Primary candidates weigh in on Medicaid expansion, 'Ban the Box'

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 | 11:57 p.m. CDT; updated 12:08 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Questions at the Columbia NAACP candidates forum Tuesday evening focused on Medicaid expansion, "Ban the Box," equal representation for minority voters, and voter identification laws.

COLUMBIA — Medicaid expansion and "Ban the Box" were among the issues voters raised at the Columbia NAACP candidates forum Tuesday evening.

Thirteen primary candidates participated in the question-and-answer session hosted by the Columbia NAACP.


Three of the candidates running to become state representatives said they were in favor of expanding Medicaid, in addition to Nate Irvin, who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives seat occupied by Vicky Hartzler.

State Rep. John Wright, D-Rocheport, said he was in favor of expansion. He said he knew a 55-year-old gas station clerk who needed cataract surgery but didn't qualify for Medicaid.

"She has to go blind, lose her job and then apply for Medicaid (in order) to get her operation," Wright said.

Chuck Basye, who is running for the Republican nomination for the 47th House District, said he was opposed to Medicaid expansion because of the limited funding available.

"Ban the Box"

Missouri NAACP President Mary Ratliff asked the candidates their stance on "Ban the Box," which the Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence unanimously recommended to the Columbia City Council in May. This proposal would require both the city and private businesses not to ask whether a job applicant had been convicted of a felony until a face-to-face interview is conducted, according to previous Missourian reporting. 

Democrat Thomas Pauley, who will face incumbent Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, in the general election, was the only candidate who said he was aware of the proposal when Ratliff asked about it. Pauley said he was in support of it because it would help people who'd been convicted of nonviolent crimes re-enter the workforce.

Wright said he was opposed to the policy.

"Obscuring information to employers is not the right way," he said.

Irvin said that he would like to take the policy a step further and reduce the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent crimes in the country.

Elizabeth Phillips, who is vying for the Republican nomination in the 47th House District race, said she was in favor of the policy because she believed that people needed a second chance.

Other issues

Other questions focused on equal representation for minority voters and voter identification laws. 

Basye said people should have to produce a photo identification to vote.

"You need a photo ID to do many things today, and I don't see a problem including that in voting," he said.

Wright said he considered the need to see voters' IDs politically driven and aimed at decreasing the number of voters.

The forum also delved into education policy. Pauley said he thought a major problem with the education system was the redistribution of students from low-achieving schools.

"If a school is having a problem, let's find out what that problem is and fix it," he said.

The primary election will take place Aug. 5.

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