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Voting

Voters make their selections in this 2012 file photo.

ST. LOUIS — The Board of Aldermen on Friday voted to require candidates in city elections to show receipts proving that they owe no outstanding local taxes.

Under the current city code, people running for office must sign an affidavit declaring they’re paid up. But election officials check the accuracy of those statements only if someone complains that a candidate is delinquent.

“The validity of the process should never be in doubt,” said Collector of Revenue Gregory F.X. Daly, who pushed for the legislation. He said “chaos” in recent years regarding some candidates’ qualifications “has put a stain on the system.”

The bill, sponsored by Alderman Joe Vaccaro, D-23rd Ward, was passed without opposition.

The measure also would require the collector’s office to notify the city Election Board after the candidate filing deadline whether any have tax delinquencies. That’s aimed at catching those who become in arrears after they file for office.

The legislation also adds water and refuse collection bills to the checklist for city candidates; they’ll also have to show proof that they’ve paid those.

Now if a complaint about unpaid taxes is verified, as happened to Aldermanic President Lewis Reed when he ran for reelection earlier this year, a candidate gets seven days to pay up or be kicked off the ballot. Reed did so.

The St. Louis requirements are in addition to a state law requiring candidates across Missouri to sign a statement they don’t owe any state income taxes or local taxes. City candidates must file both city and state declarations.

Enforcement of the state provision also is complaint-driven. But the Legislature in its session earlier this year failed to pass a bill that would have required election authorities to verify the accuracy of all state declarations.

The bill passed by aldermen Friday doesn’t deal with whether candidates follow residency requirements. Candidates challenging an opponent’s adherence to those laws must file suit.

A 2014 court ruling said state election officials didn’t have legal authority to unilaterally pass judgment on a candidate’s qualifications. Since then, St. Louis and St. Louis County election officials have said they believe the ruling also prevents them from policing residency issues.

Daly and Vaccaro said residency remains a problem and that they still hope a way can be found to address it. “This is one step at a time,” Daly said.

Also Friday:

• Aldermen passed new zoning rules for medical marijuana facilities.

• Aldermen gave preliminary approval to a $1.1 billion city budget for the fiscal year beginning next month.

• Alderman Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward, introduced a proposed city charter amendment requiring voter approval for any plan to lease St. Louis Lambert International Airport to private companies. The charter amendment itself would first have to be passed by voters.

Spencer said she would continue pushing as well for her proposed city ordinance requiring a citywide vote on airport privatization. The city’s chief attorney has said that the measure wouldn’t be legally binding.

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Mark Schlinkmann is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.