established procedure for individuals/developments that are unable to acquire offsite easements that will become public easements, as is the case with Honeywell and Chateau Road. In accordance with City of Columbia procedure the following must be provided:
1. Documentation of efforts to acquire the easement, including dates of personal contact;
2. A current appraisal determining the value of the required easement;
3. An accurate sealed legal description of the easement required;
4. Location diagram;
5. Detailed diagram showing the easement;
6. A letter requesting the City obtain the easement and the requester agreeing to pay all costs associated with the acquisition.
The City does not track this type of easement acquisition separately. But as I recall, only two other ordinances that authorized the acquisition of offsite easements that became public easements were passed by the City Council in the last 3 years. One was for a sewer line extension and the other for a sidewalk improvement.
( Jul 27 2007, 01:27:27 AM CDT )
My first experience as a bureaucrat I was appointed to the Boone County Board of Adjustment toward the beginning of this year, but this month marked the first meeting of the board this year. There were two cases before the board, one of which I considered a slam-dunk approval and the other generated more discussion that I thought would occur (but then again, this is my first attempt wrangling with zoning regulations, variances, etc.).
The first case was a homeowner who had acquired a building permit to erect a garage/shop to work on old Jeeps. He is about to retire and tinkering is his hobby as I learned when I visited his property to get the lay of the land. Unfortunately, he began construction after the permit was applied for but before it was reviewed and approved, which takes roughly a week. In the meantime, he had several loads of fill brought in and had purchased trusses for the building. His permit was put on hold since the location he chose was in front of his house, where an accessory building may be placed only if it shares a common wall. After looking at the land, it was obvious to me that there was really nowhere else to build as his property is bordered on two sides by ravines and there was not enough space to get around to the back of the house. The land was heavily wooded with cedars and the building would not be visible from the road. After some discussion, the Board of Adjustment unanimously approved his request for a variance.
The second petitioner was subdividing a piece of property, attaching a portion of that land to another adjoining parcel he owned, and leaving the remainder of the property as a new plat. He ran into two problems with his request - a shed that was in front of the house (similar zoning issue to the first request) and would also not be setback far enough from the adjacent road. The shed was grandfathered under the previous county zoning regulations, but would have to meet the newer (circa 1995 I believe) zoning regulations with a replatting.
I drove by this property previous to the meeting to get a look at the large shed, which seemed to be in decent shape. At the hearing, I learned about the platting/replatting, which was not explained in the original application. I had a problem telling someone to tear down what appeared to be a perfectly-functional outbuilding, especially one that was grandfathered and had been in place for a couple decades with no issues, if they wanted the property replatted in order to sell the house on the remaining land. However, one of the other board members said it was simply the cost of doing business and if they didn't want to tear the shed down, they didn't have to move forward on the replatting. Below is some language from the ordinance regarding variances:
In unique situations where the property cannot be used in accordance with the regulations; or has physical limitations restricting its practical use; a property owner may request a variance. A variance from the regulations is heard before the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Variances can only be granted where by reason of shape, topography or other extraordinary or exceptional situation or condition of a specific ordinance would result in peculiar and exceptional difficulties to or exceptional and demonstrable undue hardship upon the owner of a property as an unreasonable deprivation of use as relating to the property. A variance from the strict application of this ordinance can be granted provided the relief requested will not substantially impair the intent, purpose and integrity of the zoning regulations.
In the end, I made a motion to accept the request for a variance, but the board deadlocked at 2-2 and the request was denied.
( Jul 27 2007, 12:32:18 AM CDT )
Saturday March 17, 2007
Boone County Libertarians urge longer look at proposed library tax The Boone County Library District is seeking to increase the property tax paid by people in its district to build two new branches and fund other library operations. The link below is a press release from the Boone County Libertarian Party urging residents in the district to give the measure some extra thought:
( Mar 17 2007, 11:57:09 PM CDT )
Wednesday February 14, 2007
Push to make seat belt violations a primary offense misses the mark Recent legislation in the Missouri House of Representatives seeks to increase seat belt usage through the rule of law. While this is a well-intentioned law, making seat belt violations a primary offense will likely not increase seat belt usage an appreciable amount in Missouri.
I encourage everyone to wear a seat belt, but there are many people in our state who choose not to. A ten dollar fine will likely not make them change their ways. Will our legislators then seek to increase that fine to a value where offenders do feel the pain in their pocket? Will they seek to assess points against the drivers license of a violator if Missouri's seat belt use does not meet their desired levels?
Mandating seat belt usage does not guarantee an elimination of death or injury in a car accident, it only reduces the chances of that occurring. Proponents who say the bill would save 90 lives a year are estimating that figure without addressing the deaths of those wearing their seat belts. Seven of fifteen people killed in the Columbia area last year were not wearing their seat belts, which means the eight who were using belts died regardless. In the past three years, one-third of fatalities in the state were to people using seat belts. Clearly, the use of a seat belt is a good idea, but it does not help in all accidents.
Supporters of the bill say this is the only traffic offense in Missouri which is relegated to secondary enforcement. However, this should not be considered unusual as choosing to not wear a seat belt does not make the vehicle or the driver less safe than anyone else. That should be the true thrust of traffic offenses - ensuring people drive in a safe manner and maintain their vehicle properly.
Proponents say primary enforcement will allow Missouri to receive $16 million from the federal government. I would presume this is money from the federal fuel tax that Missouri citizens pay each time at the pump, and then our federal legislators haggle over to return a fair share of Missourians' money for use in our state. This is essentially extortion by our government and is another reason the federal fuel tax should be repealed.
Finally, supporters say this will result in Medicaid and other program savings as less people people will be injured in car accidents. While this is true, the overall reduction in costs cannot be adequately determined and seems to paint those who do not wear seat belts as "lesser citizens" than those who buckle up.
( Feb 14 2007, 11:55:37 AM CST )
Tuesday February 13, 2007
Is a temporary moratorium on downtown development an abridgement of private property rights? The city of Columbia, the University of Missouri-Columbia, and Stephens College recently hired a consultant to look at opportunities for city-college development in the downtown of Columbia. The consultant group recommended three different areas that were ripe for redevelopment, but offered only a high-level view and left the nitty-gritty for a local group to implement.
Although no formal action has been taken after the final presentation by the consultant in January, Columbia's city council recently denied a rezoning request by a downtown landowner who wanted to tear down three apartment buildings and replace them with a restaurant and loft apartments. The council wants a "temporary moratorium" on downtown zoning changes and development until the Sasaki Associates study can undergo additional public discussion.
Columbia should not be mandating development based on an outside consultant's vision of our city. The property owner's proposal should have been approved or denied on its merits, not due to the fact that the city needs to take additional time to review and approve a study that may never be implemented or will only be enacted years in the future.
( Feb 13 2007, 03:48:40 PM CST )
Small business owners petitioning to repeal Columbia's smoking ban Columbia's recently-enacted smoking ban has encouraged several local bar and restaurant owners to start a petition to repeal most of the ordinance's changes. Members of the Boone County Libertarian Party, working as the non-partisan Boone Liberty Coalition, argued against the smoking ban for the better part of a year and a half, only to see it pass by one vote at a city council meeting.
We are grateful to see these businesses, several of which have seen declines in customers and revenue, band together to take the law into their own hands, so to speak. We are helping their cause by issuing press releases, talking to the media, and listing the nearly 40 local businesses that are hosting the initiative petition to repeal the ban on our website.
The business owners must collect 2276 valid signatures of registered voters from within the city limits of Columbia, which they are hoping to do by the end of March. If the petition is certified by the city clerk, the city council would have 30 days to take up the issue. If they do not vote to repeal the ban, the issue would then go to a public vote.
( Feb 13 2007, 01:54:54 PM CST )
Monday November 20, 2006
Third parties have a place in the political process I had a recent opinion piece published in the Columbia Daily Tribune in response to an article saying third parties only served as spoilers to the two annoited political parties and anyone working with them should work in local Democrat or Republican organizations. Below is my response:
In a recent column, J. Scott Christianson contended third-party candidates offer only a spoiler role and should integrate themselves into the two major political parties if they wish to effect change. As a member of the local Democratic Party structure, perhaps he was concerned about the presence of Progressive Party candidates on the ballot and their chances of drawing votes away from the Democratic candidates he presumably supported. In the U.S. Senate race, Libertarian Frank Gilmour polled almost 2,000 more votes than the margin between Jim Talent and Claire McCaskill. With the votes received by Progressive candidate Lydia Lewis, third-party candidates might have decided Missouriâ€™s new senator.
Some will be upset at the Libertarian and Progressive candidates, saying they "spoiled" Talentâ€™s bid for re-election. Actually, the only ones to blame would be Talent, his organization and the Republican Party for not offering a message that resonated with the nearly 66,000 voters who chose a third-party candidate.
This failure also explains why third parties exist. Despite so-called "big tent" platforms, there are many people who do not consider themselves a Republican or Democrat and do not agree with the platform of either political party. A column by Charley Reese in the same issue of the Tribune said there is no political party for true conservatives, so clearly there are demographics that neither major party attracts.
Why must a citizen work for a local Democratic or Republican Party organization if he does not support its mission? I prefer to support the Libertarian Party; it is more aligned with my beliefs. I would much rather work with a small group of citizens for a cause I believe in than be a small cog in a political machine I do not feel shares my values.
Republicans say they support business, but where was the local Republican Party when business ownersâ€™ property rights were being threatened by a smoking ban in Columbia? Although ultimately unsuccessful, a small group of Libertarians led the opposition to the ordinance, working with many from the business community to defend their private property. It might sound presumptuous, but I think the smoking ban would have been enacted more than a year ago without nearly as much fuss if local Libertarians had not taken a stand.
Democracy can be improved only by additional voices offering more solutions to todayâ€™s problems. I personally would be ecstatic if the Republicans or Democrats considered more of the Libertarian Party platform. Adopting the positions of third parties is possibly the only way to see such organizations go by the wayside. Until that time comes, I will continue fighting for freedom and liberty with a third party.
( Nov 20 2006, 02:20:00 PM CST )
Wednesday October 11, 2006
Smoke 'em if you got 'em, but only where the government says Early in the morning of October 10th, Columbia's City Council voted 4-3 to implement a smoking ban in Columbia's bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, and other previously-exempted locations. The Boone County Libertarian Party and the Boone Liberty Coalition led the campaign against the smoking ban but came up just short in the end against our government-employed grant-funded opponents. I'm disappointed in particular with three members of the City Council. Mayor Darwin Hindman repeatedly mentioned in the past week that there would be winners and losers from this change, but still voted for the amendments. Councilman Bob Hutton agonized that his vote may cost businesses financially, yet he voted for the ban. Councilman Chris Janku during his re-election campaign this past March said he didn't think he would vote for the ban, drawing an endorsement from the Boone County Libertarian Party, but decided to change his vote for some unknown reason.
I hope that Columbia's business owners will remember that Libertarians led the fight against the loss of their private property rights. The local Democratic and Republican parties were not heard from at all. One would think the Republicans would have been on the side of small business, but I suppose they had something else more pressing to attend to.
( Oct 11 2006, 10:44:37 AM CDT )
Monday September 18, 2006
A special business district that impedes business? Columbia's Special Business District recently approved a proposed ordinance for downtown Columbia (pardon me "The District) that would require new or replacement signs to be one-half the size of existing signs, departing from the current ordinance that is in place throughout the entire city. Additional language would also restrict letter height on signs, depending on if they were place on the first floor or second floor of a building. Supporters apparently feel that further limiting a business' ability to advertise their goods and services will make potential shoppers more likely to flock to downtown.
Columbia's Planning and Zoning board took up the matter at its September 7 meeting and has tabled the issue until September 21st. A vote to pass the ordinance would then place it on the City Council's agenda.
( Sep 18 2006, 02:11:52 PM CDT )
Thursday July 06, 2006
George Bush hates me While blowing up my backyard during our annual fireworks extravaganza/BBQ/pool party, a 12 (or so) year-old boy was concerned about my shooting a particular Roman candle. It had nothing to do with safety - his issue was the American flag motif on the firework (a Red White and Blue from Bob's Fireworks if you are curious). When I finally picked it up to light, he said "George Bush hates you." Being the son of one of my wife's coworkers with a conservative bent, my comment was a nonchalant "Whatever" but it makes you wonder about the future generation if they are being influenced so strongly at a young age.
( Jul 06 2006, 10:33:39 AM CDT )
Wednesday June 28, 2006
Just what does Peter Kinder do? The Board of Public Buildings recently decided that the offices of the state auditor and the Lieutenant Governor should be swapped. Much ado has been made on this being an office grab by the current Lieutenant Governor, Peter Kinder, with the expected Republican and Democrat bickering. However, no real discussion has emerged on just what the office actually does. Based on my reading, not much except jumping to higher office, yet there is a staff of seven assigned to Peter Kinder. If Governor Blunt is truly interested in cutting government costs, he would look into reducing this staff or eliminating the position of Lieutenant Governor outright. But then he may just be waiting until a Democrat gets into that position first.
( Jun 28 2006, 12:02:55 PM CDT )