Voting in the Show-Me state: Your ballot, explained
For those of you who are voting in Missouri for this upcoming midterm election and feel overwhelmed by the amount of amendments and propositions, look no further!
Brief: Changes the way legislative districts are drawn; places limits on campaign contributions and gifts from lobbyists; prohibits legislators and their employees from serving as paid lobbyists and political fundraising by state legislative candidates or members on state property; requires legislative records to be open to the public.
This amendment is jam-packed. It focuses on four issues, with a general intent to improve transparency of the legislature. If passed, it will amend the state constitution to change the processes related to redistricting, fundraising, lobbying and recordkeeping.
Specifically, a “yes” vote will reform the redistricting process, making it led by a “state demographer chosen from a panel selected by the state auditor” to draw the boundaries, who will then submit the redrawn maps to commissions of legislators for approval by at least 70 percent of members. Notably, the race for the next Missouri auditor (a partisan position) is heating up, and whoever wins will have a lot of power here by nominating auditor candidates.
In terms of fundraising, this amendment limits campaign contributions to $2,500 per election for senate candidates and $2,000 for house candidates, in addition to limiting gifts from paid lobbyists to $5 per gift. It also bans state legislators (and their employees) from serving as paid lobbyists for two years after the end of their most recent term or end of employment. Additionally, it prohibits candidates for and members of the state legislature from fundraising for political causes on state property. Finally, it requires all “legislative records and proceedings” to be subject to the Missouri Sunshine Law. Proponents of Amendment 1 cite its ability to improve the transparency of legislation by limiting the impact of lobbyists and making districts more competitive, while those against it believe it will not actually result in fairer districts due to the power given to the state auditor.
Show me the money: Operating costs are expected to increase by up to $189,000.
Brief: Allows and establishes regulations for medical marijuana usage; sets a 4 percent tax on the sale of marijuana at retail stores; uses the money generated by that tax to fund healthcare services for military veterans and run the program to license retailers to sell marijuana.
This is the first of three marijuana-related measures on the ballot. This version will amend the Missouri constitution to allow for medical marijuana use and establish regulations for licensing and the operation of medical marijuana facilities (“dispensary, cultivation, testing and marijuana-infused product manufacturing facilities”). Critics of this amendment—and the following two related measures—use the age old “gateway drug” argument, believing marijuana to be the first step down the long road of recreational drug usage. Proponents cite the therapeutic effects of marijuana for the nine specified conditions in this amendment and others with doctor approval.
The administrative costs of enforcing these regulations will be paid for using a 4 percent tax on all retail sales of medical marijuana, and the excess funds will be used to pay for healthcare services for veterans through the Missouri Veterans Commission, with the Department of Health and Senior Services regulating growth and sales. Differing from the other initiatives on the ballot, this amendment allows patients to grow marijuana plants themselves.
Show me the money: The tax revenue generated is expected to total up to $18 million for the state and $6 million for local governments. Annual operating costs are $7 million.
Brief: This amendment also allows for the use of medical marijuana and creates regulations for it. It differs from the first by establishing a 15 percent sales tax on the purchase of medical marijuana and establishes a tax on wholesale marijuana flowers. The product of these taxes will fund a state research institute for “developing cures and treatments for cancer and other incurable diseases or medical conditions.”
The second of three marijuana-related measures, if passed, would amend the constitution to allow for medical marijuana usage. This amendment was initiated by Brad Bradshaw (yes, that is his real name), a personal injury lawyer and doctor from Springfield, who would be instated as the head of the aforementioned research institute funded by the revenue generated from the 15 percent sales tax on medical marijuana and the tax on wholesale purchases. This gives Bradshaw the authority to select the board members that will govern the institute (who each earn a salary of $180,000) who in turn decide the regulations on medical marijuana and its processing facilities. The institute has lofty goals, namely researching a potential cure for cancer and other currently incurable diseases. Proponents of the amendment—specifically Bradshaw, as the measure currently has no other official endorsements—believe the institute has the potential to benefit all Missourians (and Americans) if its research proves fruitful, and think this amendment has the least potential to allow for recreational drug use, as it does not allow home-growing.
Show me the money: The tax revenue generated is expected to total up to $66 million, with initial implementation costs of $186,000 and operating costs of $500,000 annually.
Brief: Allows gambling organizations to advertise bingo games; changes the regulation prohibiting organization members from managing games until two years of membership to six months of membership.
Following a court recent decision that the current limitations on bingo advertising were unenforceable, this amendment would make it official by taking the provisions out of the state constitution. Additionally, it allows gambling organization members to manage bingo games after six months of membership, rather than the previous two-year rule. Pretty straightforward.
Some context: Bingo was only legalized in Missouri in 1980, and since then, games have raised upwards of $100 million in revenue for Missouri’s Proceeds for Education Fund, a fund devoted to scholarship provisions and school development programs. Currently, bingo organizations are suffering due to a dearth of volunteers and are hoping the potential newly-decreased waiting period before members can become leaders will attract more people to join. While a seemingly trivial amendment at first read, bingo organizations generate millions for the state without added taxation and without pay. There’s really not much to argue against here—who doesn’t love bingo?
Show me the money: No changes in taxes, no savings, except the continuation of revenue for the Education Fund.
Brief: Increases the minimum wage to eventually reach $12 in 2023; adds caveats exempting government employers from the new minimum wage levels; increases the penalties on employers for not paying the minimum wage.
The increase per-year will be set at 85 cents, starting at $8.60 per hour and reaching $12 by 2023. The current minimum wage in Missouri is $7.85 and hasn’t been adjusted for inflation (or any number of other factors) in five decades, meaning the current amount is effectively the same as a poverty-level wage. After 2023, the wage will be reevaluated and adjusted in correspondence with the consumer price index.
Government employers and businesses with an annual income less than $500,000 will be exempt from this change. All other businesses, who will be required to increase wages, will face higher penalties than those set prior to this proposition if violated. Specifically, they will have to repay the employee(s) the full wages missed in addition to a bonus of twice the unpaid wages. The advocates and opponents of this bill use the general run of the mill arguments for or against raising the minimum wage. Either you think it’ll improve the livelihood of those earning the wage, thereby vitalizing the economy, or you think it’ll hurt businesses and potentially lead to inflation.
Show me the money: Tax revenue could fluctuate between a decrease of $2.9 million or increase by as much as $214 million. The changes in tax revenue are derived from business decisions, not a change in taxes themselves.
Brief: Allows medical marijuana use once certified by a doctor; allows facilities to legally grow and sell medical marijuana if licensed; adds a 2 percent sales tax on all purchases, with the revenue devoted toward “veterans’ services, drug treatment, early childhood education and for public safety in cities with a medical marijuana facility.”
This is the third and final medical marijuana-related measure on the ballot. This one does not change the Missouri constitution, but rather amends the current laws by allowing for medical marijuana use by those with a condition that would be improved by the use of medical cannabis as certified by a doctor. However, the regulations and tax rate set here could later be changed by legislators. Additionally, similar to the past two measures on this, this law sets regulations for medical marijuana facilities and retailers, with the difference being that here those regulations are decided by the state Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control and the state Department of Health and Senior Services.
To offset the costs of enforcement, a 2 percent sales tax will be imposed, the excess funds of which will be devoted to veteran’s services (like in Amendment 2), drug addiction treatment, public education and “public safety in cities with a medical marijuana facility.” The arguments for or against mirror the ones to Amendments 2 and 3, with the exception that here people criticize the low tax rate, arguing that it may not be high enough to make a difference.
Show me the money: One-time cost of $2.6 million with additional annual costs of $10 million, which will be offset by annual revenues of $10 million ($152,000 per year for local governments).
Brief: Increases gasoline taxes by 2.5 cents per gallon each year for the next four years (resulting in a 10-cent increase); makes prizes from the Special Olympics, Paralympics and Olympics exempt from state taxes; establishes the Emergency State Freight Bottleneck Fund.
So, there’s a lot going on here. The gas tax increase of 2.5 cents per year will be used to fund state law enforcement, specifically the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The tax, which is currently set at 17 cents per gallon, will be applied to all types of fuel (including alternative fuels, like natural gas), and will reach 27 cents per gallon in 2022 (when the annual increase will end). Those in favor of the gas tax increase cite the fact that Missouri has not raised its fuel tax rate for more than 20 years; so, the current 17-cent rate is only worth around 7 cents in terms of actual purchasing power due to inflation. They also believe the road repairs that the funds will be used for are a worthy cause: St. Louis City and its surrounding counties are all expected to receive millions of dollars every year from the tax. Those against the tax believe the Missouri Department of Transportation does not properly allocate funds where they are most needed, and instead prioritizes rural areas. Instead, they argue the Missouri state constitution should be amended to allow for public transit subsidization.
The second provision, allowing Olympic prizes (from all forms of the Olympics) to be applied as a state income tax deduction, is a bit of a puzzler. The Special Olympics does not award cash prizes, making this proposition of no consequence to them, yet they are still listed as a part of it. Finally, it creates the “Emergency State Freight Bottleneck Fund” to repair roads in St. Louis in the hopes of alleviating some of the city’s crippling traffic problems that often delay freight shipments.
Show me the money: Expected to generate $288 million annually for the State Road Fund to fund state law enforcement and $123 million annually for road construction and maintenance.
St. Louis County Propositions
County: Proposition E
For those living in St. Louis County, think of this as a free space on your ballot. A judge invalidated this proposition (it was originally about prohibiting smoking in casinos and many bars in the county, see Proposition F below); so no votes for or against it will be counted. It was added to the voting system software before the judge’s ruling. Do whatever you want.
County: Proposition F
Amends the county charter to limit smoking to 50 percent of the gaming floor of Missouri Gambling Commission-licensed casinos. Currently, all casinos are exempt from the county’s ban on indoor smoking. This amendment cuts that smoking amount down by half. While that’s all well and good, casino owners only petitioned for this to be on the ballot to prevent health-focused groups from pushing a rival proposition banning all smoking in casinos (the aforementioned Proposition E). On one hand, limiting smoking to half of the floor doesn’t do much to prevent those on the other half from inhaling the fumes, because secondhand smoke travels. On the other hand, at least it’s something.
County: Proposition D
St. Louis County is required to ask voters if they want to establish a commission to review changes to the county charter every 10 years. This is one of those years.
County: Proposition Z
Z is for Zoo! You may have seen the billboards near campus about this. The Saint Louis Zoo wants to add a one-eighth percent sales tax on all purchases in St. Louis County to help fund the zoo’s day-to-day activities, establish an animal conservation facility and to construct a new attraction, most likely a safari park. While admission to the zoo’s main campus will remain free for all, admission to the new safari park and conservation facility will only be free to county residents. The funds will be managed by the Saint Louis Zoological Park Subdistrict Commission (aka the zoo).
Proponents cite the positive impacts of breeding endangered species and animal conservation education, in addition to the economic benefits of the new facilities for North County (where the conservation facility and safari park are slated to be located). Those against the proposition focus on the monetary aspects: The zoo is currently funded by property taxes in St. Louis City and County (80 percent by the County), but admission to the Forest Park location is free for all visitors—regardless of whether their taxes are funding the zoo.