With the general election one week away, most Newton and McDonald County voters have likely decided how they’re going to cast their ballots with regard to candidates seeking national, state and county offices.
However, many citizens may have given less thought to four state initiatives to be decided Tuesday, Nov. 6. Next month’s ballot contains one constitutional amendment and three statutory amendments.
The amendment to the state Constitution would change the way Missouri selects its Supreme Court and appellate judges.
Of the three statutory measures, one would give the city of St. Louis control of its police department, which, to some extent, is currently administered by the state. Pass or fail, the proposal is unlikely to have much impact on outstate Missouri.
Of the two other measures, one would prohibit the creation, without voter or legislative approval, of a state health insurance exchange as called for under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the other would raise Missouri’s tax on cigarettes.
The full texts of these proposals are available on the Missouri Secretary of State’s website at www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2012ballot. Summaries of each initiative, based on the state’s mandated “fair ballot language,” appear below.
Constitutional Amendment 3, selection of judges
A “yes” vote favors amending the Missouri Constitution to revise the current system for nonpartisan selection of Supreme Court and appeals court judges. The new process would give the governor authority to appoint a majority of the commissioners who pick judicial nominees.
A “no” vote supports current constitutional provisions for the nonpartisan selection of Supreme Court and appeals court judges.
Essentially, the amendment would give the governor indirect control over who becomes a Supreme Court or appeals court judge, since the state’s chief executive would have the power to appoint four of the seven commissioners who choose judicial nominees. Currently, the governor appoints only three commission members.
Supporters say the amendment places the selection of judges in the hands of voters, who of course elect the governor. Opponents fear the change will inject partisanship into the “Missouri Plan,” which has been hailed nationally for its effectiveness in keeping politics out of the judicial selection process. The amendment has no impact on state spending.
Proposition A, St. Louis police
A “yes” vote favors allowing the city of St. Louis to acquire control of its police department from a board of commissioners appointed by the governor. The amendment also establishes requirements for the city’s governing of the police force with regard to residency, rank, salary, benefits, insurance and pensions.
A “no” vote will leave the state commission in control of those and other aspects of St. Louis police force administration.
Page 2 of 2 - If the measure passes, state officials estimate a savings of $500,000 annually. Local officials in St. Louis estimate annual potential savings of $3.5 million. However, “consolidation decisions with an unknown outcome may result in the savings being more or less than estimated.”
Proposition B, cigarette tax
If a majority of voters mark “yes” on their ballots, the measure will create a Health & Education Trust Fund using tax revenue collected from the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
The state’s cigarette tax would increase from 17 cents a pack — the lowest in the nation — to 90 cents a pack. Prop B would also place a 25 percent tax on loose tobacco and a 15 percent tax on cigars and other tobacco products.
Fifty percent of the resulting new revenue would to be earmarked for public schools, and 30 percent would go to higher education. The remaining 20 percent would pay for tobacco-use cessation programs.
If the measure fails, that is if most voters mark “no,” the cigarette tax will remain unchanged.
Proposition E, insurance exchanges
A “yes” vote means that the voter favors amending Missouri law 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.
Citizens voting “no” want to allow the state’s executive branch to establish and operate such exchanges as set forth in federal health-care legislation signed by President Barack Obama in 2010. According to the ballot language, passage will have no impact on state taxes.