Fall is in full swing with the leaves coming off in rapid progression. This time of year brings a lot of festivals, and I’ve enjoyed a number locally including Summersville Hometown Reunion/Pumpkin Fest, Cabool Old Tymes Day, Pioneer Days and the Roby Fair; just to name a few. While enjoyable for the entire family, it has been great to see and visit with so many constituents across the district.
One of my favorite items concerning this time of year revolves around deer season, and the amount of time that is spent in the outdoors enjoying God’s creation. Having a “successful” hunt doesn’t mean that I have to get a deer (although that is nice, too), and this year should prove even more enjoyable now that my oldest son will now be able to participate in the “Youth Season” portion. Some of my most cherished memories growing up involve spending time in the field with my dad/family, and I’m looking forward to making memories with my boys while teaching them safety, ethics and responsibility. To all of the other young hunters preparing for this weekend, good luck and remember to keep safety as the top priority.
Nov. 4 (Tuesday) Ballot Issues
There will only be a handful of races to actually choose a candidate, but there are four constitutional amendments that will be decided by voters on this coming Tuesday. To view all of the proposals with the related language, please visit http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2014ballot/
Out of frustration with the political landscape at the federal level, there have been several occasions recently that I’ve overheard individuals say that they weren’t interested in voting in the upcoming election. To not vote, is very similar to surrendering, and it is our civic duty to weigh in on the issues/elections that shape our government. Recall the sacrifice that has been made by so many before us to provide the ability; the gift we have been given in our Constitutional Republic. Below is an abbreviated listing of the issues, along with where I stand on each one.
Constitutional Amendment 2
* Approved by the General Assembly as HJR 16
* Will give Missouri voters the opportunity to strengthen the state constitution to better protect child victims of sexual abuse
* Allow prosecutors to introduce evidence of past wrongdoing, also known as propensity evidence, by an alleged sex offender in cases of child sexual abuse
* Bring Missouri law in line with the standard for child sexual abuse cases used by the federal government and many other states
The proposed language in this amendment is already contained in Missouri Statute (Rsmo 566.025), but prompted the Missouri Supreme Court Case – State v. Ellison in 2007, since it is not contained within our Missouri Constitution. In this case the Supreme Court [correctly, with regard to the present reading of our Constitution] found that prior acts are not admissible to a case in order to show the “propensity” of an offender to commit such crimes. Adding this language to our Constitution will better protect some of our most vulnerable, that have suffered heinous acts in cases that are typically very difficult to prove; and I will gladly be voting “Yes” in support of this needed change.
Constitutional Amendment 3
* Placed on the ballot by initiative petition
* Make several changes to the Missouri’s system of education
* Limit teacher contracts to no more than three years
* Require that teacher’s pay and retention be based primarily on student performance data
* Prohibit teachers from negotiating any classroom evaluation system
As listed above, this proposal comes to the voter through the “initiative petition” process, whereby any individual can submit a constitutional change to the voters if enough qualified signatures from the each of Missouri’s Congressional Districts are received (this issue did not come through the legislature as did all of the other pending amendments). With the one or two good items that would benefit education contained within this proposal, there are several that would be very bad, and our constitution is not the place for this language; and I will be voting “no” on this one.
Constitutional Amendment 6
* Approved by the legislature as HJR 90
* Allow voters to decide if Missouri should establish an early voting period
* The early voting period would take place for a period of six days leading up to the Wednesday before the election
o The period would not include Saturday or Sunday
o Allow no-excuse absentee voting during that period of time
o In-person early voting would take place during the regular business hours of the local election authority
* It would not impose any costs on the state, assuming there is no special election required by the Governor, and would not impose any additional costs on local election authorities.
While Missouri currently allows absentee voting (with an excuse), this proposal would allow voting at the County Clerk’s office six days prior to the election. Similar to what is already in place in Arkansas, this proposal will make it easier for working Missourians to have their voice heard (around their schedule), and I will be voting “yes” to expanding access and simplifying the process for voters to participate.
Constitutional Amendment 10
* Approved by the General Assembly as HJR 72
* Provide the legislature with oversight of the governor’s decisions to withhold or restrict funding
* Require the governor to pay the public debt
* Prevent the governor from proposing a state budget based on legislation that has yet to pass
* Allow the legislature to override decisions made by the governor to restrict funding
o The authority would work in much the same way as the ability the legislature has to override a gubernatorial veto
o require a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate in order for the funding restrictions to be overturned
This is one of the most important issues that will be decided in the upcoming election, and deals in large part with the checks/balances way that our state government operates. A Governor should absolutely have the ability/flexibility to withhold funding in a situation such as declining revenue or natural disaster, and that ability remains unchanged with this amendment. However, in recent years there has been a tendency of Governors (of both parties, but especially the current one) to construct a budget based on legislation that hasn’t passed, and/or to hold funding hostage from vital state services (education, mental health, etc.) as a means of exerting political influence. Playing politics with funding is absolutely wrong when the money is available, and I will be voting “Yes” in support of this amendment.
As always, please do not hesitate to call or write me anytime with your questions or thoughts on these or any other issues. My Capitol office is 573.751.1490 and my email is Robert.Ross@house.mo.gov. Thank you for the honor to serve as your Representative in the Missouri House of Representatives.