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Missouri News and Notes 12-17-2008

Another dose of the news roundup.

1.  RedState contributor bs reminded me of a story that I had meant to include in my report the other day.  A St. Charles County Councilman is off to Iraq for up to a year.  He is going to be doing work of a contractor.  Best of luck you you Councilman Paul Wynn.  Don’t let those on the council who are trying to score points attacking your service get to you.

2.  A Missouri judge has ruled that a lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Revenue can continue.

At issue is whether the Department of Revenue’s decision to sell drivers’ personal information to these companies violates the Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act.

In her opinion, Judge Laughrey wrote, “Congress could have included an additional exception in section 2721 (b) to allow business entities to obtain highly restried personal information for the purpose of reselling or redirecting it to others with permissible use. It did not do so.”

Actually Judge, Congress could have included that exception, but they were right not to.  The state should not have the ability to sell our information.  Period.

3.  The Missouri Political News Service has announced that they are launching a non-partisan social networking site for those interested in Missouri politics.  The site is called Missouri Matters.

4.   “Obama Boulevard” is one of those bad pennies.  It’s a dumb idea that just won’t go away.  The aldermen have however decided that they aren’t going to consider the motion until January. I still say this is a tad bit premature.  At least January’s meeting will be a little bit closer to his actual inauguration.

5.  The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Tax Policy punted today.  Instead of working on closing disasterously distortive tax credits (especially in the face of a looming budget short fall) they opted to keep in place two tax credits that reduce revenues by $275 million (which is the correct way to state this…not as a cost as the…geniuses at the Post Dispatch insist on stating).  A much better idea would be to eliminate all tax credits and lower the tax rate for everyone.  No more playing favorites.  Provide the same playing field and incentives to everyone.

6.  Ah, it must be really nice to be a St. Louis Alderman.  Two Aldermen avoided paying tickets they received from red light cameras.  The main sponsor of the red light cameras, Alderman Freeman Bosley Jr. paid almost $500 in tickets late.

Among aldermen, there is no greater advocate for the cameras than Alderman Freeman Bosley Sr. — and nobody whose car has racked up more in fines. A car registered to his home address in the Third Ward had five tickets, including citations on back-to-back days in June.

Bosley, chairman of the board’s Streets Committee, said he did not know about the violations. They were, he says, accrued by his 20-year-old daughter using the car.

Sure Alderman, as a collection agent I certainly believe that story.  “It wasn’t me.  I swear.  It must have been my (blank).” is pretty much the most worn out phrase when someone is told that they haven’t paid a bill they owe.  At least you manned up and paid.

7.  So long bellweather status.  Missouri officially voted for Senator John McCain for President.  Don’t blame us.

8.  “Double secret probation”.  That’s how Brad Jones, Missouri State Director for the National Federation of Independent Business, described the report issued by the American Tort Reform Association putting St. Louis, St. Louis County and Jackson County on their “Watch List”.  Jackson County used to be among the worst on the list.  Here’s hoping that the reforms that have been passed in the last few years can keep Missouri municipalities off the list.

9.  The federal government isn’t the only one receiving visits from executives with their hands out.  The heads of Missouri’s public higher education system met with Governor-elect Jay Nixon hoping to keep their funding levels from the state despite a looming budget short fall predicted to be around $300 million.  Add them to the list of people that thinks thtat money grows on trees.

10.  Did you know that “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” is technically illegal in Missouri? No, really.  A century old law that restricts the sale of imitation butter.  It hasn’t been enforced in decades.  State Representative Sarah Lampe, D-Springfield, is introducing legislation to remove the technical restrictions.  Wait?  If we leave the restrictions in place does that mean that we can ban the stupid Fabio commercials too?  I may have to take that into consideration before supporting Rep Lampe’s righteous cause of eliminating frivolous laws.

11.  The Show-Me Institute has put out an excellent piece(pdf) attacking the recent trend of restricting pay day loans.  I suggest you click over and read the whole thing.  Apparently the City of St. Louis is considering their own slate of restrictions in addition to the ones I covered in my last report.  Again, it takes an especially brilliant class of people to enact rules that restrict the only form of credit that many of the people who use these services can get.

12.  What do you do if you are the State of Missouri and you host two NFL teams sporting 2-12 records?  How about give one of the a $25 million tax break to upgrade their stadium.  At least there was one state politician, Senator Wes Shoemyer (D-Clarence), who understood that this was a raw deal for taxpayers.  Calvin Harris sums up the stupidity of this move over on Show-Me Daily.

Given the financial climate of our state, money is tight. Plus, our governor-elect is already having trouble in his search for money to fund future projects. While the working poor and retirees can barely afford tickets to go to a game, we are asking them to pay the tab for building new restaurants and luxury suites in the stadium. I think this is terrible. It’s also economically unjustified. Despite the development arguments of those who support government funding for stadiums, the theory and practical research both demonstrate that this type of appropriation is a net loss to society:

Households face budget constraints; they must meet their unlimited wants with a limited amount of income. The arrival of a professional sports team in a city provides households with a new entertainment option. Households that choose to attend games will spend less on other things, perhaps going out to dinner, bowling, or the movies. If the impact of each dollar spent on these forgone alternatives has a larger effect on the local economy than the impact of each dollar spent on professional sporting events, the local economy will contract and income will be lower. Why would the impact of each dollar spent going to a professional basketball game be smaller than the impact of each dollar spent on bowling?

Which promted a comment on their blog asking if we could give them the $25 million if they promise to leave the state and take the Rams with them.  Right about now I don’t think you would have too many people that would miss either team.

As always, any additional stories…toss ‘em in the comments.

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