Explaining the propositions on the Missouri ballot

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by Diana Zoga / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on November 6, 2012 at 12:08 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 6 at 4:31 PM

(KMOV.com) -- On the Missouri ballot Tuesday, voters will be asked to consider a state constitutional amendment, three state-wide ballot measures... on top of other local city and county questions.

The questions are all worth a closer look before stepping into the voting booth on Tuesday.

PROP E

Kathleen Farrell, co-president of the League of Women Voters in St. Louis says this is the measure that seems to cause the most confusion.

Here's the ballot language: "Shall Missouri Law be amended to prohibit the Governor or any state agency, from establishing or operating state-based health insurance exchanges unless authorized by a vote of the people or by the legislature?  No direct costs or savings for state and local governmental entities are expected from this proposal. Indirect costs or savings related to enforcement actions, missed federal funding, avoided implementation costs, and other issues are unknown."

For one thing, you'll want to watch the wording.  Since the ballot asks if Missouri law should be amended to prohibit the governor or state from setting up and running state health insurance exchanges, a "no" vote actually says "yes" to Missouri complying with the Affordable Care Act (also called ObamaCare). 

Under the Affordable Care Act, health exchanges must be set up by January 1, 2014.  States are asked to build an on-line exchange where people and small businesses can shop for health plans.  If states decline to set up exchanges, the federal government will do it.

Proponents of Prop E say the governor or Missouri agencies can't do this without the legislature's approval, or a vote of the people.  Prop E supporters say the exchanges could cost people more than what's already available.

Opponents of Prop E argue that Missouri would have to follow federal law (the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court earlier this year).

"Because it's required under the law, the federal government is going to come in and do it for us," said Farrell. 

Farrell added voters need to keep that in mind.

NOTE:  We spoke to the League of Women Voters because it is a non-partisan group.  You should, however, know that the LWV has taken a position on Prop E.  The group is opposed to Prop E (meaning that the state and governor should be allowed to set up an insurance exchange, without any additional votes or legislative action).

PROP B

You've likely seen the big orange and black billboards that urge you to vote against Prop B.  The measure would increase the state cigarette tax from 17 cents to 90 cents.  Twenty percent of the funds generated from the tax increase are slated to pay for smoking cessation programs.  The rest is set aside for education (including 30% for higher ed).  However, some question whether schools would really see a windfall.

"If this money goes to schools and goes to health care, will the legislature simply lower its part of funding goals?," said Farrell.

So is this just a money grab?  As cigarette tax money rolls in, will state lawmakers simply decide to cut other sources of education funding in favor of other projects?

Farrell says, "That's something we can all control.  We all need to fight for appropriate funding for education and health care."

Basically, we'd need to keep an eye on lawmakers down the road.

Opponents of Prop B say Missouri would actually lose tax revenue from customers who come to Missouri to buy cigarettes because Missouri's state sales tax is the lowest in the country.  Opponents have also called the tax hike unfair.  The Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association paid for the "No on Prop B" advertising.
Proponents argue that tobacco-related diseases cost Missouri (in terms of health care dollars) and say that if the price of tobacco increases, smokers will have another reason to quit.

NOTE:  The League of Women Voters (we are quoting the local co-president for this article) has also taken a position on Prop B, saying it supports a state cigarette tax increase.

PROP A

Local officials have been pushing for local control of the St. Louis Police Department for years and groups that include the ACLU of Eastern Missouri have supported the idea of transferring administrative control of the police department from the state to the city.  But while the ACLU and groups that include the NAACP supported local control, they do not support Prop A.

"It closes all disciplinary records to everyone except the Civil Service Commission.  So, that closes off disciplinary records for the Civilian Review Board," said John Chasnoff with the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.

Chasnoff says the group has a problem with the language in Prop A, arguing that Prop A gives all authority over discipline to the Civil Service Commission and would close the disciplinary records that involve investigations into criminal police misconduct. 

Mayor Francis Slay, a proponent of Prop A, argues that the measure puts the city's police department in line with Sunshine Law requirements.  Slay says local control increases accountability in St. Louis.

"Right now, if some body's upset with how high crime may be in his or her neighborhood who do they call? Do they call the governor? Probably not.   Do they call the police board members?  Probably not," said Slay.

All voters in the state are asked to make a decision on this measure because it's a state law.  The issue dates back to the Civil War days when Governor Claiborne Jackson (a Confederate sympathizer) wanted to control the U.S. Arsenal in St. Louis.  Currently, the mayor and a four-member board (board members are appointed by the governor) govern the police department.

If passed, Prop A would go into effect July 1st.

MISSOURI CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT 3

This has to do with the restructure of a commission that chooses the nominees for the Missouri Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.  Right now, the governor can pick three people to the Appellate Judicial Commission, but the amendment would allow the governor to pick four.  

(Currently, the seven-member commission includes the chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, three lawyers that are elected by the Missouri Bar, and three other people selected by the governor).  When there is a vacancy, the commission interviews any interested applicants and picks three.  From those three, the governor selects one.

Opponents of the amendment say it would give the governor more control and increase the role of politics in the state judiciary (since the governor would have the power to appoint the majority of the commission that selects court nominees).  They favor a process that is as non-partisan as possible.

Proponents say that the process gives citizens an elected official to hold accountable (that would be the governor).  Proponents have also said say that they would support a system that requires judges to run for election and put the choice in voters hands and that this amendment would serve as a compromise. 

Keep in mind, there has been a push to change the appointment process to an elected system in Missouri.  This amendment may set up more changes in the future that could transform how Missouri picks judges.

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