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|September 26, 2016 19th Edition|
|On the November Ballot|
Besides an overabundance of negative campaign ads on TV (trust me, I hate them as much as you do), the November General Election offers the voters of Missouri the opportunity to have a direct say in a number of amendments to the Missouri Constitution. The following five of the six amendments were placed on the ballot through the initiative petition process, not legislative action. By law, Amendment 1 comes up for renewal every 10 years.
The ballot language can appear very complicated and often convoluted, so I have tried to offer a little clarity on each, along with some brief pros and cons. In addition, I'm letting you know how I am personally voting, along with my rationale for that vote. I hope this proves helpful to you.
My report on the results of the 2016 Veto Session will be arriving in constituent mailboxes with a few weeks, you can also view it here.
|Amendment 1 — State Parks, Soil and Water Conservation|
|Amendment 1 would continue for 10 years the current one-tenth of one percent sales/use tax 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. In 2006 this tax was renewed by more than two thirds of Missouri voters. Funding from the tax accounts for 75% of the Missouri park system's yearly budget.|
|Pro:||The measure continues with no increase in the existing sales and use tax of one-tenth of one percent for 10 years; and would continue to generate approximately $90 million annually for soil and water conservation, and operation of the state park system.|
|Con:||Without his continued financial support, many Missouri state parks would have to be closed or sold.|
|I will be voting yes. This is not an increase in taxes, it simply retains the status quo. The portion of the tax that supports state parks amounts to approximately $7 per year for each Missourian, with maximum benefit for all of us.|
|Amendment 2 — Campaign Finance Regulations|
|Amendment 2 would reinstitute campaign finance restrictions on Missouri political campaigns. It would limit donors to $2,600 per candidate and $25,000 to a political party. It would prevent the concealing of names or identities of donors and hopefully prevent the shell game of PACs donating to other PACS in order to hide the source of funding. It will also limit cash contributions to less than $100, would not allow anonymous donations exceeding $25, and would require corporations and labor organizations to meet certain requirements in order to donate.|
|Pro:||A large majority of Missourians support the concept of campaign limits. Missouri currently has the least restrictive set of campaign finance rules in the country; to date, the General Assembly has taken no action on establishing any limits.|
|Con:||The U.S. Supreme has equated money with free speech; therefore this could be interpreted as a limitation on political speech.|
I will be voting YES. Candidates should have broad based support, and not be indebted to a billionaire or other large donors. Big donors tend to expect a return on their investment. There has been a lot of lip service given by the General Assembly, but there has been no legislative action. This is action.
|Amendment 3 — Cigarette Tax Increase to Benefit Early Childhood Education|
This is also known as the Raise Your Hand for Kids initiative. It would increase the fee to 60 cents per pack (or 67 cents for non-major brands that did not participate in the master tobacco settlement) by 2020, to bring in an estimated additional $250 to $267 million a year for various programs;
|Pro:||One could argue that by the nature of having the lowest cigarette tax in the nature, it should be increased. Funding for early childhood would jump start the development and education of Missouri children in a positive fashion.|
Raise Your Hand 4 Kids would allow public funds to go to elite private or religious Schools through an exemption to Article IX, Section 8 of the Missouri Constitution, which explicitly prohibits the distribution of public money to private or religious schools.
Amendment 3 does not apply to other tobacco products (cigars, pipe tobacco, vapor cigarettes, chewing tobacco etc.), creating an incentive for those markets. In addition,
|I will be voting NO on Amendment 3. Funding for early childhood education is a critical need, however I oppose funding social services through what amounts to a "sin" tax on smokers. Also, I am adamantly opposed to public funds being directed to non-public schools; and Amendment 3 specifically designates that a faith based provider should have a seat on the reconfigured Early Childhood Commission.|
|Proposition A — Cigarette Tax Increase to Benefit Transportation Infrastructure|
|Prop A is a more modest increase (only 2 cents) in 2017, 2019, and 2021, at which point this additional tax will total 23 cents per pack of 20. There would also be an increase of 5% in the tax paid by sellers on other tobacco products. Proceeds from this tax would be used exclusively to fund transportation infrastructure projects. Additionally, there is language that would trigger an instant repeal of this increase should a measure to increase any tax or fee on cigarettes or other tobacco products is certified to appear on any local or statewide ballot|
|Pro:||There is no question about the need for additional funding to be directed toward our transportation infrastructure, and the General Assembly has been slow to address that need. While this would provide some relief, it would not be a long term fix.|
|Con:||You can read the complete joint statement of the coalition of health organizations that oppose Amendment 3 and Proposition A for their full rebuttal to these inititives. I agree with them, special interests are hiding behind two areas of concern to limit the effects of a serious effort to protect public health.|
|I will be voting NO on Proposition A as well. I find it outrageous that the people have to submit ballot measures through petition intiatives because the legislature refuses to address the problems of our state. We need to apply serious solutions, and not meet Missouri's financial and social responsibilities through sleight of hand. If we want governmental transparency, pay for transportation infrastructure with transportation-related taxes or general revenue.|
|Amendment 4 — State or Local Sales/Use Taxes|
The need for Amendment 4 is sparked by the concern that our current income tax-based revenue system might be replaced with a sales tax. If that were to happen, virtually every commercial transaction would be subject to a state sales tax. Amendment 4 is designed to prohibit the state from putting a new sales tax on services such as:
|Pro:||No new sales taxes or the application of sales taxes on services not currently taxed (see above).|
|Con:||Some believe that this creates limitations that could affect revenue collection in the future.|
|I will be voting YES. I do not want to see our income tax replaced with a sales tax, and removing services from being taxable is the best way to prevent that.|
|Amendment 6 — Photo ID Requirement|
|This would require a government-issued photo ID for use in voting and other situations where it would be necessary to verify one's identity, citizenship, and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification.|
|Pro:||This would prevent alleged voter impersonation or ID theft.|
|Con:||During the last legislative session, (HB1631) was passed, which some believe will make it easier to get a license. The problem comes from the following bill language:
"All election authority costs associated with the implementation of the photo identification requirements of these provisions must be reimbursed from the General Revenue Fund by an appropriation for that purpose. If there is no appropriation, then the identification requirements of the bill are void and must not be enforced."
In other words, for this to be in force, the legislature has to appropriate funds to county election authorities, at the expense of other state programs. Where would these funds come from? Law enforcement? Education? Health care?
Similar measures in other states have had the effect of making it difficult for certain segments of the population (the poor and elderly for example) to vote. That has led the United States Courts to declare many voter ID laws as being discriminatory and unconstitutional.
I will be voting NO. This is a solution in search of a problem. Voter fraud that involves the impersonation of one voter for another is almost non-existent. The last known case in Missouri was over 70 years ago. When sworn into office, I swore to uphold the constitution of both the State of Missouri and the United States Constitution. With a number of recent Federal Court rulings that would quickly contradict this amendment, I cannot support it.
|On the Campaign Trail|
|Since the session ended in May it has been very busy walking door to door to meet voters. There have been many rallies, fund raisers, and meetings. And let's not forget the conventions; local, state and national. I find it a shame so many are spreading unverified information as if it were completely true. It seems there is so much gossip and little real news.
Please, regardless of how you plan to vote, be sure of your facts. Learn to distinguish between fact and opinion.
And with regard to the Primary election… I want to thank Mr. Bryan Like for running a honest campaign in which he ran based on his abilities and knowledge. Sometimes campaigns are focused on discrediting the opponent. Personally I prefer to hear why I should vote for a candidate rather than why I should vote against someone. Just a thought.
|A Day at the Zoo|
|The St. Louis Zoo invited the legislators to participate in a "Behind the Scenes Tour". We are fortunate to have one of the very best Zoos in the world and yet it shares many of the same issues as so many other century old institutions.|
|Buildings and equipment age and become inadequate to meet today's needs. Often needed updates result in much more efficiency and save funds in the longer run.
We were shown a number of examples of areas in need of attention. Consider the bird collection. Who knew the keepers pick up the individual flamingos and carry them by hand to the basement of the birdhouse where most of them live for the winter in jail-like crowded conditions? The Giraffe House in the Red Rocks area also has that old style county jail look about it. We got to see other less exciting areas of infrastructure that need updating as well. On the plus side however, there are incredible newer exhibits like Sea Lion Sound with its underwater tunnel; and the new Polar Bear Point, featuring Kali, one of the most charismatic residents the Zoo has seen in a long, long time.
All in all the Zoo is well cared for and provides well for all the creatures. But we do need to remember the Zoo is supported by St. Louis City and County tax, donations, memberships in a variety of Zoo support organizations (example: Zoo Friends) and sales made at the Zoo.
|NCJW Back to School Store|
|This year was the biggest back to School ever! Once again I had the privilege of helping children by serving as a personal shopper for their back to school "shopping". Each child receives an outfit from the skin out and includes a coat, hat, gloves and even shoes.
Clothing and shoes for kids that need them
The store is one more example of really helping others by deed and not just talk.
|Dead Soybean Plants|
|Due to the fact there are so few democrats in the Missouri House and both parties must be represented on all committees, some of us sit on committees where we have a lot to learn to understand the bills we are hearing. As a member of the Select Committee on Agriculture I attended a hearing in Portageville, MO down in the boot heel.|
|We learned about the problem of herbicides drifting during their application, in particular the use of the herbicide Dicamba. Thousands of acres of soybeans and peaches were unintentionally destroyed when dicamba was sprayed in nearby fields. Dicamba is sold legally as what is called a burn down product, intended to clean up a field and kill existing (weed type) plants to be able to plant new crops on a clean field. Unfortunately diacamba has not yet been approved for use on live plants as a herbicide in the growing season. Apparently some farmers have sprayed dicamba and did not follow the strict usage directions. It must be sprayed at the right time, right temperature and correct distance from the base of the plant as well as little or no wind. If these directions are not followed it can drift, or float on the air up to 7 miles causing widespread damage.|
Thank you for your support, and for giving me the opportunity to represent you in Jefferson City. Keep in touch and give me your thoughts on potential town hall topics.
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Paid for by Friends of Sue Meredith, Pam Crowley — Treasurer