By Susan Redden
Sedalia will be filled Saturday with Patriot Guard Riders and other motorcycle groups that support the military for Patriot Guard Day at the Missouri State Fairgrounds.
The gathering is a project of state Rep. Charlie Davis, of Webb City, who is chairman of the House Veterans Committee. The goal is to honor groups that honor military families at funerals and other events.
“We’re expecting about 5,000 people, including Patriot Guard, American Legion Riders, the Green Knights, VFW motorcycle groups and other motorcycle groups that support the military,” he said.
Davis said all the motorcyclists are to meet at the Sedalia airport and ride, as a group, to the fairgrounds.
Events planned for the day include a motorcycle show and rodeo, rides in an Army tank and in the POW/MIA hot air balloon, and performances by two bands, including Dirty Deeds, from Joplin.
Davis said resolutions will be presented to express the state’s appreciation for the efforts of the groups. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder will be the keynote speaker, and there will be a recorded greeting from Gov. Jay Nixon, who will be out of the country at the time. Davis said members of the House Veterans Committee and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs and Health Committees will be on hand, and that other lawmakers have been invited.
“It’s not a political event; they’ve just been invited to come and support the Patriot Guard,” he said.
No state funds are going for the event, Davis said. He said money had been raised from lobbyists, and from businesses including Empire District Electric Co. and Harley-Davidson dealers.
“We’ve got just about enough money raised,” he said. “We’re selling T-shirts; if we sell them all, we’ll break even.”
Patriot Guard Riders organized to form a protective barrier for military families after members of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., began picketing the funerals of service members. State laws and court rulings have lessened the potential impact of the protests but have not eliminated them.
Veterans were the beneficiaries of a change in election law passed in the Legislature’s recently concluded session aimed at making sure that deployed service people and other Americans overseas receive their ballots early enough to make sure they count.
Two other election proposals — for early voting and for a voter ID requirement — did not pass.
Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander said last week that a voter turnout of less than 13 percent in Tuesday’s special election for Congress points out that Missouri still needs to make it more convenient for voters to go to the polls.
State Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, won the race to succeed Jo Ann Emerson in the U.S. House from Missouri’s 8th District.
“With under 13 percent turnout, it’s obvious we need to make it more convenient for eligible voters to cast a ballot, which is why I have been advocating for bringing early voting to Missouri,” Kander said in a statement. “We came up with a bipartisan, affordable plan with support from across the state this session that I will push again next year.”
A bill proposing provisions for early voting was sponsored by Rep. Myron Neth, R-Liberty, in the 2013 session, but it didn’t make it out of the House Elections Committee. A voter ID bill sponsored by Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, passed the House but was still in a Senate committee when the session concluded.
Neth is vice chairman of the House Elections Committee. House Speaker Tim Jones recently named the committee chairwoman, Rep. Sue Entlicher, R-Bolivar, to head a House interim committee to look for ways “to preserve and strengthen the elections process.”
Jones’ release did not mention voter ID or early voting. He said the committee will be asked to develop a plan to remove old, outdated laws and duplicative language from Missouri statutes. He also has asked the committee to develop options for replacing worn-out voting equipment, noting that counties still are using equipment that was purchased more than a decade ago via funds supplied by the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002.
SUSAN REDDEN is a staff writer for the Globe. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 417-627-7258. Follow her on Twitter @Susan_Redden.