THE WEEK IN JEFFERSON CITY: House passes voter ID requirement

Friday, February 15, 2013 | 6:59 p.m. CST

This week, the Missouri House of Representatives passed a proposal requiring Missouri voters to bring government-issued photo identification to vote. Gov. Jay Nixon's Medicaid expansion plan was left out of 2014's budget. Also, the House is considering a bill reducing the penalty for marijuana possession in a way similar to Columbia's marijuana ordinance.

Photo identification requirement

A proposed constitutional amendment would require voters to bring photo identification to participate in the next election. The Missouri House of Representatives voted 107-46 in favor of the constitutional amendment.

Republicans say the bill would help prevent potential voter fraud. Democrats, however, claim there haven't been documented voter-impersonation cases. They say the bill would make casting a ballot more difficult for some voters.

Under the current system, Missouri voters can show a driver's license, other government-issued photo ID or documents that can prove their identity such as utility bills or bank statements with their name and address.

The proposal still would allow those without an ID to cast a provisional ballot. However, those voters would have to "sign an affidavit that they could not obtain a photo ID because they cannot afford it, are disabled, have religious beliefs against it or were born before 1948. A provisional ballot would be counted if the signature matches the one on file with local election authorities," according to an Associated Press article.

Rep. Chris Kelly told the Springfield News-Leader that the proposal reflected Jim Crow laws, saying it was "the single most immoral act that I've ever seen happen in my time in the General Assembly."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's editorial board contended that Republicans keep trying to pass legislation to fix a nonexistent problem.

Medicaid expansion opposed

Medicaid expansion was also a focus in Jefferson City. The top House budget writer left Gov. Jay Nixon's proposed Medicaid expansion out of the budget for the 2014 fiscal year. According to The Associated Press, Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, said Nixon's proposal "goes against our philosophy to expand government."

Nixon's plan assumes "federal Medicaid money going to doctor's offices, hospitals and other medical providers would generate $15.5 million in new state taxes next year," AP reporter David A. Lieb wrote. "The plan also assumes the state would save $31 million in expenditures that otherwise would have been made on health and mental services."

Chart: Projected effect of Medicaid expansion in Missouri

Gov. Jay Nixon’s Medicaid expansion plan seeks to reduce the number of uninsured Missourians. Projected new covered non-elderly adults could increase from 5 to nearly 7 percentage points in each region, according to the prediction from the Missouri Budget Project, conducted in conjunction with Washington University in St. Louis.  (Graphic: Yu Yan/Missourian)

Marijuana penalties

Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-University City, sponsored a bill that would reduce marijuana penalties throughout Missouri. The bill would allow people who pay a fine or do community service to expunge the offenses from their records.

Ellinger said people convicted of marijuana crimes face consequences including difficulty finding jobs.

The bill is nothing new for Columbia residents. The penalties in Ellinger's bill would be the same as those in Columbia's marijuana ordinance, which was passed in 2004.

Supervising editor is Frank Russell.

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