Legislative candidates address roads, pandemic

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net

Bill Kidd seeks a fourth and final term as the District 20 representative in the Missouri State House in the Nov 3 election.

Bill Kidd

The Republican from Buckner is again opposed by Mike Englert, a Democrat from Sibley who has maintained a law practice on the Independence Square for more than 20 years and ran unsuccessfully against Kidd four years ago.

The 20th District runs from Sugar Creek to northeast Independence and then northeast Jackson County. The election is Nov. 3. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and many people are voting in advance.

Mike Englert

Kidd said he supports Amendment 3, which in part would overturn part of the “Clean Missouri” amendment voters approved in 2018. Clean Missouri includes a nonpartisan demographer in addition to a bipartisan commission in the process of drawing legislative districts after the census. 

Having a demographer appointed by the state auditor would make the process more partisan, Kidd said, and trying to achieve a political preference balance could lead to more disjointed boundaries in legislative districts.

“People want to have their representative live in the area they live,” he said. “We’re to represent our local citizenry, and Amendment 3 would restore that.”

Englert said he believed he might have a better chance of winning this time, as people would be looking for change amid the pandemic and voter turnout promises to be high. On Amendment 3, he says the small lobbyist gift ban might not matter much – “Where there’s lawmakers there’s always lobbyists,” he said – and the other aspects he’s not clear on.

“I don’t think it’s well written,” Englert said.

On Gov. Mike Parson’s long-stated priorities of infrastructure maintenance and workforce development, Kidd and Englert both said they see some progress in the latter, while Englert said he definitely does not see improvement in road maintenance and Kidd acknowledges it’s a “difficult situation.”

“We’ve moved as far as we can with the gas tax; the money we have (from the tax) is certainly worth a whole lot less than 20 years ago,” Kidd said. “Right now it’s just a matter of money. Bonding is a creative way to do that.”

“It’s a difficult situation in that no one wants to raise taxes and put that out there, but after 20 years that’s just the hard reality of it.”

Kidd said the recent emphasis on workforce development has up the state to survive the pandemic relatively well. 

“The more we emphasize that, it attracts businesses, and more businesses means more jobs,” he said.

“It seems to me if a person wants a job it’s a good time to get a trade job, though the virus has taken down a lot of stuff. I don’t believe it’s directly caused by a certain program,” Englert said. “I think it’s a good time to be a young person if you’re looking for a job.”

Kidd believes the state’s pandemic response has been good in that Parson didn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach.

“If you go to Unionville, where there’s more cows than people, the response for them is totally different than what works for Kansas City and St. Louis,” Kidd said. “People who want local control, that’s exactly what he’s done is give local control, to do what they need to do.”

Englert disagrees the pandemic response has been robust enough, though in large part he sees the problem as cutting or turning down additional medical funding (Medicaid) prior to the pandemic.

“We had no way of knowing the pandemic would happen, but why reduce your funding for medical health at any time,” he said.

Regarding education funding, Englert said the situation could well be different elsewhere around the state, but locally he can’t complain. 

“For around here, I think it’s sufficient,” he said. “I’m happy with the schools here, where my children have gone.”

Kidd noted that he’s always been a local school supporter and has voted against charter schools, “Only because what do they fix?”

“What I’d like to see is at least keep funding schools where they’re at and expand funding for mental health issues, especially in these strenuous times,” he said. “It’s the biggest issue I see facing the state, if you really want to help people and have services for them.”