JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — More than 240 municipality leaders joined together for the 48th annual Legislative Conference in Jefferson City.
The Missouri Municipal League gathered on Tuesday and Wednesday to share information, learn about legislative issues and visit with state legislators.
Over the course of the conference, participants were very interested in wireless facilities infrastructure, municipal court legislation, Missouri Municipal Government Expenditure Database, prevailing wage and other issues.
“Prevailing wage is probably one of the biggest topics,” said Dan Ross, Executive Director of the Missouri Municipal League. While the Missouri Municipal League has no official stance on the issue, it is a topic that is of interest to cities. There are several bills in the legislature — SB 688 and HBs 1436, 621, and 1729 — dealing with the issue that local leadership is following.
The attendees heard from Sen. Dan Hegeman, on Senate local issues, and Reps. Shamed Dogan, on House local issues, and Kevin Corlew, on transportation, among others.
“One piece of legislation includes elections,” Missouri Secretary of State John Ashcroft told the members on Wednesday morning. As the office that handles Missouri’s elections, there are several issues involving elections that Ashcroft has taken on.
“We are also trying to make sure that the state pays its fair share of elections,” Ashcroft said. He is also advocating for “Safe at Home,” an address confidentiality program for victims of rape, domestic violence, human trafficking and other such crimes.
“Another thing we are doing is initiative petition reform,” said Ashcroft. He said that a decade ago, there were about 15 initiative petitions that were filed because people wanted to change the laws of the state, the statutes. This year there are 350 — it may be more, since Ashcroft hadn’t checked with his office before speaking Wednesday morning — and 99 percent of them are trying to change the state constitution. He attributed the increase, partly, to outside special interest groups.
“We think you all know how to live your lives, you know how to govern your communities and you should be left alone without outside special interest,” Ashcroft said.
Missouri’s Secretary of State fielded several questions related to registering to vote, he specifically was asked his opinion on automatic voter registration to get more Missourians registered to vote.
“First of all, no one is disenfranchised, we have made it very easy for people to get registered,” Ashcroft answered. “I would say our biggest problem is that we have people that are registered to vote who don’t vote. In our municipal elections look at our turn out rate. We may have school board elections were we have 10 percent turn out, 11 percent and someone says ‘Hey, that’s pretty good.’”
He invites those with ideas to get more people engaged in elections to his office — though he already voiced skepticism on voting by mail as a way for easier access.
Alisha Shurr was a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University.