Missourians will have the final say on five Constitutional Amendments on August 5. Across the board, the staff of the Lake Sun doesn't see any real value to Missourians with most of the amendments. Here's why:
Missourians will have the final say on five Constitutional Amendments on August 5. Across the board, the staff of the Lake Sun doesn’t see any real value to Missourians with most of the amendments. Here’s why:
Amendment 1 "Right to farm"
Our view: Vote No
Ballot wording: 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? The potential costs or savings to governmental entities are unknown, but likely limited unless the resolution leads to increased litigation costs and/or the loss of federal funding.
Why? Farming is the heartbeat of Missouri and has existed before this land officially became a state in 1821. No one can argue the importance of agriculture on the state, and national, economy. Farming has gone virtually unimpeded for more than 200 years. We have wonder why now, all of sudden, there has to be a “right” to farm.
Missourians have a reasonable expectation to know what’s in their food and how it is grown or raised. On the surface, Amendment 1 extends its hand to the rural population, while trampling animal, food and land safety underfoot. While supporters proselytize the amendment’s designs to help the small farmer, large corporations are licking their lips, eager to get protection under Missouri law to practice whatever method assures the biggest profit. We fear this duplicitous amendment will open the gate to unsafe, inhumane and potentially illegal practices in Missouri. There is no reason this Amendment exists, except to cater to special interests. Off all the amendments up for consideration, Amendment 1 should be the easiest to put out to pasture.
Amendment 5: "Right to bear arms"
Our view: Vote No
Ballot wording: Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to include a declaration that the right to keep and bear arms is a unalienable right and that the state government is obligated to uphold that right? State and local governmental entities should have no direct costs or savings from this proposal. However, the proposal’s passage will likely lead to increased litigation and criminal justice related costs. The total potential costs are unknown, but could be significant.
Why? We believe in the right to own and use firearms. The U.S. Constitution enshrines that cherished right. To have an amendment spell out that right again on the state level would unnecessarily bog down the Missouri Constitution and is superfluous in message. Instead of rallying under the penumbra of existing federal rights, the passage of Amendment 5 would put Missouri on a slippery slope that would set a precedent of redefining the supreme law of the land. Don’t we remember how the Civil War started? Amendment 5 is perhaps a well-intentioned but not well thought out response to incidents of mass gun violence and the ensuing national discussion about firearm ownership. Additionally, parts of this amendment cast a shadow of ambiguity. The amendment protects ammunition and accessories typical to the normal function of firearms. This assumes, wrongfully, there’s a standard use for firearms. The amendment also specifies that any infringement of these rights “shall be subject to strict scrutiny.” What does “scrutiny” that mean? Who will do the scrutinizing? When the ballot wording indicates the state will probably be sued, that’s a problem and raises a red flag. Amendment 5 is a glittering appeal to all perceived patriots in Missouri, but it presents too much material open to interpretation, all the while basking in its own redundancy.
Amendment 7: "Transportation tax"
Our view: Vote Yes
Ballot wording: Should the Missouri Constitution be changed to enact a temporary sales tax of three-quarters of one percent to be used solely to fund state and local highways, roads, bridges and transportation projects for ten years, with priority given to repairing unsafe roads and bridges? This change is expected to produce $480 million annually to the state's Transportation Safety and Job Creation Fund and $54 million for local governments. Increases in the gas tax will be prohibited. This revenue shall only be used for transportation purposes and cannot be diverted for other uses.
Why? Easily the most complex issue in the primary, Amendment 7 guarantees better state infrastructure. We know what to expect and how much it will cost. The amendment’s passage would create jobs and boost the struggling roads, bridges and rural airports of the state. But we understand the reservations many people express. While grand visions of a brand-spanking-new, six-lane Interstate 70 are fun to imagine, it’s not quite so easy to accept when a single mother has to pay a little bit more at the grocery store, or doesn’t have the extra dollar to buy a new pair of shoes at the start of school. The confetti will have barely hit the floor from the celebration of the tax income cut veto override when a sales tax increase is presented. We know it’s hard to swallow. But what makes us say yes to this amendment is the payback. Stronger infratstructure will make Missouri more competitive and improve the state economy for years. Without this help, Missouri will literally crumble around us. We believe in the thorough plan presented. As tough as they are to accept, sometimes we have to make sacrifices for a better future.
Amendment 8: “Veterans lottery”
Our view: Vote No
Ballot wording: Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to create a "Veterans Lottery Ticket" and to use the revenue from the sale of these tickets for projects and services related to veterans? The annual cost or savings to state and local governmental entities is unknown, but likely minimal. If sales of a veterans lottery ticket game decrease existing lottery ticket sales, the profits of which fund education, there could be a small annual shift in funding from education to veterans’ programs.
Why? Our opposition to this amendment is twofold. Amendment 8 threatens to siphon off critical resources from school districts already suffocating under tightening budgets. The Missouri Lottery generated $267 million for Missouri schools in 2014 and each dollar counts. Missourians can’t afford to lose sight of education, not when budgets have already been slashed. No doubt a special game would have some players make the switch, much to the detriment to the students of Missouri.
Secondly, Amendment 8 is an unproven bandage slapped on the wound of a statewide systemic problem of underfunded veterans services. No one can give precise estimates on how much money the special ticket would generate, nor how specifically that money would be spent. Without a true plan, we have doubts that the money would go towards its stated purpose. The legislature needs to go back to the drawing board a create a real, workable solution for the veterans of Missouri. Creating a dubious game is a slap in the face to Missouri veterans, who deserve more than this undefined Amendment can give.
Amendment 9: "E-privacy"
Our view: Vote No
Ballot wording: 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? State and local governmental entities expect no significant costs or savings.
Why? The U.S. and Missouri Constitutions are not archaic documents. They are meant to adapt to the advances of the population. So as technology has advanced, it is a natural extension for those Consitutions to catch up and protect electronic property from unlawful search and seizure much like the Bill of Rights protects homes, papers and effects. This is a great idea, but in light of the June 25, 2014 Supreme Court decision in Riley v. California, it isn’t needed. The Supreme Court ruled that officers need a warrant to seize cell phone and the data encapsulated within such devices. Like we’ve said above with our decision on Amendment 5, there’s no need to duplicate national decisions on the state level, nor is there a need to enact such broad rules at the state level. And as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed out, the more unnecessary fluff stuck into the Constitution, the more trouble arises in the interpretation of it.