Following a candidate forum the News Tribune held Thursday at Jefferson City Hall, the newspaper sent additional questions to the candidates, some reader-submitted, that had not been asked during the forum because of time constraints.
Here are the responses from the Democratic candidates for the Missouri Senate's 6th District seat.
The district covers seven counties: Cole, Moniteau, Morgan, Miller, Maries, Osage and Gasconade.
In the order they are listed on the ballot, the candidates are Bryan Struebig, of Eldon; Nicole Thompson, of Jefferson City; and Mollie Freebairn, of Jefferson City.
The winner of the Aug. 7 primary will face Republican Mike Bernskoetter and Libertarian Steven Wilson, both of Jefferson City, in the Nov. 6 general election. Bernskoetter and Wilson have no opponents in the primary and, therefore, have not been included in this story.
The candidates' responses are posted in the order they appear on the Aug. 7 ballot.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: The legislative position you are seeking is technically a part-time job. But with this campaign, you likely have seen the amount of work and time the job can demand. How do you plan to balance your legislative duties with your personal/professional responsibilities?
Struebig: I would not have sought this position had I not already made accommodations to maintain both of my businesses and looked after the well-being of my family. Jefferson City is a 43-minute drive that members of my family make on a daily basis for work.
Thompson: My work as a safety and health consultant is, fortunately, very flexible. I can always take on additional training classes after the legislative session, if necessary. Truthfully, the Senate salary is higher than I was making when I first started at the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, so we already know how to make it work with our budget. I am dedicated to spending the time necessary to best serve my constituents, even if it means I have to, temporarily, set my career goals aside.
Freebairn: My role as state senator will have top priority. During the legislative session, the hours will include significant overtime. I'm accustomed to that. My hours as director of Show Me Solar are flexible, but dovetail with promoting renewable energy jobs and climate action to halt and reverse the increasing frequency and intensity of catastrophic weather events (such as the sudden severe thunderstorm that capsized a tour boat in Branson and the 27 reported tornadoes that tore through Iowa on Thursday).
Q: From reader Jeff Holzem: If elected, what specific steps will you take to promote renewable energy in Missouri?
Struebig: Many farmers in Missouri already use renewable energy in the form of solar-powered electrical fences and wind powered wells. I think some enticement will be needed to push residential new constructions to embrace solar. Additionally we will have to work to change the business model of our local electric co-ops, as well as those for-profit utility companies to embrace renewable energy option available.
Thompson: On the state level, I support programs that encourage utilities to get a higher percentage of their energy from renewable sources. I also support rebate programs that encourage consumers to purchase more efficient appliances and vehicles. I also will fight to ensure that solar customers are not charged beyond a reasonable fee to maintain their utility service. On a national level, I support carbon fee and dividend as a market-based approach to reducing carbon emissions.
Freebairn: I will work with the Legislature; Public Service Commission; state departments such as Natural Resources and Economic Development; and municipal, rural, and investor-owned utilities to develop an energy plan. To revitalize Missouri's economy, the state must utilize its own most abundant resources — solar, wind, geothermal and energy efficiency — to generate energy. Energy planning and economic development also will include working with the renewable energy industries, to promote tens of thousands of jobs across a wide range of the economic sector, such as architecture, construction, education, journalism, manufacturing, marketing and transportation.
Q: From readers Tricia Schlechte and Tom Sadowski: Given the recent Supreme Court decision regarding online sales taxes, what do you consider the highest priorities for any additional revenue the state might receive due to this?
Struebig: I think the Supreme Court really helped out states by allowing online sales tax, and Missouri should institute this immediately. I would earmark a substantial portion of this tax to be split between MoDOT and efforts to bring broadband internet to our rural communities. Online sales use our roadways as means of delivery and would help MoDOT, as I do not see the fuel tax passing in November. Rural broadband is essential for students as well small businesses in rural areas. Any additional revenue not given to MoDOT and rural broadband expansion should be used to increase state worker pay.
Thompson: My highest priorities for additional revenue are public education, infrastructure improvements and higher state worker salaries — all of which I see as vitally important to improving the economy in Missouri. Speaking of online sales taxes specifically, I want to ensure that they are implemented in such a way that they do not put an undue burden on small and startup companies, which can have a difficult time navigating the collection process. Additional consultative programs for such firms likely will be necessary to offset these issues.
Freebairn: It will require ongoing oversight to identify where this funding is most needed and can have the greatest benefit — such as increasing teacher pay, restoring lost benefits to the elderly and disabled, staffing for prisons which are now in urgent crisis (due to severe staffing shortages and inmate unrest bordering on riots due to unlivable conditions). Another urgent and immediate need for this revenue is reducing the high number (over 20 percent) of children in Missouri who are without adequate food and nutrition.