Give Liberty a Chance!

God has given to men all that is necessary for them to accomplish their destinies…

And now that the legislators and do-gooders have so futilely inflicted so many systems upon society, may they finally end where they should have begun: May they reject all systems, and try liberty; for liberty is an acknowledgement of faith in God and His works.

- Frederic Bastiat, The Law, 1850

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Session Wrap Up

The final days of the 2nd Regular Session of the 94th General Assembly came to close at 6pm on May 16, 2008. Each session brings with it numerous opportunities and challenges and this session was no different. The top three issues addressed by the General Assembly this year were property tax reform, illegal immigration, and economic development.

Property Tax Reform (SB711)
Judging by the contacts I receive from constituents, property taxes have become a number one priority of the people in Clay County. I have heard from many of you who are struggling to afford to stay in your homes due to steep increases in assessed valuation that in turn lead to a large increase in your property tax bill and the arrogance of our county to make us pay for penalties and interest due to an error of their own making. The legislature was successful in passing legislation that requires that property tax increases exceeding inflation be automatically rolled back to the previous year’s tax rate. Additionally, this legislation requires that counties refund fees or interest charged when the county was at fault. Additional property tax relief will also be available to seniors and the disabled with incomes up to $30,000 for a single homeowner and $34,000 for married couples by increasing the “circuit breaker” tax credit up to $1,100.

Illegal Immigration (HB1549)
Under new legislation the state of Missouri will pick up where the federal government has failed. Inadequate enforcement of our immigration laws by the federal government gave Missouri cause to empower our law enforcement, protect taxpayer benefits, and remove the magnets that attract illegal aliens to Missouri.

This comprehensive legislation requires the Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies to verify the immigration status of any person arrested and inform the federal authorities if a person is found to be here illegally and allow additional Missouri law enforcement officers to receive training to enforce federal immigration laws. In addition to empowering law enforcement, this legislation also makes it clear that illegal aliens will not have access to taxpayer benefits, such as state-provided health insurance and food stamps. This will help add greater accountability to our public benefit programs while saving taxpayers money. In addition, this legislation prohibits sanctuary cities designations and criminalizes those who transport illegal aliens in violation of human trafficking laws. Employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens or who intentionally falsify the classification of employees as contractors will also face sanctions and penalties.

Economic Development (HB2393)
Job creation remains a top priority for the legislature. This year, the legislature expanded the Quality Jobs Act and the Enhanced Enterprise Zones program to further attract and retain family supporting jobs. The legislature also approved a “mega project” plan to attract an aircraft assembly plant in Kansas City. This project has the potential to directly employ 2,100 people with many additional ancillary jobs that could double that number. In addition, a proposal was approved to finally clear the way for new development around KCI that could attract new warehousing and light manufacturing opportunities for our region.

In addition to these major initiatives, a wide range of legislation dealing with everything from agriculture to education to autism health care and scrap metal theft were also addressed.

Mortgage fraud legislation passed this session lets those looking to take advantage of homebuyers know that Missouri will not tolerate mortgage fraud. The legislation places local prosecutors on the same footing as federal investigators who were the only ones that were able to prosecute offenders and were extremely inefficient. It also creates civil and criminal penalties for residential mortgage fraud.

Legislation was also passed to create the "Missouri Returning Heroes' Education Act" to assist veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan by limiting the tuition public universities can charge. It also creates a tuition grant for survivors of veterans who are disabled or killed in combat and seeks to improve educational opportunities for the sons and daughters of military personnel by removing barriers placed on them caused by frequent moves.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Day of Remembrance

Memorial Day, a day set aside for remembering those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of Liberty, not just any liberty, but our Liberty, the Liberty that binds us together as a Nation.

What began from many different quarters by decorating the graves of Confederate dead in the 1860’s has grown to an annual remembrance by the 1200 soldiers of the 3rd US Infantry decorating each of the 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery with a small US flag and then patrolling the grounds 24 hours of day during the Memorial Day weekend to make sure that each flag remains standing.

Closer to home in St. Louis, the Boy Scouts of America and the Cub Scouts place flags on the 150,000 graves at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that began in 1951 and continues to this day.

While many towns and cities pay tribute each year with speeches, parades, and fireworks, for many the “Memorial” in Memorial Day has been either ignored or forgotten. We are the beneficiaries of the sacrifices made by the soldiers, sailors, and airmen of yesterday and today.

Last year, I remember hearing on the radio a former Green Beret say that warriors exist to protect women and children – what a simple, yet significant statement. For those who do not come back from their mission, we cannot forget the charge mentioned by General John Logan in his General Order No. 11 on May 5th, 1868:

...gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime...let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude, - the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.

We can observe Memorial Day as it should be observed, as a day where we actively remember our forefathers, family members, loved ones, and those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice:
- By visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
- By visiting memorials.
- By flying the US Flag at half-staff until noon.
- By flying the “POW/MIA Flag (Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act).
- By participating in a "National Moment of Remembrance": at 3 p.m. to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day, and for Taps to be played.
- By renewing a pledge to aid the widows, widowers, and orphans of our fallen dead, and to aid the disabled veterans.

On this Memorial Day, let us not forget, as Moina Michael writes in reply to John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies

May God bless our men and women in uniform on missions throughout the world serving on our behalf and may He comfort those whose loss runs deep that we should always remember that the “blood of heroes never dies”.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

One Man, One Vote

Elections require candidates or issues to be on the ballot. They also require registered voters to show up at the polls and cast their vote. America is known for its claim to “one man, one vote”. Voting is a treasured right that allows a citizen to participate, to give voice and influence, at all levels of government, but it is only effective when we can ensure it is free from fraud and corruption. Each vote cast by each voter should have equal weight when compared to the votes of friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. The consequences of elections are immense giving some unscrupulous individuals motivation to try to manipulate the system, thereby lessening the importance of your vote.

There have been numerous examples of voter fraud that have occurred around the country and here in our own state. One of the most outrageous occurrences happened several years ago in St. Louis where Ritzy Mekler was registered to vote. Regardless of her party affiliation and knowledge of the issues and candidates she should never have been allowed to vote. Ritzy’s ineligibility to vote had nothing to do with her residency or that she was a concerned Missourian – no, her problem was that she was a dog. If it wasn’t so true, it could be funny, but if Ritzy would have been required to produce photo identification, she would not have been allowed to vote.

Voter fraud like this diminishes the power of your vote and the votes of all registered voters in Missouri. For that reason, it is critical that we preserve the integrity of the voting process by ensuring it is safeguarded against attempts of fraud. Our system must be one that guarantees only those who are legally entitled to vote are able to participate in the process. Of course, that excludes dogs, even cats, as well as felons, non-residents, the deceased, and the countless other examples of attempts at defrauding the system.

One of the most important things we can do to protect the voting process is to require voters to identify themselves with photo identification. This simple requirement would help deter fraud and ensure that those voting are not doing so under a false pretense. The General Assembly approved this requirement in 2006 and it was signed into law by Governor Blunt. Unfortunately, the Missouri Supreme Court later tossed out that law ruling the law violated the state constitution by imposing too great of a burden on voters. Despite the fact such a requirement is not a burden, it is arguably the cheapest and most effective way to keep a corrupt few from stealing an election – the Missouri Supreme Court thought otherwise.

The good news is that a recent ruling by the United States Supreme Court has re-opened the door for a photo identification requirement by upholding a similar law in Indiana. While that decision doesn’t have a direct impact on Missouri, it does demonstrate that our attempt to provide for free and fair elections was appropriate and does not create an undue burden on registered voters.

The General Assembly is working to pass HJR48 to give voters the opportunity to amend our state constitution to require Missourians to present government-issued photo identification to election officials before voting. For those without any form of photo identification the legislation would require the state to provide these individuals with at least one form of identification at no cost. This proposed constitutional amendment would better protect the voting process from fraud while also ensuring that Missourians who want to vote are not prevented from doing so.

With just five legislative days remaining in this session timing is critical to secure passage in both chambers before time runs out. This legislation was passed by the Missouri House today (May 8, 2008) and is now in the hands of the State Senate. Asking a voter to provide a simple form of photo identification is not an unreasonable request and now we also know that it is not unconstitutional. Voting is one of the most fundamental rights we have as citizens of this republic and we must take this step to further protect that right so the importance of each vote is never diminished or negated.