Five initiative-petition efforts await decision over which gets on the ballot
For now, it’s all over but the counting. The Missouri Secretary of State’s office will be busy the next few weeks determining whether five initiative-petition proposals collected enough valid signatures to get on the state’s August or November ballot.
The initiatives turned in by Sunday’s 5 p.m. deadline include:
- A proposal to legalize marijuana for medical use;
- A ban on levying sales taxes on professional services, such as hairdressers or real-estate agents;
- An effort to reinstate campaign-donation limits;
- Two dueling proposals to increase Missouri’s tobacco tax, now the nation’s lowest.
Most are proposed constitutional amendments, which require a minimum number of signatures from registered voters that ranges from close to 158,000 signatures, up to almost 169,000.
The specific number necessary depends on a complicated formula that requires the signatures to come from at least six of the state’s eight congressional districts. The minimum required depends on which six districts were used.
One of the tobacco measures is a proposed change in state law, known as a proposition, so it will require just under 100,000 signatures.
Pro-pot group confident of its chances
The pro-marijuana group called New Approach Missouri says it turned in more than 260,000 signatures, with an aim to get its proposal on the November ballot.
The proposal would set up a licensing system to allow people to grow marijuana for medical use. New Approach emphasized in a statement that “only those patients whose physicians certify in writing that they have a legitimate and serious medical need would be allowed to purchase medical marijuana under this proposal.”
“If passed, Missouri would become that 25th state to allow state-licensed physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients with serious and debilitating illnesses,” the group said in a statement.
It would still be illegal to use marijuana in public or to drive a motor vehicle after consuming or smoking it.
Proposal to prevent sales-tax expansion
The anti-sales tax proposal appears directed at efforts by some, notably wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield, who are proposing to expand sales taxes to cover services that currently aren’t subject to the tax, such as haircuts, manicures, legal services or medical care.
Both sides contend that expanding the state’s sales tax would then make it easier to reduce or eventually eliminate Missouri’s income tax.
The Missouri Association of Realtors led the initiative-petition drive, and says it turned in more than enough signatures – although it declined to say Sunday how many were submitted.
Campaign-donation limit effort had been low-key
Signatures were submitted early for the campaign-finance proposal, which would impose a blanket donation limit of $2,600 on individual donations per candidate per election. Political parties could give no more than $25,000 to a candidate.
Backers claimed to have turned in more than 272,000 signatures for the proposal, which is supported by some social conservatives who contend that a handful of large donors aligned with business interests are wielding too much power in state politics.
For about 12 years, ending in 2008, Missouri had donation limits that – at the time of their removal – ranged from $325 to $1,350 per candidate, per election, depending on the office. Legislative Republicans led the successful effort to remove the limits, with the support of then-Gov. Matt Blunt.
Battle continues over tobacco tax proposals
A coalition called “Raise Your Hand for Kids’’ announced Saturday that it had turned in a day early more than 320,000 signatures for its proposed constitutional amendment to increase the state’s sales tax by 60 cents a pack, phased in over four years.
Backers say the money used would pay for early-childhood education programs and health services, as well as smoking cessation programs for teens and pregnant women.
The proposal has touched off controversy because of provisions that would:
- Allow the public money raised to go to private and parochial schools;
- Appear to impose new restrictions on stem-cell research in the state – countering the 2006 constitutional amendment protecting embryonic stem-cell research. (Raise Your Hand spokeswoman Linda Rallo says that's not true, and that the initiative would impose the restrictions against embryonic stem-cell research only on the new money raised by the tobacco-tax hike. )
- Impose an additional 67-cent a pack tax on small tobacco companies who aren’t subject to the payments that large tobacco companies have made to 46 states, including Missouri, as part of a 1998 court settlement. (The states had sued the companies to recover some of their tobacco-related health-care costs tied to their Medicaid programs, which provide health care to the poor.)
Critics note that more than 90 percent of the money used to bankroll the signature gathering came from tobacco giant RJ Reynolds, which has acknowledged it sought the inclusion of the additional 67-cent-a-pack tax.
The rival tobacco tax proposal seeks a 23-cent hike, with the money raised to help pay for transportation improvements around the state.
That proposal’s chief sponsor is the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, which had campaigned vigorously against earlier tobacco-tax proposals in 2002, 2006 and 2012. All lost.
Money for the pro-transportation proposal is coming from a handful of small tobacco companies who would be affected by the 67-cent-a-pack hike included in the Raise Your Hand for Kids proposal.