The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 1, 2013

Susan Redden: Carthage representative leads House budget debate

By Susan Redden
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — Talk about a baptism by fire.

State Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, last week had to step into the chairman’s role and lead debate over the $25 billion budget proposed by the House.

The 13 bills that make up the budget were introduced Monday, and Tuesday was set aside to hear amendments and debate. At noon on Tuesday, Rick Stream, Budget Committee chairman, left for St. Louis after his mother suffered a stroke.

Flanigan stepped in to oversee House action, with more than 60 amendments having been proposed — including Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposed Medicaid expansion.

Flanigan said debate on the budget measures started about 2:30 p.m. and didn’t finish until nearly 7:30 p.m. “It went very well, but it was a lot of pressure,” he said.

Flanigan said he could not assume the role until House members voted to waive a rule that specifies budget bills can be handled only by the Budget Committee chairman.

“It gave me a sense of the ebb and flow of debate, and that’s worth a lot,” he said. “On Wednesday, Rick was able to come back.”

Among spending increases approved by the House were $65 million more in the school foundation formula, $2.4 million more for Bright Flight scholarships, and a $500 pay hike for all state workers.

Spending in the House budget does not include the Medicaid expansion sought by the governor, though some members have said they are open to program “reforms.”

Voter ID issue

A Democratic state officeholder is in conflict with the Republican-dominated General Assembly on the issue of voter identification.

Secretary of State Jason Kander is criticizing as “extreme and unfair” a photo identification requirement that has passed the House and is under consideration in the Senate.

Kander last week released an analysis of the measure, which he said “would make it more difficult for eligible Missouri voters who have legally voted for years to cast a ballot.” He said the restrictions are unnecessary and that his office “has not received a single report of voter impersonation fraud since the current voter identification requirements went into effect in 2002.”

The analysis also concludes that the measure would cut the types of identification accepted at the polls, allowing only a Missouri driver’s license, a non-driver’s license, a U.S. passport, a Missouri or federal military ID, or a Missouri or federal ID that has a name, photo and expiration date.

Georgia, Kansas, Tennessee and Indiana have similar requirements, though Kansas also would accept a student ID, Georgia an expired driver’s license and Tennessee a photo ID issued from another state.

Kander also cited the fate of Missouri’s last photo ID legislation, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Kander supports a bill that would allow early voting, which he said could increase voter turnout by making it more convenient for people who find if difficult to get to the polls on election days. That measure has been introduced in the Legislature but does not appear to have much support.

Area residents will vote Tuesday on city and school leadership posts, and decide the fate of a number of bond issues and other revenue proposals. Often, turnout at such elections can be less than 15 percent.

SUSAN REDDEN is a staff writer for the Globe. She can be reached at sredden@joplinglobe.com or 417-627-7258. Follow her on Twitter @Susan_Redden.