‘Trailblazer’ for women in politics inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians

A woman described as a “political trailblazer” is the latest inductee into the Hall of Famous Missourians.

The bust of Annie White Baxter, being added to the Hall of Famous Missourians, is joined by Representatives Sonya Anderson, Gina Mitten, Peggy McGaugh, and Ann Kelley (L-R). (Photo courtesy: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Annie White Baxter was the first woman elected to public office in Missouri and the first female county clerk in the United States.  Baxter was elected Jasper County Clerk in 1890, 30 years before women were eligible to vote.  She later served as the state registrar of lands from 1908 to 1916, and as the financial secretary of the Missouri Constitutional Convention in 1922.

Baxter earned a reputation as one of the state’s best county clerks.  She played a role in the planning and early work in constructing the current Jasper County Courthouse.  Then-governor David R. Francis named her an honorary colonel for her work, leading to one of her nicknames, “Colonel Baxter.”

“Today is such a proud moment in the preservation of our Missouri history,” said Wendy Doyle, President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation.

Doyle said this recognition for Baxter is long overdue, and will inspire future generations.

“It is important to recognize women’s historical contributions in historic sites, state parks, and other public spaces.  We are stronger when we can see ourselves in the lives and legacies of those who came before us … we know that recognizing the historical contributions that women have made in the past is an important part of empowering and inspiring women of all generations today,” said Doyle.  “Today is a moment of great Missouri pride.”

The House Speaker selects inductees to the Hall.  Speaker Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield) said people like Baxter paved the way for those who have influenced his life and the lives of those close to him.

Women’s Foundation President & CEO Wendy Doyle speaks during the ceremony to induct Annie White Baxter in the Hall of Famous Missourians. (Photo courtesy: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

He said it was his mother who was the first political advisor in his life, “who really gave me the words of wisdom that ended up putting me on course to take the job that I have today.  I pass that along to my children, especially my three daughters who will grow up in a world where they don’t have to think about not having the opportunity to vote and not having the opportunity to run for office.  It’s moments like these that I feel especially excited about not just what we’ve learned from the past but about the future of our state and our country,” said Haahr.

Current Jasper County Clerk Charlie Davis said Baxter’s efforts lead the way for women not just in his county or Missouri, but nationwide.

“Today I cannot even imagine our country or our counties or our state being run without women … but you know there are places all across this globe that women don’t have the right.  They don’t have the right to vote, they don’t have the right to participate in any politics, and I think some of that needs to change, because I look at our country.  Our country is much better today than it was in 1890 when Annie White Baxter was the first woman elected in the State of Missouri and the first woman elected as county clerk in our country,” said Davis.

Baxter’s induction came one week after the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.  Doyle called that an event of, “great significance for Annie White Baxter, knowing she oversaw the very elections that she couldn’t even vote in.”

The Hall of Famous Missourians is located in the third floor Rotunda of the Missouri State Capitol, between the House and Senate chambers.  Others in the Hall include Walt Disney, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Josephine Baker.

Legislature passes Real ID legislation as session’s end nears

The state House has voted to send to Governor Eric Greitens (R) a bill that would let Missourians choose whether to get an ID that complies with the federal Real ID Act of 2005.  Compliant licenses are needed to do things like board airplanes and enter military bases and federal buildings.

Representative Kevin Corlew (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Kevin Corlew (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Real ID was passed in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  In 2009 Missouri adopted a law barring compliance, citing concerns over citizens’ privacy because the Act required citizens to produce source documents that would then be stored electronically.  After January 2018, however, those who lack compliant IDs will not be able to get through federal security such as at airports and federal courthouses.

The sponsor of House Bill 151, Kevin Corlew (R-Kansas City), said the bill gives Missourians an option.

“We’ve heard from our citizens from our military bases, from our businesses, from people who travel and fly, from people who access military bases to visit their loved ones or to go to the grave sites or those who do business on them, they’ve requested that we provide this as an option so they can use their Missouri driver’s license.  They don’t have to get a national identification in the form of a passport.  Instead they can use their state-issued identification to access these, but also recognizing … there are some who would say I want my regular old Missouri driver’s license.  I don’t need the Real ID compliant, don’t want my source documents stored, whatever it be, then they have the freedom to choose the other one,” said Corlew.

Many lawmakers said the issue was the one they felt the most pressure from the public to solve.

Representative Charlie Davis (R-Webb City) told Corlew, “You would think that this year being such a tough budget year the number one number of emails I would’ve got was from the budget … 12 emails.  Real ID?  327 emails from my constituents, not from people across the state of Missouri.”

Corlew said the bill calls for the storage of documents required by Real ID to be done on a system that is not connected to the internet, making them more difficult to access.

“You know the scene from Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise dropping down [on a wire]?  I would think that’s what you would need to get it,” said Corlew.

Representative Rick Brattin (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Rick Brattin (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Still the measure faced some opposition from lawmakers who remain concerned about the privacy of citizens.  Representative Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville) told Corlew that when the Jay Nixon Administration was learned to have shared information on Missouri concealed carry permit holders with the federal government, the internet was not involved.

“They scanned and had a disc made,” said Brattin.  “It’s still capable to have that scanned and sent off, so the problem that we already faced and encountered in the State of Missouri occurred and can still occur with this sort of system.”

Corlew said that is why the Senate put tougher provisions in the bill for punishing those who violate the privacy of those documents.

“The first of which is up to a year in prison under a Class-A misdemeanor and then it goes up from there with substantial jailtime for felonies,” said Corlew.

Still, the legislation passed 112-39 with broad bipartisan support.  It’s now up to Governor Greitens whether it will become law.

Veterans Committee chair: the path is clear on addressing veterans awaiting long-term care

State lawmakers now have information from the federal government that could make clear the path forward on creating more places for veterans on a waiting list to get into the state’s veterans homes.

Representative Charlie Davis (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Charlie Davis (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

That waiting list has around 1800 veterans on it; about one-third of those have an immediate need for care.  Legislators and state officials have in recent years considered building another state veterans home, replacing and/or expanding an existing home, or looking for options to get veterans into existing nursing homes closer to their own homes and families.

Missouri exceeds the number of veterans home beds it is allowed by the federal government before it will no longer reimburse the state for adding more.  This has largely halted efforts that included attempts to pass a bond issue in the legislature to pay for a new home, at a cost now estimated to be around $60-million.

Webb City Republican Charlie Davis, in an e-mail last week to House members and staff, said the state Veterans Commission recently met with the Veterans Association about Missouri’s options for adding bed space.  He said the VA confirmed it would not support the building of a new home.  It would cover part of the cost to replace a home.

Davis said if a home will be replaced, it will be the home at Mexico.

“It is one of our oldest homes.  It is one that is absolutely in need of some renovation and possibly so much renovation that it would cost quite a bit to actually take care of what needs to be done,” said Davis.

A new home to replace the one at Mexico would have about 50 additional beds.

To further address the state’s waiting list, Davis said the state could utilize existing space at nursing homes throughout Missouri.  The difference is that veterans don’t have to liquidate their assets to enter a veterans home, whereas a person benefitting from Medicaid support to go into a nursing home must spend down their assets to get below the income threshold for assistance.

Davis wants to seek a waiver from the federal government so that federal dollars coming to Missouri could be used for part of the cost of care for veterans in nursing homes.  The remainder of that cost would come from state aid and individual veterans’ own money.

“We do have some beds in all of our facilities across the state of Missouri, that would love to take care of our veterans, honor them, and do a fantastic job,” said Davis.

With the deadline to file new legislation for this year passed and four weeks left in the legislative session, Davis said it could be next year before the legislature can consider seeking the necessary federal waiver.

Davis, who is the chairman of the House Veterans Committee, said he is anxious to see action taken to provide homes and care for those who fought for the country.

“But the compassion, the love that we have, the honor that we have for veterans has to be met with the ability to fund it.  If we do not have the ability to fund it then we absolutely cannot do it,” said Davis.

Hannibal representative Lindell Shumake (R) has a resolution that would ask voters to approve $63-million in bonds that could go toward replacing the veterans home in Mexico.  That resolution (HJR 2) has passed out of one committee and awaits a second committee’s action.

Missouri House sends fast-tracked right-to-work bill to the Senate

The Missouri House has advanced another priority of its Republican supermajority, sending a right-to-work bill to the State Senate.

Representative Holly Rehder carried HB 91, the right-to-work bill passed to the Senate by the House. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Holly Rehder carried HB 91, the right-to-work bill passed to the Senate by the House. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

HB 91 would bar union membership or the paying of union dues from being a condition of employment.  It would make violators of that prohibition guilty of a Class “C” misdemeanor and would require county prosecutors and the state Attorney General to investigate complaints of violations.  It would also negate existing agreements between unions and companies that require the paying of union dues or fees.

Many Republicans, like Representative Rick Brattin (Harrisonville), say right-to-work is an issue of worker freedom.

“This bill will empower the worker.  We hear the left say, ‘empowering the individual.’  That’s exactly what this bill does,” said Brattin.

Democrats like Karla May (St. Louis) say a right-to-work law will let workers who aren’t paying union dues enjoy the salaries and other benefits that unions fight for.

“You can’t walk into a company under the umbrella of freedom where we’ve been on strike 170 days with no pay.  You can’t walk in where we fought for the health benefits of somebody else without pay and you come in and get those benefits and expect not to pay dues.  The audacity of you!” said May.

Republican backers say right-to-work will bring more jobs to Missouri, and argue there are many companies that would have come to the state already if it had a right-to-work law.

Representative Charlie Davis (R-Webb City) said, “just 12 years ago we had the opportunity that one of the world’s largest automobile manufacturers was going to come to my little town of Webb City, population of 10,000.  Representative [Ron] Richard at the time, now the pro-tem of the Senate, could not guarantee that Missouri would be a right-to-work state.  Since then they’ve built two facilities in the United States, both of them in right-to-work states.”

Representative Clem Smith and other Democrats argue right-to-work will result in lower wages for Missouri workers. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Clem Smith and other Democrats argue right-to-work will result in lower wages for Missouri workers. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Democrats said the idea that a right-to-work law would result in more companies bringing jobs to Missouri is, “preposterous.”

“When this passes, and unfortunately it will pass, some of your counties will still be without jobs,” said Representative Clem Smith (D-Velda Village Hills).  “If you were knocking doors and you told your residents, ‘Oh, we’re gonna get good, high-paying jobs,’ I’m not talking about minimum wage – good, high-paying jobs and those jobs never come, you can’t blame it on the Democrats.”

The House voted 100-59 to send the bill to the Senate.

Sponsor Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston) said she will work next week on more labor reform issues when the Economic Development Committee she chairs holds a hearing on a bill supporters call “paycheck protection,” and opponents call, “paycheck deception.”  It would bar the automatic deduction of union fees or dues from a public employee’s pay except with that employee’s annual permission.  It would also bar the use of union dues or fees for political campaign donations except with permission from the union members paying them.