JCRC, legislators cheer veto of voter ID bill

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

At the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) meeting last week, Rep. Stacey Newman, D-73rd District, shared some “breaking news” that merited a round of applause from the council: She said that Gov. Jay Nixon had vetoed legislation that would have required voters to show photo identification at the polls.

The controversial measure would have required voters to provide a government-issued photo ID before they could be issued a ballot. Newman was part of a panel of legislators who discussed the Missouri legislative session that recently ended at the JCRC meeting at Shaare Zedek. Joining Newman were fellow Democrats Rep. Susan Carlson, 64th District; Rep. Jill Schupp, 82nd District; and former Rep. Jake Zimmerman of District 83, who was recently elected to the position of St. Louis County Assessor.

Newman said that after Gov. Nixon’s veto, “the next step will be for us to try to sustain that veto. The national effort to require photo IDs is being pushed by the Republican National Committee to disenfranchise voters.” While Newman savored that victory, she lamented the fact that the local Jewish lawmakers, “being in the minority party don’t know what bills are coming, and there are continuous attacks on social issues, such as abortion rights, gun control, voters’ rights and protecting the underserved, the minorities and the poor.”

Newman said that in addition to the veto of the photo ID bill, progress had been made in the area of combating domestic violence, pointing out the passage of Senate Bill 320. It revises the law on orders of protection to include younger complainants and extends the confidentiality protections for victims of stalking.

Carlson noted that she had participated in her first session in the state legislature. Among her regrets were Senate Bill 6, designed to eliminate corporate tax, “which has the effect of reducing needed revenues even more at a time of a fiscal and budget crisis and changes in the Missouri Human Rights Act, which gutted several provisions making it much more difficult to bring discrimination claims. It did pass and Gov. Nixon did veto it, but it is not clear that this veto will be sustained.”

She added that on the positive side, Dan Glazier of Legal Services of St. Louis and retired Judge Stephen Limbaugh successfully secured continued funding for Legal Services.

Schupp said the “super-majority” of Republicans over Democrats in the House “makes it easier for the majority to say, ‘We don’t have to listen.’ I strongly feel that politics works best when we can hear all points of view on issues. We have to ask ourselves, what can we do as such a small minority?”

Schupp said that her legislative priorities included jobs-at the top of the list – as well as education, health care, senior services and the environment. “As such a small minority, we are challenged, but we can provide a voice to many citizens who feel they are not being heard in Jefferson City,” she said.

Looking to present and future challenges, Schupp said that the devastating tornado in Joplin and flooding in parts of Missouri have produced additional financial strains on the already strapped state. “There have been drastic cuts to the University of Missouri and other educational programs in addition to Medicaid reduction. We have to say, budgets have been slashed enough.”

Schupp said one way to bring in more revenue would be an increase on cigarette taxes, which she noted are the lowest in the nation at 17 cents per pack. Raising that tax could also reduce the number of teens who will start and continue smoking, she added.

Zimmerman, who took office in January as St. Louis County’s first elected Assessor in more than 40 years, discussed how the Jewish representation in Missouri politics has evolved, from “the Golden Age, when Ken Rothman and Harriett Woods, along with Ilene Ordower and Sue Sher, were active . . . to the period when Rachel Storch and others ushered in what could be called a Silver Age, to the present delegation, along with Jason Kander of Kansas City.

“I would say that we have had a pretty good continuity,” Zimmerman said.