State News Briefs

Blunt expresses concern over TIF

Gov. Matt Blunt expressed concern Feb. 1 over possible financial commitments made to developers and local communities by the Holden administration that exceed the limit set by law.

Former directors of the department of economic development apparently made Tax Increment Financing (TIF) commitments to at least two communities, Kansas City and Independence that will exceed the state’s annual TIF cap of $15 million.

Blunt has directed Director of Economic Development Greg Steinhoff to conduct a thorough investigation to determine how much state money was pledged to these projects.

H&R Block is expanding its Kansas City headquarters and Independence is seeking funds to help construct a Bass Pro Shop Outdoor retail store. It is unclear at this time exactly how much money and what funding sources have been committed by the former economic development directors to the leaders of these projects.

Riding Missouri’s Katy Trail Ride 2005

Follow Missouri’s weinstrasse (German for “wine road”) on this year’s week long ride on Katy Trail State Park. Applications are now available for bicyclists that would like to participate in Katy Trail Ride 2005, a ride on the nation’s longest developed rail trail.

Sponsored by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri State Parks Foundation, this 225-mile, scenic bicycle ride on Katy Trail State Park will take place from Clinton to St. Charles on June 20-24. The Katy Trail Ride will allow bicyclists to experience the entire Katy Trail State Park, which includes riding through Missouri’s picturesque wine country. Bicyclists board the Katy Trail in Clinton and hop off in St. Charles five days later, passing by some of Missouri’s best wineries on the way. Daily mileage ranges from 27 to 62 miles.

Participation is limited to 300 people and the deadline for registration is June 3. The registration fee includes breakfast and dinner daily, outdoor camping spaces each night, portable hot showers, gear shuttle, sag support, and a Katy Trail Ride t-shirt and water bottle.

For more information about the ride or for an application, call the Department of Natural Resources toll free at 800-334-6946 (voice) or 800-379-2419 (TDD).

Straight ticket voting discussed in hearing

Missouri would soon eliminate the option of straight ticket voting if Senate Bill 54 is passed. Sponsoring Sen. John Loudon (R-St. Louis County) presented the bill on Jan. 31 despite democratic senators charging him with partisan politics.

Removing the option would encourage voters to take a greater interest in individual candidates, including third-party candidates, Loudon said.

Other senators expressed concerns such a change would create even longer lines at the voting booth as people take longer to vote.

Long lines are a problem related to the function of the election boards not providing sufficient voting machines, Loudon said.

People would have to exercise their fingers to punch out additional chads, he said.

A witness from the county clerks office testified about the confusion voters experience.

Many voters are unaware they can vote straight party ticket and still vote for an individual candidate later in the ballot.