Thursday, November 9, 2017

Q&A #1: Do Plaintiffs Attorneys Rule the Court Plan?

Short answer: No.

 

During previous attacks on the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan, opponents have attempted to point out (often wrongly) that the commission is dominated by plaintiffs’ attorneys.

 

However this criticism ignores one underappreciated element of the plan: the elections that select the commissioners that sit on the various circuits that participate in the court plan.

 

In fact, the races that were just completed demonstrate that when the civil defense bar and business community join together they can win these races – or at the very least make them extremely competitive.

 

Brent Dulle, a civil defense endorsed candidate, won in the 22nd Circuit (St. Louis City) by 14 votes over the MATA candidate.

 

Bill Grant, another civil defense endorsed candidate, was only 30 votes short of a 50% majority to avoid a run-off  in the race for the 21st Circuit (St. Louis County).  The MATA endorsed candidate got 753 votes to Bill Grant's 1,341 votes.

 

Lastly, in the Eastern Appellate Commission election, Molly Jones, attorney for Monsanto and civil defense endorsed candidate received the most votes but will have to have a run-off against the MATA candidate.  Interestingly, there were nearly 4,000 votes cast in this race which is a 67% increase in votes over the last time this election was held.

 

While it’d be a mistake to minimize the influence and reach of the political connections enjoyed by plaintiffs’ attorneys, the myth that they have a stranglehold on the Non-Partisan Court Plan is clearly incorrect.

 

Fear of Federal Tax Reform

It may be too early to worry, but maybe not.  Rudi Keller reports on the potentially enormous impact federal tax cuts could have on Missouri’s state revenues.  See it here.

Pull Quote: One proposed change would almost double the standard deduction, used by 71 percent of Missouri taxpayers on their federal and state returns. Missourians used it to reduce taxable income by $17.1 billion in 2015 and the deduction is slated to grow by 90 percent under the plan proposed last week… The reason Missouri’s financial health is so dependent on Congress is that state tax income laws closely mirror federal law on what is and is not considered taxable income, said Ray McCarty, executive director of the Associated Industries of Missouri. The adjusted gross income reported on federal returns is the starting point for state tax calculations and, by law, the standard deduction on a Missouri return is the same as the federal standard deduction…

Every taxpayer uses the standard deduction or declares itemized deductions. The current standard deduction of $6,300 for an individual and $12,600 for a married couple is slated to increase to $12,000 and $24,000, respectively, under the tax plan.

The value of a deduction to taxpayers depends on which tax bracket they are in. Missouri’s top tax rate, which will be 5.9 percent in 2018, applies to taxable income of $9,000 or more. If all 2.1 million tax returns that use the standard deduction get the full benefit at the top tax rate, tax revenue could decline by as much as $1 billion. Total general revenue in the year that ended July 1 was $9 billion.

An amount that is half of the possible loss would be difficult to manage, said Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau and chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee….

 

Election Follow-Ups

See the ward-by-ward break down of the St. Louis City Prop P vote here.  CliffNotes: solid northside and southside support overcame the progressive near southsiders’ opposition.

 

KC Star has a behind-the-scenes look at the campaign to pass the airport ballot issue.  See it here.

 

Zahnd Disciplinary Case

KCUR reports on the disciplinary care for Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd.

See it here.  Observers this that his punishment will ultimately be in the hands of the Missouri Supreme Court.

Pull Quote: In August, the OCDC concluded that Zahnd, who has been the Platte County prosecutor for 15 years, committed multiple ethical violations when he sought to pressure community members to withdraw letters they had written in support of a convicted child molester prior to his sentencing… Zahnd has been viewed as a leading contender to become the next U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, the top federal prosecutor in this part of the state. The disciplinary proceedings have cast a shadow over his prospects, but, pending a decision in the case, sources said he remains in the running for the post…

The OCDC’s complaint against Zahnd focused on three of the letter writers in the Paden case and Zahnd’s interactions with them. One of the letter writers, Jerry Hagg, was a former president of the local bank. Another, Donna Nash, was the former Platte County collector. A third, Karlton Nash, Donna Nash’s husband, owned a local propane supply company.

Just before Paden’s scheduled sentencing, Zahnd instructed his assistant prosecutors to meet with them and try to get them to withdraw their letters, according to the OCDC’s complaint. Zahnd’s office subsequently subpoenaed some of the letter writers, including Hagg, who was told to appear at the Platte County courthouse on the sentencing date and call Zahnd’s office before the hearing. 

When Hagg showed up at the office, an assistant prosecutor, Chris Seufert, told him that if he didn’t withdraw his character letter, he would be named in a press release that said he supported a child molester. Zahnd told the Nashes much the same thing in a phone call the evening before the scheduled sentencing….

 

Bits

Auditor Nicole Galloway’s email fundraising blast after Cierpiot’s Senate 8 victory… The entrenched Jefferson City machine spent almost $1 million against a political newcomer in order to hold a state senate seat, and it worked. This means two things: 1. The insiders with a stranglehold on our government want to keep it that way, and 2. They’re willing to spend a LOT of money.

 

The mighty Jason Rosenbaum interviews Rep. Shane Roden.  Around the 32:45 mark, Roden explains his support for medical marijuana.  Listen to it here.

 

The St. Louis Public Schools “Task Force” on changing governance meets for a second time tonight (Central VPA 6:30PM).   This is the prelude to what will likely be a contentious about whether to return the local district to an elected school board or not.

 

Jason Kander has a new podcast.  See it hereI wanted to create a podcast that gives the 54 percent of us who voted for someone else a way to talk about the issues that made us vote the way we did, so that we can all be a part of the effort to grow our majority… I dread waking up to tweets from the President just like most people do. But as long as the President keeps trampling our national ideals, we have to keep fighting. These conversations are here to arm you.

 

Reader comment on this Ed Martin tweetSomeone rented a NYC apartment to Crazy Ed Martin...

 

Today’s Events

From Mary Scruggs’ indispensable calendar:

Rep. Rocky Miller Reception – Wicked Willie’s Grill – Osage Beach – 5PM.

Rep. Nick Schroer Reception – Tani Sushi – Clayton – 5:30PM.

Republican House 38 candidate Doug Richey Reception – The Club at MariMack – Kearney – 6PM.

 

Lobbyists Registrations

Rodney Boyd, Brian Grace, Kelvin Simmons, and Katherine Casas added Beyond Organics LLC.

James Harris added Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association

Jennifer Lindenmayer added JG Circle of Hope LLC.

Doug Nelson and Kurt Schaefer added WE Shoehigh LLC on behalf of Microsoft.

Eryka N Porter added Premier Consulting Firm LLC.

 

Birthdays

Happy birthday to Rep. Kathy Swan.