Missouri News And Notes 12-13-2008

Here’s a quick run down of some of the important Missouri stories that I’ve run across over the last few days.

We’ve seen a lot of talk over the past few months of a bailout fever. First it was the $700B financial bill, the Big 3 are up to plate and a plethora of state groups and other industry insiders are lining up at the trough trying to get their own share. While Matt Blunt has had his problems as Governor (most recently embroiled in a Sunshine Law scandal involving retention of email), All American Blogger Duane Lester reminds us that because of Matt Blunt Missouri does not need a bailout:

Matt Blunt took office and turned a $1.1 billion dollar budget deficit into three straight budget surpluses, the last of more than $833 million. And he did it without raising taxes.


Matt Blunt will be leaving Missouri financially better than he found it. That’s a trait more Republicans could try to emulate.

There’s a lot more at the link that I encourage you to dig into. And even if the worsening economy does create a shortfall as tax revenues miss expectations, what Governor Blunt has been able to do slim down Missouri’s government. Because of that Missouri is in a much better position than many other states. Thank you Governor Blunt.

h/t to the Club for Growth

A little while ago, I told you how St. Louis, MO was considering naming a street after President-Elect Obama. Well, the Board of Alderman’s Street Committee has passed the motion. It now goes up for a full Board vote. Sheesh, the guy isn’t even in office yet.

I’m about to do something I do not enjoy. I am going to… :gulp: …agree with Governor-elect Jay Nixon. He released his plans on how he is going to reform the state’s fee office system of licensing bureaus.

As one of his first acts as governor, Gov.-elect Jay Nixon told reporters today he would bid out all driver’s license fee offices in the state.

The fee offices have long been political patronage plums for the supporters of past governors, both Democrats and Republicans. Much of the fees charged for driver’s licenses go to profit to the people who run the offices. Gov. Matt Blunt was heavily criticized for expanding the patronage system; and after the criticism, he began bidding some of the fee offices out.

This is an absolutely fabulous idea. I applaud Governor-elect Nixon’s courage to do away with one of the greatest tools he would have had at his disposal to reward some of his loyal supporters. In the state of Missouri, these offices are currently handed out on a patronage system. That meant that the Governor had full control over who ran these very lucrative offices. Turning them over to a bid system removes the corruption that was inherent in the old system.

On the other hand, though, the method by which Governor-elect Nixon means to bid out the office falls right back in line with the typical liberal thought process that has created minority quotas in education.

He said the bids would be awarded on a point system, with points given for efficiency of operation, financial stability, qualifications, past performance, civic, non-profit connections, minority and women-owned businesses and the amount of fees the operator would be willing to give back to the state Department of Revenue.

Notice how not the majority of those qualifications had nothing to do with how effectively the person could run the office. Shame people can’t learn the lesson that these type of qualifications will only lead to longer lines.

I’d like to introduce you to SB19: “Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement Act”. Folks, this is one doozie of a bill. It’s sponsor is Democrat Joan Bray. She has attempted to get this bill through before. The crux of the act does two things.

  1. Internet sales will now be subject to taxation.
  2. It changes which municipality’s tax rate is calculated when totaling a receipt. The tax rate is now the “point of receipt”. This means that an item bought from a retailer in Michigan by someone in Missouri will be subject to Missouri taxes, even if the retailer doesn’t exist in Missouri.

Talk about a bad bill. I’ll let the Show-Me Institute’s Josh Smith tell us why:

I am opposed to this proposal for Missouri not only because of the high cost of implementing and enforcing the measure, but also because of the limitation that this represents on the free choice provided by the Internet. It is currently possible to buy many things you need or want on the Internet at prices that are competitive with local stores, even after shipping costs are considered. This is a tremendous boon for people who don’t happen to live near a major metropolitan area, and a nice opportunity to comparison shop from far and wide. A tax on Internet sales is yet one more way that legislatures are attempting to restrict the wonderful boon that Internet commerce represents, for buyers and sellers alike.

Enact this bill and you will restrict economic choice.

The City of St. Louis pushed forward with another ill-conceived gun buyback. It was held today. They were offering $50 for hand guns and $100 for “assault” weapons (however they chose to define that term). I suspect there are a lot of people who used this as an opportunity to get $50 or $100 for a gun that wasn’t worth that much and are now on their way to purchasing a newer, shinier handgun.

It should be noted that Police Board president Chris Goodson opposed the plan and was part of a group that had previously voted down the effort at an earlier meeting only to have Mayor Slay step in and get the plan passed.

It is also in stark contrast to a story that has garnered national attention lately. Recently Alderman Charles Quincy Troupe encouraged citizens in his neighborhood to purchase guns and obtain conceal carry permits. His hope is that criminals will think twice if they know that there are more people who are armed and trained how to use those weapons.

Legislators across Missouri seem to think that the already tightening credit markets could use some further tightening. They have targeted pay day lenders.

In O’Fallon, the City Council has voted to enact some tough restrictions on the lenders.

The bill limits where new small-loan establishments could locate within the city as well as their hours of operation. Such businesses could not be within 1,000 feet of each other or a residential neighborhood, and could not be open between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The funny thing is that there were some who complained that this bill did not go far enough. They want to see state legislation that restricts the interest rates that these lenders can charge. I have news for councilman Pierce Conley. If you limit the rate that a lender can charge, you are going to limit the amount of risk that the lender is willing to take. These loans are expensive because they are risky. There is a reason why these people have to use these loans. They do not qualify for other credit. Restrict this and then what happens.

Councilman Conley may get his wish though. State Senator Rita Heard Days has filed SB20 that would place such a restriction on pay day lenders. The interest charged would be limited to approximately 36% (as opposed to the current 75%). I guess they are comfortable with credit for these individuals artificially being cut in half. The bill also forbids lenders from renewing a loan. These loans are currently eligible to be renewed at the borrower’s request. Job well done Senator Days. You are attempting to effectively cut off credit to those who need it. Good to see the Democrats aren’t really supporting the group that they pander to. They will however still get credit for “sticking it” to these “evil” pay day lenders.

A Missouri judge is weighing arguments on whether or not the smoking ban instituted in Kansas City is unconstitutional. Here’s hoping that the lawyers for the bar were able to effectively argue that such bans result in the unlawful takings of property without compensation by the government. Go here to read more about the economics involved in smoking bans (a topic rarely considered when governments impose these bans).

As always, if you have any other important news: Fire away!