Missourians will have a whopping five constitutional amendments to decide in the August primary, including one that has lottery ticket revenue going to veterans
Should Missouri have a lottery ticket that has all of its revenue specifically go to helping fund the Missouri Veterans Commission?
That’s a question Missouri voters will face Aug. 5 on the ballot, thanks to the passing of House Joint Resolution 48 during the state’s recent legislative session.
Right now, the Missouri Lottery is used to help fund the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, but the proposed constitutional amendment would make veterans also receive some funds from a separate lottery ticket.
Sheila Solon (R-Blue Springs) was the House sponsor of the legislation that got the measure on the ballot.
“This lottery will help fund our state’s seven veterans’ homes,” she said.
“Right now, we have 1,350 veterans in the homes, and the waiting list—which averages nine months— is up to 1,800. The lottery funds will go to capital improvements and covering shortfalls. Our veterans need this.”
Solon said she does not have a set dollar figure she hopes the lottery will raise, but other nearby states have raised millions with veterans’ lotteries. For example, Iowa averages $2-3 million annually, Kansas is in the same ballpark, and Illinois has raised $10 million, she said.
Solon said some people may be opposed to the ballot measure because it could potentially take away from education funding.
According to a fiscal note written by the House’s Committee on Legislative Research- Oversight Division, Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education expects the veterans’ lottery to affect education funding.
“(The lottery) will likely have a significant impact on DESE’s proceeds; however, DESE cannot determine to what extent,” the fiscal note reads.
Even so, Solon said she does not believe this to be the case.
“I think a veterans’ lottery would start a whole new customer base,” she said. “I think it would reinvigorate the entire lottery. My husband is a veteran, and he has talked to other veterans who would want to buy these tickets. I don’t currently buy lottery tickets, but I would buy these. “In Missouri, we support our veterans.”
During Missouri House and Senate committee hearings, Solon said no one spoke in opposition to the proposed amendment.
Bret Ghan, a spokesman for the Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA), said his organization does not have an official position on the ballot measure.
“Some people speculate that this might have some impact, and it might divert some funds from education, but we don’t have an official position, and are not going to advocate on this one way or another. “It’s just a shame to have an issue that appears to pit education against veterans, and this does seem to do that.”
Missourians will soon have a chance to vote on whether farmers’ rights should be guaranteed in the Missouri Constitution. On Aug. 5, Constitutional Amendment 1, which will appear on ballots across the state, asks: “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?”
Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho, the sponsor of the original resolution proposing to put this question before Missouri voters, said this amendment will guarantee Missourians’ rights to farm and raise livestock.
“We’ve had a lot of threats from out-of-state, well-funded animal rights groups that would like to disrupt Missouri’s agriculture, which is the state’s number one industry,” he said. “They want to make all kinds of regulations that are impossible to keep.”
Reiboldt said Constitutional Amendment 1 will protect Missourians and the state’s agriculture industry from those groups.
“The goal is to get a head’s up on them and make farming a constitutional right.”
He said passing this amendment could only help Missouri in the long-run.
“Passing this can’t hurt a thing,” he said. “Just like how we have the right to bear arms, we need to have the right to farm become a constitutional guarantee.”
Jared Goodman, a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) representative, said the amendment is unnecessary and potentially harmful for Missouri.
“This proposed amendment is apparently the legislature's attempt to constitutionalize a right to abuse animals on farms and destroy the environment,” he said. “Animals used for food are castrated without pain relief, beaten with steel gate rods and shocked with electric prods. Cows have their horns burned from their skulls.
“Large-scale farms produce rivers of excrement, which contaminate groundwater, and are a leading cause of greenhouse-gas emissions. The public is demanding more accountability, not less.”
Missourians typically don’t favor new tax increases, but what about when those taxes go toward much-needed infrastructure improvements?
That’s something Missouri voters will have to decide when they go to the polls Aug. 5. On the ballot, voters will find Amendment 7, a proposed constitutional amendment to implement a three-quarter-cent sales tax for the next 10 years, with the funds going toward the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).
The bill’s language states that the funds can only go toward improvements, and cannot be spent for administrative purposes.
It is projected that the bill will bring in $5.4 billion over the 10-year period, which would start next year.
According to the language in the bill, 90 percent of the funds would then go to state issues, while the other 10 percent will be split among cities and counties.
Supporters of the bill say that it is necessary to keep up with Missouri’s infrastructure needs.
MoDOT’s budget over the last five years has dropped from $1.3 billion to closer to $685 million, and it is projected to go as low as $325 million by 2017, according to an article in the Associated Press.
If the tax isn't passed, MoDOT will eventually be in a “dire situation,” according to Rep. Dave Hinson (R-St. Clair), the sponsor of the legislation to get the measure on the ballots.
“MoDOT has done everything we should ask,” he said. “They've reduced revenue and gotten rid of equipment and buildings, consolidated positions, and we just can’t cut any more revenue. If we don’t do this, they’re not going to be able to always fix pot holes, culverts and guard rails across the state. It will be a pick and choose type of situation, and we don’t want that.”
Opposition groups acknowledge that more funds may be needed for MoDOT, but the sales tax is not the answer. Thomas R. Shrout Jr., treasurer of Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions, a group opposed to the tax, said it isn't fair to Missouri citizens.
“This is especially a bad idea because much of the truck traffic doesn't start or end in Missouri—just passes through. Raises on the working people and letting trucks go free doesn't make sense,” he said. Shrout recommended the state look into other ideas, such as toll roads or gas taxes.
A ballot measure protecting Missourians’ privacy that went through the Missouri Senate with overwhelming support (31-1) and also passed the Missouri House by a vote of 114-28 will be put before the voters Aug. 5.
Senate Joint Resolution 27, the legislation passed in order to get the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot, was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Robert Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) and handled in the House by Rep. Paul Curtman (R-Pacific).
Curtman said this is a bill he thinks revolves around people’s “reasonable expectations to privacy” guaranteed in both the U.S. Constitution and the Missouri Constitution.
He said writers of these documents had never seen electronic communications or the sending of data, but the same principle of having reasonable expectations to privacy would apply.
“If one person sends an email to someone else, they should have a reasonable expectation to privacy. But what if they go through Google? The government doesn't need a warrant to go to Google.”
Carl Bearden, a former speaker pro tem of the Missouri House and current executive director of United for Missouri, shared similar sentiments.
“SJR27 is a necessary addition to our state constitution,” he said. “It will ensure that modern communications (electronic and data) as well as traditional communications are protected from unwarranted search and seizure.”
Rep. Mike Colona (D-St. Louis) said the proposed constitutional amendment could potentially hinder investigations conducted by law enforcement officials and make their jobs more difficult.
“It may make it harder for investigators to use location services on phones to find missing kids,” he said. “That’s one argument that could be used.”
The exact wording of the question that will appear on the ballot will be: "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?"
The right to bear arms is always a hot topic, and on Aug. 5, Missourians will have the opportunity to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment affecting guns and ammunition in the state.
The official question Missourians will answer when they go to the polls is: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to include a declaration that the right to keep and bear arms is an unalienable right and that the state government is obligated to uphold that right?"
If voted into law, the ballot measure, which is on the ballot as a result of the Missouri Legislature passing Senate Joint Resolution 36, would slightly change the wording of the state constitution, and have some deletions and additions.
Instead of saying Missourians have the right to bear arms, which is the constitution’s current wording, the amendment would change the wording to say citizens have the right to “keep and bear arms, ammunition, and accessories typical to the normal function of such arms.”
The amendment would also clarify that citizens could use those arms to defend their families. Currently, the constitution reads that citizens can use arms in the defense of home, person, or property, but does not specifically include family.
The amendment goes on to spell out that the gun rights would be “unalienable.”
“Any restriction on these rights shall be subject to strict scrutiny and the state of Missouri shall be obligated to uphold these rights and shall under no circumstances decline to protect against their infringement,” the amendment reads.
However, the amendment does note that the legislature can still pass laws “which limit the rights of convicted violent felons or those adjudicated by a court to be a danger to self or others as result of a mental disorder or mental infirmity.”
Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), who sponsored SJR 36, wrote earlier this summer in a column that the amendment is all about protecting Missourians’ “fundamental rights.”
“This measure protects a fundamental right that our country was founded upon and we cannot allow this right, or any other, to be taken from us by anti-gun politicians in Washington D.C.,” he said.
“This measure is about drawing a line in the sand and making it clear that in Missouri, we will do everything in our power to safeguard the freedoms we have enjoyed since the creation of this country.”
Rep. Mike Colona (D-St. Louis) disagreed with Schaefer’s logic.
“We have enough Second Amendment protection,” he said. “We've had a school shooting a week since (the Newton, Conn., school shooting). We should focus on other issues right now— not more gun rights.”