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Koeller seeking to unseat Bivins in race for 97th District House seat

Mike Anthony
Executive Editor

Walt Bivins

Jane Koeller
Democrat Jane Koeller once again will challenge Republican Walt Bivins for the 97th District Missouri House seat.

Two years ago, Bivins defeated Koeller and Libertarian Allen Glosson to claim the 97th District seat. Bivins received 8,004 votes — 57.34 percent — while Koeller received 5,760 votes — 41.26 percent — and Glosson garnered 196 votes — 1.4 percent.

Bivins and Koeller will square off again for the House seat, which carries a two-year term, in the Nov. 2 election.

Asked to identify the most important issue in the race, Bivins said, “Tort reform, (which) will allow premiums for physicians’ malpractice insurance to moderate and thereby moderate health-care costs. Currently, physicians trained in Missouri medical schools are leaving the state and going to states where their insurance costs are significantly lower. We need to keep these highly trained professionals in Missouri.’’

Asked the same question, Koeller said, “The most important issue in this race is the concern for education funding in the ‘hold-harmless’ Mehlville School District.’’

Bivins, 65, 9 Idecker Court, 63129, is retired from the Dow Chemical Co. He and his wife, Ginger, have three grown children.

Bivins served two three-year terms — 1997 to 2003 — on the Mehlville Board of Education.

He said he is seeking re-election to the 97th District seat because he wants to “improve state services and funding to our community.’’

Koeller, 60, 4227 Chatford Court, 63129, is retired from Solutia Inc. and currently is employed with Kelly at Astaris as a distribution specialist. She and her husband, Edward, have three grown children.

Koeller, who was elected Tesson Ferry Township Democratic committeewoman in August, said she is seeking the 97th District seat because “I believe the voters are tired of partisan fighting in Washington and Jefferson City and are looking for candidates, regardless of party, who will work hard at resolving the health-care crisis, the budget shortages, elder care and other important issues facing us. I feel that my work background, life experiences and positions on these important issues will be of interest to the citizens, regardless of my party affiliation.’’

The candidates gave the following responses to a Call questionnaire:

What is your position on abortion?

Bivins said, “I am pro-life and have been endorsed by Missouri Right to Life.’’

Koeller said, “I oppose abortion. I believe there are alternatives for using state funds to Planned Parenthood.’’

What is your position on the death penalty?

Bivins said, “I am in favor of the death penalty.’’

Koeller said, “I am a supporter of the death penalty as it is presently codified in Missouri. At the same time, I understand that this is an awesome power given to the state. Therefore, I strongly believe that the accused must be afforded full due process and the state must clearly carry its burden of demonstrating the guilt of the accused.’’

Would you support placing before voters a constitutional amendment that, if approved, would repeal the supermajority requirement for school district bond issues?

Bivins said, “Yes. As a former school board member, I understand the enormous difficulty in achieving a four-sevenths’ vote, much less a two-thirds’ vote.’’

Koeller said, “First, I would support such a constitutional amendment because school funding is a very crucial element of our community. It has direct impact upon the quality of our schools and our ability to meet expanding need for growth, development and technology as we deliver services to our students and their families to provide the best educational opportunities that we can. Also, school funding is important to assist in promoting our community due to the fact that many businesses and individuals choose to reside in communities based upon the strength of the schools. With the present foundation formula in place, options for local funding are very valuable. The people should have the opportunity to decide this issue.’’

Are changes needed to the law allowing Missouri citizens to carry concealed weapons?

Bivins said, “I would much prefer those carrying concealed weapons in their vehicles meet the requirements all others must meet, including background checks and training.’’

Koeller said, “Yes. I will always support giving the citizens of my district the opportunity to vote on crucial issues such as this. Once they have spoken through their vote, I will support their position and not support legislation that reverses their decision, such as my opponent’s vote to veto his constituents’ decision against permitting people to conceal and carry weapons.’’

Are changes needed to the state’s current Open Meetings and Records Law? If so, what would you propose?

Bivins said, “I supported changes to the Open Meetings Law in the most recent legislative session. I would like to see how these changes work before enacting new legislation.’’

Koeller said, “If there are any changes to the Open Meetings and Records Law, it would be to the degree to enforce the requirements of notice and access to ensure all who are interested to have an opportunity to appear, be heard and to be fully informed, including access to information and records. The responsibility of government entities is no different to the public than that of corporations to hear their stockholders. Corporations have specific and defined requirements and obligations of notice, access and production to stockholders and there are punitive measures for failing to do so.

“Public entities should be no different, and I would propose changes necessary to guarantee these basic and inherent rights and through enforcement measures that provide those deprived remedies and access as well as hold the defiant entity publicly responsible either through misdemeanor law enforcement and/or fines,’’ she added.

The Legislature last session approved legislation protecting Missouri citizens from Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation, or SLAPP, lawsuits. Should the provisions of this legislation be expanded?

Bivins said, “The provisions should be expanded. I am currently working with other legislators in drafting language which will straighten the current SLAPP (law).’’

Koeller said, “I feel it should be expanded to cover citizens who speak out against projects that affect his/her community, but which is addressed at private individuals seeking state-sanctioned approval — i.e., a private company seeking a state license to operate a trash-transfer station in a local community. I would also propose a new rule of civil procedure that would require the plaintiff in a SLAPP suit to demonstrate a reasonable probability of success in their suit to the courts prior to being permitted to proceed with making discovery requests/conducting depositions — i.e., those procedures meant to intimidate citizens protesting such projects.’’

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