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VOTERS GUIDE: What you need to know before Tuesday's primary election

Sunday, August 3, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:00 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 4, 2014

In Tuesday's primary election, Boone County voters will decide on five proposed state constitutional amendments, a county parks initiative, and candidates for a U.S. congressional seat, a seat in the state House of Representatives, the county recorder of deeds and a Division V associate circuit court judge.

Before you go

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Boone County Clerk's website has information about polling place locations and a quick search to find a voter's specific site.

Voters need to take a form of identification with them to the polls— a voter ID card, a driver's license or state-issued ID.

In a Missouri primary election, voters must choose one political party ballot or a  non-partisan ballot.

Election workers at polling places will ask a voter to choose one of four parties — Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or Constitution.

Voters will receive a ballot formatted so they may only select candidates from that party. All candidates will be on the ballot, even if they are unopposed.

Those who choose a non-partisan ballot will vote only on the non-partisan ballot issues.

 

Voters can change their address online at the Boone County Clerk website — even on Election Day.

For more information call the Voter Registration Office at 886-4375 or the Voter Information Hotline at 875-8683.

The Missourian staff put together this guide to help you become informed about the candidates and the issues before you vote.

STATEWIDE

BALLOT INITIATIVES

Constitutional Amendment 1: "Right to Farm" guaranteed in Missouri

Summary: The so-called "Right to Farm" amendment to the state constitution would "forever guarantee" the rights of ranchers and farmers to engage in practices related to farming and ranching.

Official ballot language: "Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed?

"The potential costs or savings to governmental entities are unknown, but likely limited unless the resolution leads to increased litigation costs and/or the loss of federal funding."

History: The effort to fold this protected status into the constitution stems from the passage in 2010 of Proposition B, known as the "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act" — the law that regulates conditions under which breeders can keep dogs. The law's passage alarmed farm organizations. Especially troubling was original language in the law that defined pets as "any domesticated animal normally maintained in or near the household of the owner thereof." It also capped the number of breeding pets at 50. The legislature and Gov. Jay Nixon later revised the language and altered the limit on the number of animals a farmer or rancher could own.

Pro: Supporters claim Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and other agricultural production methods need the amendment as protection from harmful and unnecessary regulations.

Con: Opponents say its vague language would give too much power to large agribusinesses and leave local governments without much regulatory muscle.

Constitutional Amendment 5: Right to keep and bear arms reaffirmed

Summary: The measure declares the right to keep and bear arms as “unalienable,” which gives it protective status in the constitution. It adds defense of families to the right of weapon use to defend home, property and person. The amendment also would repeal legal language that allows exclusion of concealed weapons in the right to bear arms. Legislators could still restrict the gun rights of convicted violent felons and people with mental illnesses.

Official ballot language: "Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to include a declaration that the right to keep and bear arms is a unalienable right and that the state government is obligated to uphold that right?

"State and local governmental entities should have no direct costs or savings from this proposal. However, the proposal’s passage will likely lead to increased litigation and criminal justice related costs. The total potential costs are unknown, but could be significant."

History: The measure's sponsor, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, has told the press that the state constitution needs to be updated and aligned with the U.S. Constitution in light of two U.S. Supreme Court decisions — one that protects an individual’s right to own guns and another that prevents states from infringing on the right to keep and bear arms. 

Pro: The Second Amendment should have the highest level of protection, much the way the Fourth Amendment has succeeded over time and litigation in protecting citizens from unlawful search and seizure.

Con: It opens the possibility of more widespread gun possession, including concealed weapons. Some police spokesmen have argued that it would put the public and officers at risk. If everyone has "unalienable" gun rights, it could also hamper the ability of prosecutors to pursue a case and complicate decisions by a jury.

Constitutional Amendment 7: Sales tax to fund state highway projects

Summary: A proposed three-quarter-cent sales tax would generate an estimated $540 million a year for 10 years to fund 800 projects for the Missouri Department of Transportation. The vast majority of the projects are to repair and resurface roads and bridges, construct or improve interchanges and sidewalks, and add lanes to existing highways.

In Boone County, most of the money would be dedicated to an extension of Stadium Boulevard, adding lanes to Interstate 70, reconfiguring the I-70/U.S. 63 interchange, building a new terminal at Columbia Regional Airport and increasing the number of service hours to the bus system. The tax would not be collected on food, medicine or gasoline, and the state could not implement toll roads or raise fuel taxes during the 10-year period.

Official ballot language: "Should the Missouri Constitution be changed to enact a temporary sales tax of three-quarters of one percent to be used solely to fund state and local highways, roads, bridges and transportation projects for ten years, with priority given to repairing unsafe roads and bridges?

"This change is expected to produce $480 million annually to the state's Transportation Safety and Job Creation Fund and $54 million for local governments.  Increases in the gas tax will be prohibited.  This revenue shall only be used for transportation purposes and cannot be diverted for other uses."

History: According to the MoDOT, it takes about $485 million every year to maintain the state's system of highways and bridges. If nothing changes, by 2017, the revenue will drop to $325 million, and Missouri's roads and bridges will deteriorate. Even with higher gas prices, the state gets 17 cents per gallon to support transportation, and that amount hasn't changed in 20 years. MoDOT also doesn’t have the ability to raise funds through bonding because the agency has reached its bonding capacity, spending about $300 million a year to pay off existing bonds.

Pro: Missouri's highways, bridges, roads and sidewalks are deteriorating, and there is insufficient revenue to repair and maintain them. The state highway system is larger than Kansas and Illinois combined, and Missouri ranks sixth nationally in number of bridges. Revenue from this temporary 10-year sales tax would be used for transportation projects across the state.

Con: This is a regressive tax that will unfairly affect low-income workers, the poor, the elderly and students. A more fair assessment on users would be to increase the fuel tax, which is among the lowest in the nation. Long-haul trucks are high-impact users of state highways, but drivers or hauling companies don't pay to maintain them. Highway and bridge building and repairs should be paid for by the people and businesses that use them.

Constitutional Amendment 8: Veterans lottery ticket

Summary: Amendment 8 would create a separate scratch-off lottery ticket by next July to help finance veterans' homes and services. There are no estimates on potential revenue, which would hinge on how many tickets are sold.

Official ballot language: "Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to create a 'Veterans Lottery Ticket' and to use the revenue from the sale of these tickets for projects and services related to veterans?

"The annual cost or savings to state and local governmental entities is unknown, but likely minimal.

"If sales of a veterans lottery ticket game decrease existing lottery ticket sales, the profits of which fund education, there could be a small annual shift in funding from education to veterans’ programs."

History: After the state legislature cut the $29 million in general revenue from the Missouri Veterans Commission budget in 2012, the commission has increasingly relied on a trust fund set up to help maintain, repair and construct veterans homes and cemeteries operated by the commission. The $30 million in the Veterans Commission Capital Improvement Trust Fund is enough to maintain operations but not enough to expand or build new homes.

There are seven state veterans homes, including one in Mexico, Mo., with 1,350 total beds, as well as five cemeteries in Missouri for veterans. The Veterans Commission estimates that about 1,800 veterans are on a waiting list for the homes.

Pro: Missouri would join Kansas, Iowa, Illinois and Texas as states that have approved a similar funding source for veterans. Each has raised between $10 million and $33 million to support veterans this way. Generating revenue to support military veterans is a worthy cause that honors those who have served the country.

Con: Currently, profits from the lottery are allocated to education. Some of this money could be diverted by a veterans lottery ticket. This measure would give the state legislature license to ignore veterans' needs and make veterans' services dependent on an uncertain revenue stream.

Constitutional Amendment 9: Electronic privacy 

Summary: The measure asks voters to decide whether to add electronic communications and data to the list of things already protected from unreasonable search and seizure by state law. If approved, the amendment would extend protection to information on electronic devices such as cellphones, laptops and tablets.

Official ballot language: "Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that the people shall be secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects?

"State and local governmental entities expect no significant costs or savings."

History: In light of the Edward Snowden revelations about surveillance programs under the jurisdiction of the National Security Agency, there is a movement toward protection from unwarranted searches and seizures of electronic information.

Pro: The amendment will update existing protections by adding information shared in the modern technological age. It makes a level playing field for all law enforcement agencies in Missouri. It will help prevent government from pre-emptively collecting electronic information if a crime has not been committed.  

Con: The measure is unnecessary. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police need a warrant to search a cellphone. Many law enforcement agencies are already operating under the intent of the proposed change. Without a clear definition of electronic communication, the measure will invite costly litigation.

 

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/government-politics/voters-guide/article807510.html#storylink=cpy

LEGISLATIVE RACES

47th Missouri House District

Summary: Elizabeth "Betsy" Phillips and Chuck Basye are competing for the Republican nomination for Missouri's 47th House District, which includes portions of Boone, Randolph, Howard and Cooper counties. Democrat John Wright is unopposed in the primary.

Chuck Basye: Basye, 56, is a former U.S. Marine and retired air traffic controller. Basye wants to boost agriculture and is an adamant supporter of the "Right to Farm" bill. He said he wants to cut taxes, rein in government spending, remove outdated government regulations and continue to fund public education at a quality level. He and his wife live on a small farm near Rocheport.

Betsy Phillips: Phillips, 76, has lived near Columbia for 14 years. As president of the Boone County Pachyderm Club, she has been a figure in local political organizing for at least six years. She has been active in environmental causes, supports fair treatment of immigrants and believes in government service.

4th Congressional District

Summary: Republican John Webb will challenge U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler for the GOP nomination in the 4th Congressional District primary. Two Libertarians, Randall Langkraehr and Herschel Young, will face off for the Libertarian nomination. Democrat Nate Irvin is unchallenged.

Republicans

Vicki Hartzler: Hartzler, 53, first elected to the House in 2010, is rounding out her second two-year term in Congress. Before joining the U.S. House of Representatives, she was a public school teacher, a small-business owner and a state representative. In the House, she serves on the Armed Services, Agriculture and Budget committees. She lives on a working farm in Cass County with her husband and daughter.

John Webb: Webb, 60, considers himself a constitutional fiscal conservative. He said he is seeking public office for the first time to “reduce the size and scope of the federal government at every possible level.” He was a member of the Kansas City Police Department from 1971 to 1983, leaving the department because of a permanent injury. He lives in Cass County with his wife, has two children and four grandchildren.

Libertarians

Randall "Randy" Langkraehr: Langkraehr lives in Warrensburg. He owns and operates three small businesses, including a tax and bookkeeping office and Davken Co., a marketing business. He became a licensed real estate broker in 1986.

Herschel Young: Young, 46, is a Cass County native and has served in the U.S. Army. He said he is running because he wants to "reduce the tax burden on U.S. citizens." He was elected Cass County presiding commissioner in 2010 but was removed from office because of an earlier felony. State law prevents felons from holding office, but federal law does not. He and his wife live in Harrisonville.

BOONE COUNTY

BALLOT INITIATIVE

Proposition EPIC: County park tax

Summary: The proposition is intended to provide more funds to run the Central Missouri Events Center, Home of the Boone County Fair, and to fund parks and recreation projects throughout the county. The six-year tax increase is expected to generate between $2 million and $3 million per year. At least $500,000 a year would go into a grant fund for parks. The rest would be split between improving and maintaining the events center and developing areas on the 144-acre property.

Official ballot language: "Shall Boone County, Missouri, impose a new county-wide sales tax at a rate of one-eighth of one percent for the purposes of providing funding for parks, recreation, and economic development, including the Central Missouri Events Center at the Boone County Fairgrounds, to include the acquisition, improvement, construction, and equipping of facilities for said purposes and operating the same? The authorization for this sales tax shall expire on December 31, 2020."

History: The events center and surrounding land have been a point of concern since they were purchased by the county 15 years ago. The center has been run by TAG Events since 2011 with the county providing $275,000 per year to fund operations and utility costs. County commissioners are unwilling to continue the subsidy, and if the measure doesn't pass, the future of the center is uncertain.

Pro: The 144-acre events center has been underused by the county and the city and needs a significant investment to be successful and attract more events. 

Con: The tax would unfairly place the burden of the events center on the public, the property has been poorly managed and the plans for the center are vague.

COUNTY RACES

Division 5 associate circuit judge

Summary: Five candidates have filed to be on the ballot to replace retiring Division V Associate Circuit Judge Larry Bryson. The three Democrats and two Republicans will be narrowed to one candidate per party, who will appear on the Nov. 5 general election ballot. Bryson announced in January that he would retire from Missouri's 13th Circuit Court at the end of the year after 28 years in the position because of retirement rules that would not allow him to fulfill another four-year term.

Democrats

Robert Fleming: Fleming, 58, of Rocheport is an assistant public defender in the 14th Judicial Circuit in Moberly. He worked for the Missouri State Tax Commission for four years before and after graduating from MU School of Law. He was the assistant Boone County prosecutor from 1984 to 1986 and spent four years in private trial litigation practice in Columbia. In 1990, he joined the Missouri State Public Defender System where he’s been for more than 20 years.

Finley Gibbs: Gibbs, 49, graduated from MU School of Law in 1996. He is a partner at Rotts & Gibbs, a law firm in Columbia, which he joined in 1997. He became a partner in 2000.  He has worked on criminal defense cases, as well as cases related to family law, traffic matters, car crashes and personal injury.

Kim Shaw: Shaw, 53, is an assistant public defender in the 13th Judicial Circuit, which includes Boone and Callaway counties. She graduated from MU School of Law in 1989, spent two years as a public defender in Cape Girardeau County, then returned to Columbia to work in the Central Capital Division, where she handled death penalty jury trials. She was promoted to district defender before she started her own firm in 2000. She returned to public service nine years later.

Republicans

Doug Shull: Shull runs his own practice at the Law Office of C. Douglas Shull in Columbia.

Michael Whitworth: Whitworth, 59, is an attorney at the firm of Ford, Parshall, & Baker in Columbia. After graduating from St. Louis University Law School in 1985, he became an assistant attorney general for Missouri. He left the position in 1991 to go into private practice focusing on criminal cases and family law.

Boone County recorder of deeds

Summary: Three candidates are vying to replace Bettie Johnson, who is retiring after 35 years as Boone County recorder of deeds. Two Democrats, Nora Dietzel and Lois Miller, face each other in the primary, while Republican Lisa Ballenger is unopposed. All three have experience in the Recorder's Office under Johnson. The Recorder's Office files and maintains marriage licenses, real estate documents, veterans' discharge records and tax liens.

Nora Dietzel: Dietzel, 49, has worked in the Recorder's Office for 17 years, 10 as lead deputy. She began a career in banking after attending MU, then joined the Recorder's Office in 1996. She was responsible for converting the manual accounting setup to a digital system. She and her husband have two grown sons.

Lois Miller: Miller, 61, has been with the office for 25 years, since the records were kept by hand. A lifelong resident of Boone County, she and her husband have three children and eight grandchildren.


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Comments

Trevor McDonald August 4, 2014 | 10:04 p.m.

This was a very helpful Voters Guide. I learned a lot about the ballot measures and the candidates I had overlooked previously.

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