Voters will be asked to reconsider how state legislative districts are determined through Amendment 3 on the November ballot, after voting to approve Amendment 1 in 2018. Voters approved Amendment 1 with 62% of the vote.
Amendment 3 would return the state to the use of bipartisan commissions appointed by the governor for legislative redistricting and eliminate the nonpartisan state demographer, created by the approval of Amendment 1 in 2018.
The bipartisan commissions would be renamed the House Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission and the Senate Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission and consist of 20 members each. The amendment would also change the criteria used to draw district maps.
Included in the amendment are slight changes to the threshold of lobbyist gifts and campaign contribution limits for state senate campaigns. It would change the threshold of lobbyists' gifts from $5 to $0 and lower the campaign contribution limit for state senate campaigns from $2,500 to $2,400.
Opponents of Amendment 3 contend it is an effort to undo the will of the people, using the issues of reducing lobbyist gifts and campaign contribution limits to detract from an effort to allow lobbyists and politicians to rig district maps.
A bipartisan group of leaders have come out in opposition to Amendment 3, including former Republican Senator Jack Danforth, former Democratic Senator Jean Carnahan, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, as well as AARP Missouri, AFL-CIO Missouri, NAACP Missouri Conference, and Missouri NEA.
State Senator Mike Cierpiot (R – 30th District) and State Representative Jeff Coleman (R – 32nd District) both support Amendment 3.
“There are detractors who say that we are just trying to change to a method that would allow us to maintain our super majority. That is not the whole process here. We are trying to keep things the same so that we can continue to try to represent everyone instead of having districts carved up that are not representative of those communities,” Coleman said.
“Everything they (Amendment 3 opponents) say we are doing now is what they were trying to do with Amendment 1. They reduced lobbyist gifts down to $5. Why didn’t they reduce it down to zero? We are going back and trying to fix these things that should have been fixed the first time around.”
“Our caucus hired a demographer to draw district lines based on the priorities of the new law. The demographer said there’s no way to draw lines that way and create a district in the way in which the law states, which says the most important thing is to create a district that is competitive and as close to a 50/50 split as possible,” Coleman said.
Cierpiot also points to the weaknesses he sees in Amendment 1 as his reasoning for supporting Amendment 3.
“I support Amendment 3 to correct the weaknesses that passed in 2018. The old, original redistricting plans only moved forward if a bipartisan majority of a redistricting committee (14 of 20, 70% of 10 Democrats & 10 Republicans) voted for it, stopping partisan tampering. The new way turns that on its head and now it takes 14 of 20 to stop it. That means if the Democrats are happy and the Republicans are being hurt it goes into effect, or vice versa. If anyone questions the intent of those pushing this plan in 2018, ask yourself why they chose the auditor’s office to control it when other election responsibilities rest with the Secretary of State. I’m confident it was because they were quite certain the Auditor would be a Democrat,” Cierpiot said.
“There are many other parts of the 2018 amendment that are problematic. I haven’t found anyone that can say how it’s going to work with certainty. Compact and contiguous are now low on the list of descriptors for new districts where they were primary. In my view, communities of interest are what politics are all about. They must now be divided to align with the 2018 amendment.”
“And to satisfy the description of Non Partisan Demographer you have to be out of partisan politics for 4 years, meaning former Governor Nixon or former Senator Ashcroft qualify,” Cierpiot said.
Clean Missouri, the committee that sponsored Amendment 1 in 2018, is leading the campaign in opposition of the amendment. The committee maintains Amendment 3 is a last ditch effort to set up a process that will affect district maps through 2030. Opponents maintain the amendment is an effort to create unfair, noncompetitive districts to limit voters’ ability to hold leaders accountable, not count children and non-citizens, and create unprecedented restrictions on citizens’ abilities to challenge unfair maps in court.
The full resolution (Senate Joint Resolution 38) outlining details of the proposed amendment can be found at www.grainvalleynews.com.
Candidate filing for Missouri’s August primary began February 25th, with a total of 349 candidates visiting the Secretary of State’s office on the first day to ensure their name will be on the August 4th ballot.
“We’re grateful to all the candidates who filed at our office yesterday,” Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said. “It’s inspiring to see the number of individuals willing to run for public office and serve the people of Missouri.”
Of the 349 candidates that filed yesterday, the party affiliation broke down to 216 Republican, 125 Democrat, six Libertarian, one Green and one Constitution.
For the District 32 Missouri State Representative seat, Republican incumbent Jeff Coleman of Grain Valley has filed for re-election. As of February 26th, Coleman is unopposed.
Candidates for U.S. and state offices, along with some judges, are required to file in person at the Secretary of State’s office at 600 W. Main St. in Jefferson City. Candidate filing will continue through March 31st during regular office hours, 8:00am to 5:00pm Monday through Friday.
Candidates who filed on the first day were given a random number to determine the order their name will appear on the ballot. Candidates filing from now until March 31st will be placed on the ballot in order of their filing time. Exceptions for in-person filing will be made for candidates that are active duty members of the armed services or unable to appear in person due to physical disabilities.
For a current list of filed candidates, visit s1.sos.mo.gov/candidatesonweb.
In the first of two town hall events hosted at the Grain Valley Community Center, Missouri District 32 Representative Jeff Coleman addressed resident concerns on October 22nd regarding Jackson County tax assessments.
Approximately 25 residents attended the initial town hall, which focused heavily on County tax assessments and touched briefly on Coleman’s plans for the upcoming 2020 legislative session.
Coleman represents areas in north Blue Springs, most of Grain Valley and Oak Grove.
Coleman was appointed over the summer to a special committee charged with looking at concerns of homeowners across the state regarding the process of assessing property tax values and fairness of the process. Hearings were held in Kansas City, St. Louis, and Jefferson City. Coleman explained the committee has one meeting remaining to come up with recommendations to resolve issues property owners are facing.
An issue raised during the meeting was the seemingly haphazard way in which increases occurred and the burden placed on the property owner to appeal decisions.
Coleman referenced 74,311 property owners whose properties all increased by 14.9%.
“The assessor is required at a 15% increase or more to go out and do a physical inspection. So, when you put 74,311 folks at 14.9%, which is the maximum you can do without having to go out and do a physical assessment, it starts to make you wonder what’s involved. We’re trying to unpack all of this and understand what could have been done differently,” Coleman said.
“The onus is on the property owner to disprove the assessment. We have to come up with evidence to disprove the County’s assessment and not everyone has the wherewithal to do that. Especially in lower income areas, and that’s where a lot of those 14.9% increases were. How are these folks supposed to know the process.”
Coleman cites funding issues and incompetency as major reasons behind the issues faced in Jackson County.
“We are really behind the eight ball in reference to the funding we have for the County Assessment department and the tools the County needs, because the County Assessor doesn’t have the funding to buy the right tools. Because of that , there is zero data for them (the County) to show why they put their assessment where they have it,” Coleman said.
“Thanks to local reporting (referring to KCTV Channel 5 reporting) and Sunshine Law requests, we now have access to emails that show a real incompetency in what they did and how they got there.”
Reached for comment, Marshanna Smith, spokesperson for the Jackson County Executive’s Office, emphasized the County Assessor is bound by state laws and rules when setting values and funding cuts have impacted the department’s ability to fulfill the state-mandated reassessment process.
“The County is sympathetic to the concerns raised by residents during this year’s reassessment and we have worked very hard to address them, while maintaining an equitable and accurate process. For example, contrary to many media reports, more than 1,600 homeowners in the 64029 zip code will pay less in taxes this year than last year.
When setting values, the assessor is required by state laws and rules designed to ensure assessments are as uniform as possible. As a result, properties must be placed on the tax rolls at their true market value. Market value is the price the property would bring when offered for sale by a person who is willing but not obligated to sell it, and is bought by a person who is willing to purchase it but who is not forced to do so. Any deviation from this mandate would be a violation of state law. In addition, if any taxpayer believes their property’s value is inaccurate, they have multiple options. First, Jackson County offers all property owners an opportunity for an informal review by our Assessment Department, where the property owner can provide additional information that may not have been available to our staff at the time they first determined the property’s value. Second, a property owner can appeal their valuation to the Board of Equalization. Finally, if a property owner is still not satisfied, they can ask the State Tax Commission to hear their case,” Smith said.
“The County is hopeful that Rep. Coleman and colleagues in the state legislature will address residents’ concerns by passing meaningful reforms in Jefferson City. Such changes must include providing adequate funding to counties across the state so that assessors can properly fulfill the state-mandated reassessment process. Unfortunately, over the last 10 years, the state has cut this funding in half and are now only providing a reimbursement of $3 per parcel to counties. We are also hopeful that the Missouri Legislature will not only protect the “circuit breaker” tax credit protections currently in place for senior citizens and persons with disabilities, but will also look at increasing and expanding this protection.”
Coleman emphasized that the likelihood of a solution coming before the end of the calendar year was slim, but that multiple legislators would likely be proposing bills in the 2020 session to address property tax assessment issues.
Coleman touched on a proposal he is considering that is similar in scope to California’s Proposition 13, which when passed in 1978 brought sweeping changes to the states property tax system. Primarily, Proposition 13 capped tax rates at one percent of full cash value at the time of acquisition, transferred responsibility for allocating property tax to the state, and replaced annual assessments with reassessment upon change of ownership.
Outside of property tax issues, Coleman is interested in focusing on disability and Medicaid issues as well as the foster care system in the coming session. In addition, Coleman stated that transportation must be a priority for the state.
“Someone’s going to have to stick their neck out and raise the tax two cents or something similar. I don’t think there’s any support for toll roads; I think it’s going to have to be a tax. I think you’re going to see the legislature push the issue out to voters,” Coleman said.
A year in to his tenure, Coleman reflected on the highs and lows of the job.
“The most frustrating thing so far is that I hate that every two years you have to re-up, because it becomes all about getting back into office and it shouldn’t be like that. That’s been the most frustrating thing to me. The most positive thing so far is that I got one bill and two amendments through in my first session and was elected Vice Chair of Economic Development. Those are nice accomplishments for a first year member, but I’m really most proud when I’m able to help folks with issues that affect their lives,” Coleman said.
“I had a single mom email me and her children had been covered by the PACE program for insurance. She sent the paperwork in to renew coverage but the Division of Family Services claimed they did not receive it, dropping her children’s coverage. I told her, ‘I can’t promise anything, as I’ve never done this before, but I’m going to call and see what I can come up with.’ I left a message with DFS and the mother called in the tears the next day letting me know that her coverage had been restored.”
“That means more to me than anything I’ve done in the legislature, because I was able to help somebody with something they were struggling with and unable to get through. Those are the kinds of things that I hope will happen more. I want people to call me. I want people to get involved.”
Representative Jeff Coleman can be reached at 573-751-1487 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
This summer has been very busy. In July, I was honored to be appointed to a Special Interim Tax Committee by the Speaker of the House. We started out by holding a public hearing for Jackson County in August.
During this committee hearing, we learned from constituents that the County Assessor raised values to a point of concern for many residents in the County, especially that the property owner may not be able to pay. The increases ranged from just a few percent to as much as 300-400 percent.
Within that last two weeks, we had public hearings in St. Louis and Jefferson City where there were very similar concerns. As we draw near the end of our hearings, we will conclude with a final report to the Governor.
Unfortunately, no action will happen before the end of the year; however, this issue has sparked much debate on what we will do as a General Assembly going into the 2020 Session. Stay tuned for my personal legislation to help ease these concerns moving forward.
House Approves Special Session Bill to Address Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Issue (HB 1)
Lawmakers returned to Jefferson City to work on a pro-consumer bill that would allow Missourians to reduce their tax burden when they trade in multiple vehicles. House members gave approval to a legislative fix this week during a special session called by Gov. Mike Parson.
The governor called the special session to give lawmakers an opportunity to fix a state statute to allow the sales proceeds of more than one vehicle, trailer, boat, or outboard motor to be used as a credit against the sales tax owed on the purchase of another.
The fix is necessary because a ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court clarified that the sales proceeds of only one vehicle may be used as a credit against the sales tax owed on the purchase of a new vehicle. The sponsor of the bill told her colleagues, “When the Supreme Court ruled on this matter, they in essence enacted a judiciary tax raise on the citizens of our state.”
The governor’s call for a special session gave legislators an opportunity to amend state law to allow for the sale of multiple vehicles to be used as a credit. The bill approved by the House is in line with the Department of Revenue's prior practice and what consumers have come to expect.
The bill’s sponsor cited several examples of Missourians who would benefit from the new law including a young mother trading in two older cars for a newer, more reliable vehicle; or senior citizens who are trading in vehicles as they try to downsize. “This bill benefits all Missourians from all walks of life whether you are in the city, the country, or the suburban areas,” she said.
The Missouri House approved the bill by a vote of 126-21. The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration. House members anticipate the Senate will approve the bill by the end of the week.
House and Senate Complete Annual Veto Session
On the same day the legislature worked in special session to address the vehicle sales tax issue, lawmakers also held their constitutionally-mandated veto session. The legislature meets each year in September in accordance with the Missouri Constitution to consider bills approved by the legislature but vetoed by the governor. It is during the Veto Session that members of the House and Senate have the opportunity to put legislation into effect as law despite the governor’s objections.
Coming in to the annual Veto Session, the Missouri General Assembly had a total of six vetoed bills to consider for potential overrides. While Gov. Mike Parson signed the bulk of the bills sent to him by the legislature, he did veto two House bills and four Senate bills. The vetoed bills ranged in subject matter from regulations for outdoor cremations to qualifications for the director of the Department of Health and Senior Services.
While the legislature has been active in overriding vetoes during the last decade, this year’s Veto Session saw none of the governor’s vetoes overridden. In the history of the state, the legislature has overridden the governor 119 times. Of those overrides, 49 have been on budget line-items and 70 have been on non-appropriations bills. Prior to the administration of Gov. Jay Nixon the legislature had completed only 22 veto overrides. During Nixon’s eight years in office, the Missouri General Assembly overrode 97 of his vetoes.
‘Back the Blue’ Missouri License Plate Unveiled (HB 898)
Law enforcement officials and lawmakers came together this week to unveil a new license plate that will give Missourians an opportunity to show their support for the men and women who protect and serve. Missouri drivers now have the option to obtain a new “Back the Blue” license plate to express their support for law enforcement.
The unveiling ceremony took place at the Missouri Law Enforcement Memorial on the river side of the State Capitol Building. Legislators were joined by several members of the law enforcement community, as well as Missouri Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten and Missouri Highway Patrol Colonel Eric Olson.
David and Beverly Thomas, who are the parents of Officer Molly Thomas Bowden, assisted in unveiling the Back the Blue license plate. Bowden was a Columbia Police Officer who was killed in the line of duty in 2005.
A $10 contribution will be collected from each license plate applicant for the Missouri Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation, which honors those officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of the citizens of Missouri. This will help ensure the memorial continues to stand in memory of Missouri’s fallen law enforcement officers. Those who want the plate will also pay a $15 fee in addition to normal registration costs. Missourians interested in obtaining one of the new plates can apply for them online at the Department of Revenue’s website at https://dor.mo.gov/motorv/plates/personalize.php.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out if I may be of service. Thank you for the privilege to serve and the honor to represent the 32nd District!