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Do You Know Your Amendments? Here's A Cheat Sheet On Ballot Measures

Cracks are seen in the shoulder of I-70 near the exit to the Providence Road in Columbia, Mo. The budget for the Missouri Department of Transportation is expected to drop by nearly half in 2011. (Via Flickr/ KOMUnews, Manu Bhandari)
/Via Flickr/ KOMU news, Manu Bhandari
Cracks are seen in the shoulder of I-70 near the exit to the Providence Road in Columbia, Mo. The budget for the Missouri Department of Transportation is expected to drop by nearly half in 2011. (Via Flickr/ KOMUnews, Manu Bhandari)

The road to improvement — or a dead end? The transportation tax, or Amendment 7, would raise the state sales tax by three-quarters of a cent for 10 years to fund transportation improvements across the state.

Gov. Jay Nixon surprised a lot of people when he put the transportation tax on the August ballot. Most thought it would go on in November. The earlier date set off a scramble to develop a list of projects that would be funded with the tax money, should it pass. Obviously, voters would need such a list to help them decide how to vote.

So where would the $4.8 billion raised by the tax go? While some money would go to sidewalks and mass transit, the overwhelmingly majority — 82 percent — goes to road and bridge projects — as graphics in one of our story amply illustrate. The single biggest project is $500 million to rebuild and widen Interstate 70 to six lanes from Independence to Wentzville as a part of the statewide improvement.

Supporters of the tax say that the infrastructure improvements are crucial and that these projects would boost economic development in our state by providing jobs and improving transportation. Opponents say that a sales tax is the wrong way to fund these projects, adding that the increase would result in a sales tax topping 10 percent in some jurisdictions.

Still confused? Here are five things you need to know about the transportation tax. Tom Shrout of Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions, which opposes the amendment, and Jewell Patek of Missourians for Better Transportation and Jobs, which supports it, appeared Thursday on "St. Louis on the Air" to debate the proposal.

Amendment 1 or the 'right to farm'

In the waning days of the campaign, the St. Louis area is seeing more TV ads on Amendment 1, or the "right to farm," which may just be the most controversial ballot measure after the transportation tax.

Credit (via Flickr/ **Maurice**)
Opponents of the "right to farm" amendment say the measure would benefit big hog farms.

The amendment simply reads: 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 question, of course, is what that means. Is the "right to farm" an attempt to protect family farms — or ag industry, huge hog farms and puppy mills?

The "right to farm" is supported by agricultural groups, such as the Missouri Pork Association and Missouri Farm Bureau. It is opposed by groups such as the Humane Society of the United States.

Other ballot initiatives

Amendment 5 asks: 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?

Supporters and opponents have distinctly different views of the amendment. The amendment's sponsor, state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said it offers an added layer of protection from "anti-gun politicians in Washington, D.C." But opponents question the expansion of constitutional protection to ammunition and firearm accessories.

Amendment 8 creates a new lottery ticket to help fund the state's veterans' homes, cemeteries and outreach programs. The net proceeds, around 25 cents of every dollar, would go to the state's veterans' commission capital improvement trust fund. Everyone seems to agree that veterans' homes are underfunded; the state's veterans' homes all have waiting lists. But others question whether the lottery is the best way to fund veterans' needs.

Amendment 9 would expand the right against unreasonable search and seizures to include electronic communications and data, such as posts on Facebook or tweets. It has a surprisingly broad group of supporters, ranging from Republican legislators to the ACLU.

St. Louis Public Radio political reporter Chris McDaniel and statehouse reporter Marshall Griffin appeared Thursday on "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss each of these amendments.

"St. Louis on the Air": Marshall Griffin and Chris McDaniel walk through the right to farm, right to bear arms, veterans lottery ticket and electronic protection amendments.

Susan Hegger comes to St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon as the politics and issues editor, a position she has held at the Beacon since it started in 2008.