St. Louis teacher vies for 92nd District seat held by Beck, who was formerly on school board

By Erin Achenbach
Staff Reporter
eachenbach@callnewspapers.com

Math teacher William “Bill” Heisse, Republican, will contend with Affton’s current representative, Doug Beck, a Democrat, for the 92nd District Missouri House seat on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Beck, 53, 1020 9426 Brenda Ave., Affton, is the current state legislator for the 92nd House District as well as a pipefitter with Corrigan Company. He is married to Marilyn, and they have two grown children, Kara and Corey.

Beck had some college education as well as a five-year apprenticeship. He served on the Affton Board of Education from April 2009 to April 2018. He is a member of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 567 as well as the Affton Chamber of Commerce.

“Community service” is Beck’s main motivation for running.

Heisse, 51, 9835 Arv Ellen Drive, Affton is currently a math teacher at Fanning Middle School. He is married to Jennifer Sharamitaro and has four children: William, Luke, Joshua and Nicholas.

Heisse is a former U.S. Marine who received his undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Missouri – St. Louis and is currently working on his master’s degree in political science. He a member of the American Federation of Teachers No. 420.

“Service has been a large part of my life, whether as a U.S. Marine, public school teacher or high-school and college hockey coach. I have made it a priority to assist people in having successful and positive experiences in life. Now, I wish to provide the same assistance to the residents in my district. I will be an active and effective voice for the 92nd District. I will put forth all of my efforts to making our community a model for the state of Missouri,” Heisse said on why he is running for election.

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?

Beck said, “Attacks on workers. For the last two years there has been a no-holds-barred attack on workers’ rights.”

Heisse said, “Job creation and the economic development of our commercial real-estate spaces is the primary issue in our district. We must stimulate economic growth in our community to increase the number of family-supporting jobs, raise the quality of life for residents and make our neighborhoods an attractive location for people to live and work.”

What other issues do you perceive in your race?

Beck said, “Truly funding K-12 education. Real ethics reform to clean up the corruption in Jefferson City. We need affordable and accessible health care.”

Heisse said, “Ensuring that our youth are provided an education that corresponds to employment opportunities. Currently we place too much emphasis on proficiency testing and college readiness. By taking the necessary steps to revise and reform our educational practices, we can provide students will the necessary skills to increase their marketability to potential employers.

“Combating the perceived increase and fears about crime in our community. Whether break-ins or vandalism, we need to guarantee that our residents feel safe and protected. We can achieve this goal by providing our law-enforcement personnel with the tools necessary to keep our community secure.

“While not a state issue per se, residents are concerned about the proposed housing development along Heege Road. Residents that I have talked to in that area are extremely opposed to this project. Community leaders need to assist the St. Louis County Council members to find alternative proposals that will enhance the quality of life for our community.”

What is your position on abortion?

Beck said, “We need to trust women to make their own decisions regarding their health care. Women should have the right to choose.”

Heisse said, “I am pro-life and proud to be endorsed by Missouri Right to Life. I believe that there are instances to include cases of rape, incest or where the life of the mother or newborn are in danger. In these cases, parents should consult with family, medical personnel and others with shared experiences to form an informed supportive decision that families can accept.”

What is your position on the death penalty?

Beck said, “Until we can be sure beyond a shadow of a doubt these folks are guilty, I will be against it.”

Heisse said, “I support the death penalty for the most heinous of crimes. I believe that the death penalty if properly applied can be an effective deterrent for decreasing the instances of serious crimes.”

What is your position on tax-increment financing? Are changes needed to this law? 

Beck said, “I am against tax-increment financing as they are currently used. There is too big of an impact on schools and fire departments.”

Heisse said, “Tax-increment funding can be somewhat helpful in restoring blighted areas; however, elected officials should tightly enforce the manner through which these subsidies are applied. This type of funding should only be considered when all other options have not produced the desired results. I would rather see government develop cost-effective plans that enact policies allowing small business to grow and flourish without burdening local taxpayers or harming our communities.”

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

Beck said, “Yes.”

Heisse said, “Long-term increases to taxes for our community should be a decision that residents understand and support. I would be opposed to a constitutional amendment repealing the supermajority requirement. If a tax increase is necessary, then school boards and local officials should provide the necessary information and communicate effectively with local residents to have their required backing and acceptance.”

Are changes needed to the state’s foundation formula for funding education?

Beck said, “The formula was lowered by $450 million a year. We need to raise the formula. We have 25 districts going four days a week to save money.”

Heisse said, “If Missouri legislators believe that all Missouri students should receive a quality education, then some reforms to the foundation formula will be necessary to make school districts more equitable. Unfortunately, I believe that too many times, legislators use this issue as an excuse for explaining the failures of many school districts. As a classroom teacher, I see the real problem of funding is how this revenue is applied and whether the programs have any real effect on student learning.”

Are changes needed to the law allowing Missouri citizens to carry concealed weapons? If so, why? If not, why not?

Beck said, “The lifetime license without training is irresponsible.”

Heisse said, “Conceal-carry weapon laws have been effective, and no changes need to be legislated at this time. I support the rights of law-abiding citizens to safely protect themselves. Stricter punishments for individuals who possess illegal arms and improper use of a firearm in the commission of a crime should be enacted.”

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

Beck said, “I always lean toward more transparency unless it puts individuals’ information in public.”

Heisse said, “Transparency should be a priority for all our elected officials. If we are committed to true transparency and accountability, then voters should be provided access and information necessary to make informed decisions about the effectiveness of their government and elected officials. Communication is the most effective means of having an informed and actively involved electorate.”

What do you propose to generate revenue for road and bridge improvements?

Beck said, “Voters will have an opportunity to vote on a 10-cent gas tax phased in over five years.”

Heisse said, “Voters will be able to decide in this current election whether they would agree to an increase in Missouri’s gas tax. The maintenance and upkeep of our state’s roads, bridges and highways is key to our continued economic growth. If the gas tax proposition is defeated, legislators will have to consider alternate means of financing. Supporting the use of alternative fuel vehicles and user fees will need to be examined to ensure that our infrastructure is one of the best in the nation.”

Are changes needed to the state’s eminent domain laws to prevent abuse? 

Beck said, “Changes are needed to ensure that eminent domain is used only when our common good is realized.”

Heisse said, “Private property by definition is privately owned, and eminent domain should only be used to advance projects that further the public good. Abuses of eminent domain should be curtailed, and corporate interests should not be permitted to infringe on the rights of property owners.”

What will you do to improve Missouri’s economy? 

Doug Beck

Beck said, “Strengthen our public education system, fix our infrastructure and increase worker development programs.”

Heisse said, “I would support and assist in the development of small-business and entrepreneurial ventures, most notably in the 92nd District and South St. Louis County. We need to provide initiatives and incentives that will encourage and support our local businesses in order to help our community flourish. As a potential legislator, I believe that part of my responsibilities will include seeking out, finding and encouraging small-business ventures to grow and develop in Affton and Concord. Our community has the infrastructure, commercial and industrial space and a qualified workforce to make our district a model for the state of Missouri.”

Would you support legislation to facilitate a merger of St. Louis County and St. Louis city?

Beck said, “That decision should be made on a local level.”

Heisse said, “I am opposed to any current plan for a city and county merger. Residents of the 92nd District should not have to spend their hard-earned income to bail out the governance of St. Louis city. I would additionally oppose any statewide referendum to merge the two entities. I believe that the final decision should rest with the residents who live in these communities.”

Are changes needed to the Public School and Education Employee Retirement Systems of Missouri? If so, what would you propose?

Beck said, “No.”

Heisse said, “The PSRS is one of the best in the country. Teachers have worked hard and paid faithfully into a fiscally sound program. Attempting to change or gain access to these funds for other than their intended purpose should not be permitted.”

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.

Beck said, “I don’t think that would be a good idea because of potential leaks of personal information.”

Heisse said, “I believe that our residents want greater integrity, transparency and accountability from their elected officials. At the local and state level, there are very few instances of safety or security for our residents that secrecy should be necessary. The public and the press should have as much information as possible so that our citizenry is informed and knowledgeable about the conduct and application of our governmental officials and offices.”

Would you support legislation imposing limits on campaign contributions?

Beck said, “Yes, and voters will have that chance on Proposition 1, which I am in favor of.”

Heisse said, “Current limits on campaign contributions that were enacted by voter referendum are sufficient. I believe that contributions from special interests, PACs or political-action committees and so-called ‘dark money’ are of greater concern. When voters are demanding greater accountability and transparency, elected officials should not have reservations about providing detailed records concerning the origin of their contributions.”

What did you think of the performance of former Gov. Eric Greitens? What do you think of the performance of Gov. Mike Parson?

Beck said, “I think Eric Greitens was a disgrace to the office. Mike Parson is a good person who I will definitely agree with most of the time.”

Heisse said, “I think that while the former governor had some policies that he thought would be necessary for the success of our state, the atmosphere in which he attempted to enact policy and the subsequent events leading to his departure was unfortunate for the state as a whole. This unhappy episode once again demonstrates that integrity and character matter when we install elected officials. I am very pleased with the direction that Gov. Parson is leading our state. I agree with him on a number of issues including workforce development, consensus building in the Legislature and the need to improve Missouri’s infrastructure.”

What will or have you done to work across the aisle in Jefferson City?   

William “Bill” Heisse

Beck said, “I have worked with several of my Republican colleagues on educational and labor issues.”

Heisse said, “One must be open and considerate of all points of view in order to be an effective legislator. The best method for passing successful and essential legislation is through working with bipartisan support. I will consider all bills that have merit and make an informed decision based on what is necessary and advantageous for our community. I will ensure that I understand, consider and respond appropriately to all legislation, taking into account the wishes of the residents who have elected me.”

If elected, what bill would you sponsor as your first legislation?

Beck said, “I have a TIF reform bill, a personal data-protection bill, and I’m working on a workers’ bill of rights.”

Heisse said, “Legislation designed at providing initiatives and incentives for small business and entrepreneurial ventures would be the first legislation I would sponsor in order to continue the economic growth of our community. I will also eliminate regulations and restrictions that prevent or impede individuals who would like to open or expand a small business. Our district has room for growth, and our state legislator should be committed to further economic development in our area.”

Should there be a Transparency Division created within the office of the Missouri Attorney General for the sole purpose of prosecuting violations of Public Records and Public Meetings statutes?

Beck said, “I believe that division would be better served in the Missouri Ethics Commission to take away the partisanship.”

Heisse said, “Our current attorney general has stated his desire for a Transparency Division to be created. As a candidate, I have campaigned on holding government accountable and increasing transparency. If the attorney general’s office believes that the creation of this division is necessary for the office to prosecute violations, we should support efforts to further this policy.”

Should the Missouri Attorney General be given subpoena power to investigate Sunshine Law violations?

Beck said, “This power should be with the Missouri Ethics Commission.”

Heisse said, “As with the previous question, I would support the attorney general’s recommendations that are necessary for investigating violations of the law.”

With fewer than 50 percent of rural Missourians having access to high-speed internet service, should Missouri’s newspapers continue to be the medium in which all public notices required by law are published and distributed in print to provide due process to those persons affected by the public notices?

Beck said, “Until we can ensure that people will have access to the information, yes.”

Heisse said, “Yes, all public notices should be published and distributed through both the newspaper and on the internet.

“Yes, this practice should continue. Additionally, our government should be supportive of policies designed to make the state a leader in technological advancements. More action is necessary to ensure that all Missouri residents have access to the most modern means of communication and information sharing.”

Should members and staff of all public governmental bodies (including state, county and local, and public colleges and universities) be prohibited from downloading or using software designed to send encrypted messages by electronic means that automatically self-destruct on communication devices purchased with public money? In other words, should the Confide app or other such software be prohibited from use because such apps are capable of destroying public records that should be available to citizens?

Beck said, “Yes, absolutely yes.”

Heisse said, “Absolutely not. Elected officials should not be in the business of trying to hide or delete information or communications on any device that is paid for with public funds.”

Do you support right-to-work legislation?

Beck said, “I was one of the leading fighters against right-to-work in the Missouri House and in the streets.”

Heisse said,“I voted against the right-to-work proposition in August. As a member of a union, I recognize the importance these organizations play in protecting workers’ rights. Missouri voters spoke loud and clear that they oppose right-to-work initiatives in August. As a legislator, I will not support or permit any legislation attempting to subvert the will of Missouri voters.”

Should Missouri legalize medical marijuana?

Beck said, “Yes, with safeguards, and our voters will choose from one of three ballot issues.”

Heisse said, “Missouri voters will have the ability to vote on medical marijuana in this upcoming election. I have received calls from a number of residents asking me to support these initiatives. In order to support any such proposal, I would need to be ensured that distribution would be tightly controlled. There would need to be restrictions on the medical personnel permitted to write the prescriptions and the individuals who were designated to receive medicinal marijuana.”

Do you support work requirements for Medicaid or SNAP recipients?

Beck said, “No, most folks receiving these benefits are already working or unable to work.”

Heisse said, “I would support legislation designed at implementing work requirements on SNAP; however, I would not support work requirements on Medicaid. With a few exceptions, citizens receiving government assistance who are able-bodied should seek employment opportunities, reducing the burden placed on the taxpaying residents.”

What will or have you done to identify any waste or inefficiencies in Missouri government?

Beck said, “Unfortunately I was not on the Budget Committee. This is where you get a good idea of what can be changed. I will try to get on that committee this year.”

Heisse said, “It is incumbent upon legislators to ensure that our government bureaucracies are operating efficiently and as they were intended. I will support audits to guarantee that government is not involved in fraudulent and wasteful spending. I will be active in eliminating inefficient programs and providing alternative methods to operate programs more efficiently.”