Aug 04

Election Day: The Ballot Issues

Note: Technical limitations are preventing this week’s program from being available directly on the website. If you want to watch or download the program, click here https://www.dropbox.com/s/op1ri9ghaijul4z/843-1-MOViewsBallotIssuesAugust2014.mp4

by Mike Ferguson

(Jefferson City, MO) – Election Day is Tuesday and we’ve got some big decisions to make, even though a small percentage of us will be at the polls to decide.

Election officials predict that around a quarter of eligible voters will actually show up and vote. That makes your ballot even more important.

In addition to deciding primary races throughout the state, voters will decide five statewide ballot issues. The Missouri Torch’s publisher, Duane Lester, explains what he sees in each of the proposals. I’m also posting the actual ballot language (in Italics).

Amendment One.

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed?

The potential costs or savings to governmental entities are unknown, but likely limited unless the resolution leads to increased litigation costs and/or the loss of federal funding.

This is the so-called “Right To Farm” amendment. If passed, it would make farming and ranching a right protected by the state constitution.

Lester says the proposal is, at least in part, a response to the 2010 passage of Proposition B. That was the crack down on “puppy mills” spearheaded by the Humane Society of the United States and other animal activist groups.

“The HSUS is a very anti-animal agriculture organization, and so the way it was explained to me is Amendment One is designed to prevent radical organizations from changing the way Missouri farmers operate.”

Many in Missouri’s agriculture industry were worried that it could be used to limit livestock farming operations. Lawmakers and Governor Nixon quickly hammered out an agreement to modify the law shortly after the election.

Next on the ballot is Amendment Five.

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to include a declaration that the right to keep and bear arms is a unalienable right and that the state government is obligated to uphold that right?

State and local governmental entities should have no direct costs or savings from this proposal. However, the proposal’s passage will likely lead to increased litigation and criminal justice related costs. The total potential costs are unknown, but could be significant.

If this one passes, the state constitution will expand recognition of the right to own and carry guns and ammunition. Lester believes this effort is being made with an eye on Washington, DC.

“It may be based in the idea that the federal government will, at some point, say ‘no, we’re going to tax ammunition and you can only have these guns.'”

The proposal would also make it harder for the state government to ban the carrying of concealed weapons. It will still allow the law to ban certain felons and those found to be mentally ill from having guns.

Amendment Seven.

Should the Missouri Constitution be changed to enact a temporary sales tax of three-quarters of one percent to be used solely to fund state and local highways, roads, bridges and transportation projects for ten years, with priority given to repairing unsafe roads and bridges?

This change is expected to produce $480 million annually to the state’s Transportation Safety and Job Creation Fund and $54 million for local governments. Increases in the gas tax will be prohibited. This revenue shall only be used for transportation purposes and cannot be diverted for other uses.

Supporters say it’s needed because the money is running out and we have thousands of miles of highways in the state that need fixed or expanded. Lester outlines one of the main arguments in opposition.

“Sales taxes are generally regressive, so this would have an impact on the poorest of Missourians. That’s the stance given by those who oppose this.”

While some things – like groceries and prescription medicines – would be exempt from the tax, it would be the largest tax increase in the state’s history in terms of total revenue raised. The question before you is simple: are you willing to pay more at the store in exchange for better roads and bridges?

A less contentious ballot measure is Amendment Eight.

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to create a “Veterans Lottery Ticket” and to use the revenue from the sale of these tickets for projects and services related to veterans?

The annual cost or savings to state and local governmental entities is unknown, but likely minimal. If sales of a veterans lottery ticket game decrease existing lottery ticket sales, the profits of which fund education, there could be a small annual shift in funding from education to veterans’ programs.

This one, if approved, will create a special lottery option to benefit veterans programs in the state. Currently, lottery sale profits are only permitted by law to fund public education.

This brings us to the final ballot issue you will decide: Amendment Nine.

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that the people shall be secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects?

State and local governmental entities expect no significant costs or savings.

This one deals with your privacy in a digital age. Lester says, if passed, it will give courts and police some new standards when it comes to searches.

“Along with everything the Fourth Amendment states, we’re adding emails, cell phones, computers, lap tops, all that.”

In other words, the police would have to get a warrant to search your phone’s text messages, pictures and call history or to search your laptop during encounters like traffic stops.

Missouri Secretary of State’s Ballot Issue Page: http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2014ballot/

The Missouri Torch: http://www.TheMissouriTorch.com

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/election-day-the-ballot-issues/