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What Do all those Amendments Do? Glad you asked!

Monday, October 17, 2016 6:26
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(Before It's News)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 Americans will go to the polls to cast our ballots on a number of issues from President to dog catcher (assuming anyone can win the latter or the former for that matter).

Here in Missouri, we will also be voting on five (5) state Constitutional amendments and one (1) Proposition that changes statutes.  A medical marijuana initiative petition was circulated but came up a short on the necessary signatures.

Each election cycle, United for Missouri takes a look at the ballot measures. We try to give you some additional information or insight about them.  Often we give our view about whether the measures should get a thumbs up or thumbs down from voters. Let’s take a look at the measures currently on the ballot.

Constitutional Amendments

Official Ballot Title
Constitutional Amendment 1

[full text

[Proposed by Article IV, Section 47(c), Missouri Constitution (SJR 1, 2005)]

Official Ballot Title:

Shall Missouri continue for 10 years the one-tenth of one percent sales/use tax that is used for soil and water conservation and for state parks and historic sites, and resubmit this tax to the voters for approval in 10 years?

The measure continues and does not increase the existing sales and use tax of one-tenth of one percent for 10 years. The measure would continue to generate approximately $90 million annually for soil and water conservation and operation of the state park system.

 Fair Ballot Language: 

“yes” vote will continue for 10 years the one-tenth of one percent sales/use tax that is used for soil and water conservation and for state parks and historic sites. This will be resubmitted to the voters for approval in 10 years.

“no” vote will not continue this sales/use tax.

If passed, this measure will not increase or decrease taxes.

COMMENTS
Amendment 1 would reauthorize the Parks and Soil sales tax. The tax has been in place since 1984 and is required to be reauthorized by voters every 10 years.  The Fair Ballot language is not entirely accurate. If voters fail to reauthorize the sales tax it WILL DECREASE taxes by one-tenth cent.

Overall the tax has done what it is advertised to do. It was intended to decrease soil erosion in Missouri and has done so.  One-half (1/2) of the one-tenth (1/10) sales tax goes to state parks and represents three-fourths of the parks division annual budget.

Recently, there has been some question about some of the groups receiving money from the parks department. As we get more information, we’ll update this issue.
Recommendation: Vote your conscience

Official Ballot Title
Constitutional Amendment 2

[full text]

[Proposed by Initiative Petition]

Official Ballot Title:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:

  • establish limits on campaign contributions by individuals or entities to political parties, political committees, or committees to elect candidates for state or judicial office;
  • prohibit individuals and entities from intentionally concealing the source of such contributions;
  • require corporations or labor organizations to meet certain requirements in order to make such contributions; and
  • provide a complaint process and penalties for any violations of this amendment?

It is estimated this proposal will increase state government costs by at least $118,000 annually and have an unknown change in costs for local governmental entities. Any potential impact to revenues for state and local governmental entities is unknown.

 Fair Ballot Language:

“yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to establish limits on campaign contributions by individuals or entities to political parties, political committees, or committees to elect candidates for state or judicial office. This amendment prohibits individuals and entities from intentionally concealing the source of such contributions. This amendment also requires corporations or labor organizations to meet certain requirements in order to make such contributions. This amendment further provides a complaint process and penalties for any violations of this amendment.

“no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution to establish limits on campaign contributions.

If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.

COMMENTS:

Americans today are willing to accept perception as reality even though there may be no facts to support the perception.  It could be argued that the recent Missouri primary showed that the perception of buying elections is not only untrue but doesn’t happen. Amendment 2 is an attempt to use people’s emotional state to convince them to vote against their own interest.

Political speech takes many forms to include campaign contributions. Amendment 2 is a clear and convincing attack on political speech. In fact, Amendment 2 is an attack on free speech period!

Amendment 2 will not change people’s perceptions of politicians. It will not stop the flow of money to campaigns, it will just rearrange it. EVERY attempt at campaign finance reform has resulted in “new ways” to get around them. In fact, many of the so-called loopholes that exist today were campaign finance reform “fixes” of yesterday (political action committees, soft money, etc.)!

What Amendment 2 will do is give a false sense that something has been done when it hasn’t been at all. Guaranteed that people will be just as dissatisfied with the political scene if Amendment 2 is passed as they are now.

Amendment 2 also contains some provisions that may violate the constitution and provisions of SCOTUS opinion in Buckley v Valeo. The court determined that an individual or organization has the absolute First Amendment right to spend an unlimited amount of his/its own money expressly advocating the election or defeat of particular candidates so long as there is no actual coordination between the individual or organization and the political candidates at issue.

Many will say, “I can’t afford to give big money to politicians so my voice is drowned out”. Again that’s perception, especially on the state level that isn’t born out. Incumbents will almost always have more money than challengers. Capping campaign finance limits won’t change that simple fact. But even worse, approving of campaign finance limits ignores the fact that when you curtail the free speech of others you are curtailing your own if not now, in the future.

There is no difference in what Amendment 2 is wanting to do and curtailing your ability to volunteer your time as you see fit to campaigns. A future Amendment 2 could just as easily curtail your ability to volunteer more than 1 hour during a campaign cycle as it curtails anyone’s ability to give whatever amount they so desire to a candidate.

When we as voters decide to limit the speech of others in any way, we are saying it’s ok to do it all. And when we say that, we surrender our credibility to object when some form of our speech is sought be curtailed in some way.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe that’s a good option for our future!

RECOMMENDATION: Vote NO — protect all free speech (even that which we may not like to hear)!

Official Ballot Title
Constitutional Amendment 3

[full text]

[Proposed by Initiative Petition]

Official Ballot Title:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:

  • increase taxes on cigarettes each year through 2020, at which point this additional tax will total 60 cents per pack of 20;
  • create a fee paid by cigarette wholesalers of 67 cents per pack of 20 on certain cigarettes, which fee shall increase annually; and
  • deposit funds generated by these taxes and fees into a newly established Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund?

When cigarette tax increases are fully implemented, estimated additional revenue to state government is $263 million to $374 million annually, with limited estimated implementation costs. The revenue will fund only programs and services allowed by the proposal. The fiscal impact to local governmental entities is unknown.

 Fair Ballot Language:

“yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to increase taxes on cigarettes each year through 2020, at which point this additional tax will total 60 cents per pack of 20. This amendment also creates a fee paid by cigarette wholesalers of 67 cents per pack of 20 on certain cigarettes. This amendment further provides that the funds generated by these taxes and fees shall be deposited into a newly established Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund.

“no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution relating to taxes and fees on cigarettes.

If passed, this measure will increase taxes on cigarettes.

COMMENTS:

If it weren’t for Amendment 3, Amendment 2 would be the worst proposal on our ballot in November! As it is, Amendment 3 is one of the worst, most deceitful measures I have ever seen on a ballot.

Amendment 3 supporters will tell you that “it’s for the children!”. That alone should be your clue that it’s bad! When you have to resort to using kids as hostages to achieve your objective you know there is something wrong. And there is plenty wrong with Amendment 3.

You may believe that many of the provisions of Amendment 3 are good. And some of them are. You may believe Early Childhood Education (ECE) is a good program even though studies indicate any educational gains from ECE are gone by early years of grade school. School choice for preschoolers is a good thing. It’s too bad we don’t have that in our educational system across the board. We would have a better education outcome in our state if we did!

Most Missourians believe that their local school boards are elected to oversee what is best for public education in our communities. And most Missourians would likely believe that the Amendment 3 funds would be distributed to local boards based on the needs for preschool programs in each district. If you find yourself in that camp, you would be wrong! Amendment 3 does not include provisions for local boards to receive and distribute the funds. It puts unelected bureaucrats in charge of spending over $300 million!

All of that and more is bad enough. But when you consider the way that these basket of goodies is achieved is not only through an approximate 350% tax increase on cigarettes but also through an additional nearly 400% increase in taxes on Big Tobacco’s competitors!

Yes you read that right! Amendment 3 would impose a nearly 750% increase in the taxes paid by Big Tobacco’s competitors! There are hundreds of millions of dollars in reasons Big Tobacco is funding this measure…they stand to gain market share from their competitors by convincing voters not to pay attention to the smoke behind the curtain.

Big Tobacco signed an agreement to avoid huge payouts from lawsuits. They did so because they lied to Congress and the American people about the health effects of their products.  Big Tobacco agreed to this settlement in order to significantly reduce their liabilities. They also expected their competitors most of whom were not even in existence at the time and who did not lie to Congress or the American people or get to negotiate the settlement, to pay the same price as they did.  Sounds good doesn’t it? Imagine being able to force your competitors to pay for something you did!

We are often asked about why pro-life groups and pro-choice groups oppose Amendment 3. While United for Missouri does not engage in social issues (we are chartered for fiscal/limited government), the best summary we can give to anyone regarding this question is that both sides point out that Amendment 3 would for the very first time add “abortion”, “abortion services” and “medical emergencies” to our state constitution. And it would do so without any definitions. This is an extremely poor policy and both sides rightfully oppose it.

Perhaps you’re a non-smoker as am I. But there’s something wrong with taxing others to get what you want especially when it’s unrelated to the item being taxed. And even worse, there’s a lot wrong with taxing Big Tobacco competitors in order to reward Big Tobacco with an unfair advantage. I for one refuse to do that.

RECOMMENDATION: Vote NO — crony capitalism at its worst using kids as pawns!

Official Ballot Title
Constitutional Amendment 4

[full text]

[Proposed by Initiative Petition]

Official Ballot Title:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to prohibit a new state or local sales/use or other similar tax on any service or transaction that was not subject to a sales/use or similar tax as of January 1, 2015?

Potential costs to state and local governmental entities are unknown, but could be significant.  The proposal’s passage would impact governmental entity’s ability to revise their tax structures.  State and local governments expect no savings from this proposal.

 Fair Ballot Language:

“yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to prohibit a new state or local sales/use or other similar tax on any service or transaction. This amendment only applies to any service or transaction that was not subject to a sales/use or similar tax as of January 1, 2015.

“no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution to prohibit such state or local sales/use or other similar tax.

If passed, this measure will not increase or decrease taxes.

COMMENTS:

The November ballot is chock full of bad amendments. They have one thing in common – they are designed to sound good even though they really aren’t with the hopes of persuading voters not to look too deeply because they will find out they are really special interest measures. Amendment 4 shares that common trait.

The language in the amendment presents some unintended consequences and a Constitutional problem.

Section 26. In order to prohibit an increase in the tax burden on the citizens of Missouri, state and local sales  and  use  taxes  (or  any  similar  transaction-based  tax) shall  not be expanded to impose taxes on  any service or transaction that was not subject  to sales, use or similar transaction-based tax on January 1, 2015.

The first problem is the language says there will be no (new) sales tax imposed on “ANY service(s)” OR “transaction not subject to sales, use or similar transaction-based tax…”. An enterprising lawyer will bring a suit on this language and could disrupt a lot of things.

The second and most important problem with the language is the last phrase “on January 1, 2015”. The phrase’s meaning and application is clear. If something wasn’t taxed on January 1, 2015, it can’t be taxed now. This sounds good but it’s a violation of a prohibition affecting retroactivity. It’s a sure bet for a lawsuit should this ill-advised measure pass.

Who doesn’t want to vote for something that sounds as though it would stop future tax increases? There are a few things that the supporters of Amendment 4 leave out of the discussion.

First and foremost, the proponents of Amendment 4 don’t tell you that these sales tax increases they are “protecting” you from already require your vote.  In fact, they seem to go out of their way to create the impression that the legislature is on the cusp of enacting these new sales taxes.  They aren’t!

So where are we “protected” from these tax increases already? There’s this little thing in our state constitution known as the Hancock Amendment. The provisions of the Hancock Amendment require the legislature to put to a vote of the people any tax increase that would raise any significant funds.  Local governments cannot arbitrarily choose to implement a sales tax. They first must have authorization either through statute or constitution. Then, they must put it to a vote of their residents/voters.

As mentioned earlier, the scare tactic of attempting to create the idea that the items they are talking about are ripe and on the cusp of being passed by the legislature or local governments is plain fantasy but necessary to “scare” you into voting for the amendment. Don’t fall for it!

The only time that any of these items have been discussed in recent times is when the discussion of eliminating the income tax has been brought up. And even then, a lot of day to day necessary services were exempted from sales taxes including buying and selling homes. Why is that important?

The real genesis and funding source for Amendment 4 is the Realtor Association. They do not want the income tax eliminated because it would eliminate the home mortgage deduction. After all, if you aren’t paying income tax you wouldn’t need a deduction to be able to keep more of your income from being taxed!

Bottom line is that the legislature is not on the verge of approving any new sales taxes.  And if the income tax is eliminated, it would be done so by a vote of the people to change the state constitution thereby rendering Amendment 4 null and void anyway.

Amendment 4 is another prime example of a special interest proposing a solution to their perceived problems, not the taxpayers’ problems!

RECOMMENDATION: Vote NO — special interest driven measure to protect a certain occupation and unnecessary duplication of an existing constitutional requirement to vote on tax increases. 

Official Ballot Title
Constitutional Amendment 6

[full text]

[Proposed by 98th General Assembly (Second Regular Session) SS HJR 53]

Official Ballot Title:

Shall the Constitution of Missouri be amended to state that voters may be required by law, which may be subject to exception, to verify one’s identity, citizenship, and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification?

The proposed amendment will result in no costs or savings because any potential costs would be due to the enactment of a general law allowed by this proposal. If such a general law is enacted, the potential costs to state and local governments is unknown, but could exceed $2.1 million annually.

 Fair Ballot Language:

“yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to state that voters may be required by law to verify their identity, citizenship, and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification. Exceptions to this identification requirement may also be provided by law.

“no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution regarding elections.

If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.

COMMENTS:
Amendment 6 places into our state constitution the provision for implementing a Voter Identification (ID) system. It must be passed before Voter ID can be implemented in Missouri.

This is the second time in recent history that the General Assembly has attempted to restore some trust in our voting process.  A few years ago they passed a proposed constitutional amendment to place Voter ID into the constitution. They also passed a statute that described and provided for the implementation of Voter ID.

Unfortunately, those in opposition to restoring trust in the system were successful in keeping the constitutional amendment off the ballot. The result was that they then challenged the statute which the courts found to lack, wait for it, constitutional authority.

The General Assembly addressed the issue of Voter ID requirements in two ways this past session. The first was approving placing what is now Amendment 6 on the ballot. They corrected the problems in the last attempt and we will now get to decide whether the constitutional authority for Voter ID will be established.

They also passed and overrode Governor Nixon’s veto of House Bill (HB) 1643.  HB1643 is the way Voter ID would be implemented if Amendment 6 is passed by the voters.  All the elements are now in place to have Voter ID in Missouri, if we approve this measure.

As we are all aware and has been demonstrated, well most of us are aware there are many still in denial of the fact, that a lot of voter fraud occurs throughout the state and country. The passage of Amendment 3 will help to ensure the integrity of our voting process and restore some trust to the system.

RECOMMENDATION: Vote YES — protect the value of your legitimate vote and the integrity of elections!

Official Ballot Title

Proposition A

[full text]

[Proposed by Initiative Petition]

Official Ballot Title:

Shall Missouri law be amended to:

  • increase taxes on cigarettes in 2017, 2019, and 2021, at which point this additional tax will total 23 cents per pack of 20;
  • increase the tax paid by sellers on other tobacco products by 5 percent of manufacturer’s invoice price;
  • use funds generated by these taxes exclusively to fund transportation infrastructure projects; and
  • repeal these taxes if a measure to increase any tax or fee on cigarettes or other tobacco products is certified to appear on any local or statewide ballot?

State government revenue will increase by approximately $95 million to $103 million annually when cigarette and tobacco tax increases are fully implemented, with the new revenue earmarked for transportation infrastructure.  Local government revenues could decrease approximately $3 million annually due to decreased cigarette and tobacco sales.

 Fair Ballot Language:

“yes” vote will amend Missouri law to increase taxes on cigarettes in 2017, 2019, and 2021, at which point this additional tax will total 23 cents per pack of 20. This amendment also increases the tax paid by sellers on other tobacco products by 5 percent of manufacturer’s invoice price. This amendment further provides that the funds generated by these taxes shall be used exclusively to fund transportation infrastructure projects. These taxes are repealed if a measure to increase any tax or fee on cigarettes or other tobacco products is certified to appear on any local or statewide ballot.

“no” vote will not amend Missouri law relating to taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

If passed, this measure will increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

COMMENTS:

Proposition A is a counter-proposal to Amendment 3. The proposed tax increase is smaller. It does not give Big Tobacco a competitive advantage as they seek in Amendment 3. The proceeds of the increased tax on tobacco products would be dedicated to transportation infrastructure.

“Sin taxes” such as those on tobacco should not be dedicated to purposes unrelated to those “sins”. Voters in Missouri have rightfully turned down three (3) other attempts to raise the tobacco tax in the past decade or more. At least one of those attempts specifically dedicated the proceeds to healthcare issues.

The fact is that state government already spends over $26 billion. We should be looking at how that money is being spent before we ask anyone “sinning” or not to pay more!

RECOMMENDATION: Vote NO — taxes used to support specific outcomes should be  directly related to those outcomes.

Thank you for taking the time to learn about the ballot issues. If you find this helpful and although you may be a conservative, we encourage you to share this info liberally!

#2016

#2016ballot

#bigtobacco

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