Missouri Voters Demonstrate Trust in Local Government at the Polls



Local government is closest to the people. On Tuesday, Missouri voters demonstrated their support for government closest to the people with widespread approval of local ballot issues to keep their communities strong and vibrant.

Local election results gathered by the Missouri Municipal League (MML), the Missouri School Boards’ Association (MSBA) and the Missouri Association of Counties (MAC) showed voters overwhelmingly supported various city, county and school ballot proposals. These three organizations are allied in the Missouri Local Leaders Partnership (MoLLP), together representing more than 9,000 local leaders across the state.

“Citizens across the state placed their trust in municipal government by approving continued tax authority and authorizing bonds for capital improvement projects,” said Dan Ross, executive director of MML. “The real winners from Tuesday’s elections are the citizens, who demonstrated continued confidence in their local government to deliver the products and services citizens want and need.”

“The vast majority of proposals put forth by counties were approved by voters on Tuesday,” said Dick Burke, executive director of MAC.  “We are very pleased to see the trust that voters put in their local governments’ accountability and stewardship of taxpayer resources.”

One issue receiving resounding support was the continuation of various cities’ motor vehicle sales tax. Voters need to approve continuing this local tax by November 2016 in order to keep a level playing field for local dealerships. For example, without the continued tax, a consumer can cross state lines to purchase a vehicle out of state after November, thereby avoiding the local sales tax and keeping money away from their local community.

More than 100 cities placed this on the ballot and were authorized by voters to continue this tax. At this time, only one city is known to have rejected the tax continuation.

Another major issue passed for the state’s two largest cities. Both St. Louis and Kansas City voters supported the continuation of their local earnings tax for another five years, despite well-funded opposition by wealthy retired St. Louis investor Rex Sinquefield. The earnings taxes account for large portions of general revenues for St. Louis and Kansas City. In Kansas City, the earnings tax was reauthorized with 77 percent of the vote, and in St. Louis, there was 72 percent support for the measure.

In a Kansas City Star article this week, by Yael T. Abouhalkah, Kansas City Mayor Sly James said the approval shows that Kansas City voters understood how essential the earning’s tax is to the city’s basic services budget. http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/yael-t-abouhalkah/article70183567.html

MSBA reported especially strong support for school issues across the state, including a tax levy and bond issue in Columbia. http://www.columbiatribune.com/opinion/the_tribunes_view/cps/article_c80b1663-0e37-5c94-96d4-1097236eb827.html

“Once again local voters throughout the state have shown a commitment to providing students with a high-quality education,” said Melissa Randol, executive director of MSBA. “I’m proud to be part of a state that supports strong local schools and communities.”

Ross says local government leaders can now continue doing what they have always done: serving their neighbors while being good stewards of the tax dollars entrusted to benefit cities, schools and counties.

Voters continue to trust local governments more than state and federal levels of government. In 2014, a Gallup poll showed that 72 percent of Americans trust their local government, while 62 percent trusted state government. http://www.gallup.com/poll/176846/americans-trust-local-government-state.aspx

A 2013 Pew Research Center survey indicated Americans give the best marks to local governments, at 63 percent, while state governments earn 57 percent and the federal government only 28 percent. http://www.governing.com/blogs/by-the-numbers/public-opinion-local-state-federal-government-survey-results.html.

Stand Up 4 Public Schools

Positive stories about public schools and public school students in Missouri abound. But too often those stories are not told. Stand Up 4 Missouri Public Schools is designed to highlight the successes taking place in Missouri’s public schools. Public education is the foundation of democracy.

Watch this great story about students in Camdenton who are gaining valuable STEM skills at an early age.


State and Local Legal Center Advocates to the Supreme Court for Local Governments

by Lisa Soronen, Executive Director, State & Local Legal Center

Since 1983 the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) has filed amicus curiae briefs to the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the “Big Seven” national organizations representing the interests of state and local government. The Big Seven groups include:  the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, Council of State Governments, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, and the International City/County Management Association. The International Municipal Lawyers Association and the Government Finance Officers Association also belong to the SLLC.

State leagues participate in the SLLC through the National League of Cities.  Many state leagues contribute financially on an annual basis to support the SLLC.

In 2014 the Arkansas Municipal League defended a high speech police chase case before the Supreme Court.  The SLLC filed an amicus brief supporting the league.

The SLLC files an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case where three of the seven members of the SLLC want a brief written and two organizations do not veto participation.  Each SLLC member decides whether to sign onto an SLLC brief after reviewing its contents.

To date, the SLLC has filed over 300 Supreme Court briefs.  The SLLC generally files briefs in cases involving federalism and preemption and in other cases where the interests of state and local government are at stake.

It is not unusual for the Court to cite or quote an SLLC brief in an opinion or discuss a SLLC brief at oral argument.

Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the SLLC.  She is a resource to the Big Seven on the Supreme Court.  The SLLC also offers moot courts to attorneys arguing state and local government cases before the Supreme Court.  Each year the SLLC offers Supreme Court Review, Preview, and Mid-Term webinars and articles focusing on cases from the term affecting state and local government.

Lisa also writes about Supreme Court cases affecting cities on the NLC blog, the Weekly, and the Federal Advocacy Update.

To learn more about the SLLC and to read the briefs the SLLC has recently filed, visit the SLLC’s website at http://www.statelocallc.org/.  Follow the SLLC on Twitter for up-to-date information on Supreme Court grants and decisions affecting state government: www.twitter.com/sllcscotus .