Jim Murphy and Ron Rammaha, pictured above, introduce their platform at the June 21 joint meeting of the Concord-Lemay and Gravois Republican clubs. Photos by Jessica Belle Kramer.
By Jessica Belle Kramer
For the Call
Two business owners from Oakville and Concord are running for the Missouri House to succeed the late Rep. Cloria Brown, R-Lemay, whose seat is vacant after she died in office in March.
Jim Murphy of Oakville and Ron Rammaha of Concord are running in the Republican primary for the 94th District set to be held Tuesday, Aug. 7. The winner will face off in November against Mehlville Board of Education member Jean Pretto, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Murphy, 67, 4938 Karington Place Drive, Oakville, is the owner of Shoppers Rule Inc., an online shopping mall. He and his wife, Maryellen, have three grown children: Kathleen, Maureen and James, more commonly known as “Jamey.” Kathleen and Jamey both served on the Mehlville Board of Education.
Murphy is running for the seat “to continue the good work of Cloria Brown.” He has never held public office before.
Rammaha, 54, 4239 Von Talge Road, Concord, is the CEO of One World USA, a real-estate development company. He and his wife, Norma, have two grown children and two children attending Lindbergh Schools.
“I want the voice of the people to be heard, and I can help achieve that,” Rammaha said is the reason he is running for the seat.
The candidates gave the following responses to a Call questionnaire:
What issue do you consider the single most important issue in this race and why?
Murphy said, “Economic development and revitalization of our retail sector.”
Rammaha said, “Job creation is the most important issue. We must do more to attract and retain family-supporting jobs.”
What other issues do you perceive in your race and your position on each:
Murphy said, “City-county merger — covered in my answers to your questions below.”
Rammaha said, “Standing up for our constitutional rights is of the utmost importance, and I will work hard to defend our freedom of speech, religious liberty, our right to keep and bear arms and the other fundamental freedoms protected by the Constitution.”
What is your position on abortion?
Murphy said, “I am a strong supporter of ‘right to life’ and protecting the rights of the unborn. This is a controversial subject, and I understand there are differing views, but this is not a hard stance for me to take. An unborn child is a living being, and I simply cannot with good conscience justify killing a child under any circumstance. I do understand that protecting the life of the mother is of equal concern.”
Rammaha said, “I am 100-percent pro-life and believe abortion should only be permissible in situations where the life of the mother is threatened.”
What is your position on the death penalty?
Murphy said, “I am not in favor of the death penalty even though certain crimes are so heinous it would be a just sentence. I cannot in good conscience be a supporter of ‘right to life’ and support the death penalty.”
Rammaha said, “I support the use of the death penalty to punish offenders for committing heinous crimes and believe that this serves as a deterrent to others.”
What is your position on tax-increment financing? Are changes needed to this law?
Murphy said, “The original intent of tax-increment financing (TIF) subsidies was to encourage redevelopment of blighted areas. The use of TIFs has gone far afield of the original intent. I am generally opposed to the use of TIFs as they punish our school districts, place existing local businesses at a competitive disadvantage and rarely spur development that would not have occurred with or without a TIF.”
Rammaha said, “TIFs have been abused in recent years, and I would support changes ensuring they can only be used in situations where they are absolutely necessary to prompt investment in blighted areas.”
Would you support placing a constitutional amendment before voters that, if approved, would repeal the supermajority requirement for school-district bond issues?
Murphy said, “I would not support placing this in our Constitution. Long-term taxpayer obligation should be important enough that it will be supported by the vast majority of the citizens having to foot the bill.”
Rammaha said, “No. A higher threshold for school district bonding is very important as it requires a clear public mandate for spending.”
Are changes needed to the state’s foundation formula for funding education?
Murphy said, “The basic problem with the foundation formula is the formula itself. It is so complex that very few legislators and fewer citizens understand how it is calculated. The state has fully funded the formula the last two years, and that is a good thing. Any changes made to the formula must be done with care to prevent unintended consequences.”
Rammaha said, “No.”
Are changes needed to the law allowing Missouri citizens to carry concealed weapons? If so, why? If not, why not?
Murphy said, “CCW laws in Missouri have been effective and do not need to be changed. We do need to strengthen the laws for use of illegal guns.”
Rammaha said, “I believe we need to make it easier for law-abiding Missourians to carry concealed weapons.”
Are changes needed to the state’s current Open Meetings and Records Law?
Murphy said, “In light of recent events I believe that apps, like Confide, that allow text messages to vanish without a trace after being read and prevent saving, forwarding, printing or taking a screenshot of the text message should be prohibited. The use of these apps for government business is a blatant attempt to usurp record laws and any government employee use should be punishable by law.”
Rammaha said, “Yes, the government should operate transparently, and I believe that the people of our state need more tools to hold the government accountable for violations of the Sunshine Law.”
What do you propose to generate revenue for road and bridge improvements?
Murphy said, “The Missouri Department of Transportation, or MoDOT, has one of the largest state budgets that is dependent on motor fuel taxes for funding. With more efficient electric and alternative fuel vehicles coming out, this funding will no longer be sustainable. It may be necessary to fund MoDOT through general revenue or create a new funding alternative based on road use.”
Rammaha said, “Ultimately, the voters must approve any tax increase, and they have a chance to vote on a gas tax increase this November. If that is rejected, it will join a sales tax and toll roads as options that voters do not find palatable.”
Are changes needed to the state’s eminent domain laws to prevent abuse?
Murphy said, “Eminent domain was intended to be used for public-works projects that benefited the common good. It was never intended for commercial projects and should be restricted to the original intent.”
Rammaha said, “Yes, absolutely. The government should not be able to take land and transfer it to politically-connected individuals for private developments. That is a big problem and has to stop.“
What will you do to improve Missouri’s economy?
Murphy said, “I am more concerned about development and economics of the 94th District. We need to address the decline of our brick-and-mortar retailers. Retail is reinventing itself to conform to new shopping patterns. Government must plow the road to make the transition to web-based shopping, drive-up pickup and multi-use shopping centers as seamless as possible. We need to preserve retail jobs and preserve our commercial tax base. Protecting our trades and local companies from an influx of transient workers who are undercutting prices, offer poor quality work, while paying little or no taxes is a priority. This is a growing problem and must be addressed.”
Rammaha said, “I will work to lower taxes, cut regulations and reduce bureaucracy. Smaller government will allow our economy to grow faster.”
Would you support legislation to facilitate a merger of St. Louis County and St. Louis city?
Murphy said, “There is plenty of room for city and county cooperation, but I have not seen any plans that would not place a financial burden on county residents. I will oppose any attempt to put this issue on a statewide ballot as this issue is a ‘St. Louis issue’ and should be decided by the St. Louis area residents.”
Rammaha said, “No.”
Are changes needed to the Public School and Education Employee Retirement Systems of Missouri? If so, what would you propose?
Murphy said, “The PSRS annual report indicates the system is on sound financial footing.“
Rammaha said, “No. I know that lawmakers have spoken about raiding the teacher pension to shore up other state pension systems, but this cannot be allowed to happen. Teachers pay into their retirement system and should be allowed to keep their benefits.”
Would you support amending the state’s Sunshine Law to require public governmental bodies to make audio recordings of all closed meetings? Such recordings would not be available to the public or press.
Murphy said, “I don’t see a need for audio recording of a closed meeting. We live in an age of everything being recorded, and I believe the existence of a recording device stifles open conversation, creativity and idea sharing.“
Rammaha said, “Yes. This will ensure that if it is found that a government body has been closing meetings for improper purposes, the audio can be made public.”
Would you support legislation imposing limits on campaign contributions?
Murphy said, “Campaign-finance limitations were put into effect this year by voter referendum. The current $2,600 limit to candidates is sufficient. The unintended consequence is that political-action committees and unions have a greater role in campaign messaging as they work in the background of highly contested races without candidate input.”
Rammaha said, “There are already campaign contribution limits in place, and we have seen that they have had the opposite effect they were intended to have. Instead of promoting transparency and showing voters where the money is coming from, the campaign-contribution law has resulted in the rise of shadowy political organizations that do not report their donors and spend millions on independent expenditures.”
What did you think of the performance of former Gov. Eric Greitens? What do you think of the performance of Gov. Mike Parson?
Murphy said, “There is an important lesson to be learned from the resignation of Gov. Eric Greitens. Values and integrity matter. Unfortunately, the abundant lack of integrity permeated every aspect of this dark chapter of Missouri history. Gov. Mike Parson is a man of integrity and will restore confidence in the office of the governor.”
Rammaha said, “Gov. Greitens seemed to be more concerned with generating headlines than getting actual policy passed, and this past session illustrated that. Left to their own devices, the Legislature passed more bills in 2018 than they did when Gov. Greitens tried to lead the legislative agenda in 2017. I think Gov. Parson will be an excellent governor. He is honest, hardworking and seems dedicated to coming to a consensus on issues that are important to our state.”
Are changes needed at the state level to make elections smoother in St. Louis County? If so, what would you propose?
Murphy said, “By moving of the Board of Elections to North West Plaza the B.O.E. lost a considerable amount of Election Deputy Paid Volunteers who were not willing to travel that far at 4 a.m. and extend the already long day. Rather reaching out to the community for help, the Saint Louis Board of elections has chosen to decrease election oversight by eliminating Election Deputies altogether. This I believe was a foolish decision and I will call for the Missouri Secretary of State to investigate this matter as the integrity of our elections is at stake.”
Rammaha said, “While some changes should certainly be made, I am reluctant to suggest that the state government should be in charge of dictating those changes. Local control is very important to me, and we have to find local solutions to local problems.”
If elected, what bill would you sponsor as your first legislation?
Murphy said, “The recent proposed 160-apartment development off Lindbergh Boulevard was the latest example of St. Louis County poorly communicating a public hearing. The public-hearing sign was placed 175 feet from the road in the woods and was almost impossible to read. Although this development would have impacted traffic for all area residents, the county only mailed notices to homes within 1,000 feet. I would propose notice be mailed to all residents within a half mile and require signs be placed in a conspicuous area so that they can be seen and read.”
Rammaha said, “A regulatory reduction proposal requiring the state to examine existing regulations and discard any that needlessly interfere with our economy.”