On the Ballot: Constitutional Amendments

When people talk of constitutional amendments, my mind goes to the U.S. Constitution. But each of the states has a constitution, and they get amended with much greater frequency. This year I see 5 amendments of the ballot: they are numbered 1 to 6, skipping 5.

Since I didn’t know much about the process, I looked it up online, and found this summary:

The Missouri Constitution can be amended via three different paths:

  • Through a constitutional convention as established in Section 3a of Article XII. A question about whether to hold a constitutional convention is to automatically appear on the state’s ballot every twenty years. The first of these automatic referrals under the Constitution of 1945 (Missouri’s current constitution) was in 1962, 1982 and 2002.[3] The next will be in 2022. In 1942, under an older version of the Missouri Constitution, voters were asked about having a constitutional convention and said “Yes.” It was that convention that led to the Missouri Constitution of 1945, the state’s current constitution.

Votes on proposed amendments can take place at a general election or a special election.

A unique feature of Missouri’s law governing constitutional amendments is a provision in Section 2(b) of Article XII saying that proposed amendments should be published if possible “in two newspapers of different political faith in each county.”

None of the amendments proposed come through the constitutional convention option, but the 5 amendments are split between initiatives and legislative movements. I think  Initiatives are the more popular route.

So here are the Proposed Amendments, with my perspectives on each:

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 1

Proposed by Article IV, Section 47(c)

Missouri Constitution

(SJR 1, 2005)

               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.

YES

NO

Okay, This one is proposed because it was part of the original amendment to have it reapproved every 10 years. I actually like this, that a tax has to be reapproved periodically. I have no objection to the status of state parks or soil and water conservation. I haven’t studied these enough, of course, but I’m willing to vote yes to continue this tax. If someone can tell me these funds are being squandered or not used well, I would  be glad to reconsider.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 2

 Proposed by Initiative Petition

 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.

YES

NO

Now parts of this seem so reasonable, while others send warning flags for me. I don’t think sources of contributions should be concealed. But what sort of limits/requirements will be established for corporation and labor organizations? This is very loose wording allowing current politicians to hobble their competitions ability to raise funds. The first bullet, to establish limits I disagree with philosophically. Preventing people from spending their money as they deem fit is a form of curtailment of free speech, or their freedom of expression. I am convinced that campaign finance reforms perpetuate what they claim to prevent. See the below video for more:

The fact that this will have uncertain impacts on localities is another reason I do not think this a wise amendment. So I will be voting NO on this.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 3

Proposed by Initiative Petition

               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.

YES

NO

Okay, I saw a billboard on this one, talking about 747% tax increasing being too much, and to vote no. That billboard is an example of using numbers to create a different impression that reality. Is the percentage that large? Yes. Does the percentage tell the story they billboard wants it to tell? Probably no.

This one really raises the whole question about where we raise our taxes. Sin taxes are popular on the unpopular items. Since I don’t use these products, it is easy for me to agree to say raise taxes on them. But what I really need to do is fall back on more general principles and ask myself if I  believe we should raise taxes for these, when my general bent is for lower taxes.

The thing to realize is that I am not against taxes themselves. I am against taxes as a way of social engineering. The entire IRS tax code is meant to create winners and losers. Every tax is going to have some sort of impact of this sort. A policy of freedom ensures that taxes warp the individuals choices the least.

Now this tax is creating a trust fund for early childhood health and education. It is blatantly avowing social engineering. What is going to happen to those funds? How are they going to intervene and meddle in the lives of parents and families? How are these do-gooders going to make life miserable by ensuring people doing things the way they want with other people’s kids?

I actually find that I could go against my general priciple on the tax itself; it is where the tax funds are for, and how such good-sounding things can create bureacratic fiefdoms for certain progressive meddlers that will make me vote no. The billboard made me want to vote yes, but my better judgment will make me vote no.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 4

Proposed by Initiative Petition

               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.

YES

NO

I am somewhat confused by what this particular amendment means. It sounds reasonable: prevent governments from creating new types of taxes.I like that idea. It prevents a lot of crazy new ideas that governments could create. But it could also prevent a government from using an old standby means of revenue if they hadn’t previously used. 

I’m not sure if this is what it means, but if a city never had a sales tax previously, would it prevent it from starting one? Such a situation could burden local property owners with additional taxes when the sales tax could “revise” its tax structure to a greater equity of the current economic condition of the city.

Ultimately, I see this amendment as trying to preserve the taxes that work in a 20th century economy, instead of allowing them to be shaped to a 21st century economy.

I’ll vote NO on this one, despite my initial YES reaction. If someone could clarify my concerns, I would be willing to vote YES.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 6

Proposed by the 98th General Assembly

(Second Regular Session)

SS HJR 53

               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.

YES

NO

Apologies,  but this sounds like the most sensible amendment possible. If you don’t have the capability to get the documents to prove who you are, you shouldn’t be voting. The law allows for exceptions, too, so it shouldn’t be onerous for someone who can justify not having the ID. It doesn’t prevent anyone from voting. It requires everyone voting to do it in a deliberative manner, and as a responsible member of society. Stand up and be counted. Don’t slip into the voting booth and then slip out.

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