Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Case Against Schatz

There are several folks that think it’s not smart for Rep. Dave Schatz to run in Senate 26.  Here’s the reason…

For starters, Speaker Tim Jones is well-positioned as a statewide contender for the Republican Party.  The Party has struggled to recruit well-qualified, well-funded candidates in the past and Schatz could single handedly sabotage this candidacy.  

Schatz is not termed out. If he were smart, he would not run this time around.  He’d support Jones for Senate then be ready in two years when Jones moves on for a statewide office.  That would open up the Senate seat for a possible ten-year tenure: two years to finish Jones’ term, followed by two four-year terms after that.

The current path Schatz is on risks his entire political future.  Jones, with a million-dollar war-chest and impeccable conservative credentials, is the favorite.  By forcing Jones to spend a substantial amount of his resources on this race, Schatz is ensuring that Jones sticks around the Senate until 2020 to rebuild his treasury.

Could it be that Schatz is being played by Rep. Dave Hinson?  With Schatz out of the way, Hinson will be in line to be the next state senator after Jones moves on…

Meanwhile

Schatz anted in another $100,000 yesterday, and gathered up another $62,000 from other supporters.  (See large contributions below.)  He’s on track to show something near $750,000 when the March quarter ends…

Tobacco War Starts

Yesterday marked the first shots fired in this session tobacco war with hearings in both the House and Senate.

At issue is that Master Settlement Agreement which has been exploited by smaller tobacco companies to offer cheaper cigarettes than the big incumbent tobacco companies.  As Post-Dispatch’s Virginia Young reports, this also results in about $70 million dollar less revenue for the state.  Read it here.

Opponents of including “Little Tobacco” in the MSA are framing the debate as Big Tobacco trying to shift market share back from Little Tobacco’s value brands. 

Supporters of the proposal say it’s the state revenues against Tobacco period.  But because they – Fair Trade Missouri – have employed the Jeff City legal witchcraft of setting up a 501 (c) (4) to cast a spell of secrecy over their donors, one assumes that Big Tobacco is really funding their effort.  And that means this really is Big Tobacco versus Little Tobacco – with an ancillary benefit just being more money into the state’s coffers.

Rep. Chris Kelly is co-sponsor of HB 1242 along with House Appropriations Chairman Rick Stream.  Kelly presented the bill to the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday morning, with Stream in the chair. Kelly showed his famous, if sometimes annoying, intellectual candor by questioning how his own bill’s backers are defining the issues. Kelly volunteered: “I kind of agree with our opponents here on the use of the term ‘loophole’” being incorrect. Kelly said he preferred to call it “unintended consequences” arising from the Master Settlement Agreement.

This is Fair Trade Missouri’s key line and message: a loophole needs to be fixed. The organization put out a press release using the term “loophole.” nine times.  After Kelly’s comment, Little Tobacco’s attorney, Chuck Hatfield, also scoffed at the idea of high-dollar lawyers for Big Tobacco allowing a loophole or an unintended consequence. “If somebody just missed it, it ought to be malpractice,” Hatfield told the committee, recalling that the settlement was drafted at the settlement table with Big Tobacco “down to the comma.”

Fair Trade Missouri is being staffed by Rex Sinquefield’s “usual suspects.”  However they told the Post-Dispatch that Sinquefield isn’t involved at all.  Still, he must have signed off on his team taking up the crusade.   So it does create the question, how does this proposal fit into Sinquefield’s larger game of chess? 

And

When I asked one lobbyist in the halls where he was on the issue, he replies half-jokingly: “Nowhere right now, but I hope to be somewhere soon…”  This issue has the greatest potential of any this year to repeat last year’s liquor franchise war where both sides escalated hiring more and more lobbyists until nearly the entire lobbying corps was on one side or the other.  We’ll see….

Red Lights

The House perfected by voice vote Rep. Dave Hinson’s HB1557.  It would put in place Missouri’s first statutory restrictions on deployment of red light cameras and speed cameras.

Some cities changed their programs immediately last fall after several court rulings raised questions about their ticketing process.  Their alternative is to submit violations to the Department of Revenue to assess points, which usually mean higher insurance rates, arrest warrants and possible arrest. And, at least one city raised their maximum fine from $200 to $500 (Hinson’s bill caps tickets at $135).  However most cities are just waiting to see what happens in the Legislature before changing how they conduct their camera enforcement programs, since actual constitutionality of using the devices isn’t in play – just the way ordinances are written.

No doubt in an election year, very few legislators want to allow punitive points and higher fines for tickets. The Hinson restriction bill addresses both of those issues and more – including putting into statute the rules MoDOT has been following on camera approvals. MoDOT has only approved seven cameras (and turned down six) since 2011.

Will opposition to red light cameras fade as proponents present more and more data that they reduce accidents at high-traffic intersections? 

We’ll see….

Filing News

Dale Mercer filed to run as a Democrat in House 34.  The current incumbent Jeff Grisamore is termed.  This is a 60-40 Republican district.

Patty Johnson filed to run as a Democrat in House 56.  She ran for this seat in 2012 winning 36% of the vote.  The current incumbent, Chris Molendorp, is retiring.  See Johnson’s website here.

$5 Contributions

Citizens for Schatz - $100,000 from David Schatz.

Citizens for Schatz - $10,000 from Craig Kool.

Citizens for Schatz - $10,000 from Fidelity Telephone Company.

Citizens for Schatz - $12,000 from Ditch Witch Sales.

Citizens for Schatz - $10,000 from Wallis Oil Co Inc.

Citizens for Schatz - $20,000 from Shirley Schatz.

Lobbyist Registrations

From the Gate Way Group website:

Tina Gallagher added Gallagher Healthcare Solutions LLC.

April Hansen added Act Inc.

Todd Miller added Missouri Golf Council.