The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 1, 2012

Kevin Wilson, guest columnist: Informed decisions require homework

By Kevin Wilson
Special to The Globe

NEOSHO, Mo. — A couple of columns ago I outlined who was running for what in November with regards to statewide offices. I promised that I would come back with a column explaining all the ballot initiatives that will also be decided in the general election, so here it is. Before I get into each one, I want to talk just briefly about the initiative process so you understand how these issues got on the ballot.

A measure can be put on the ballot by either the General Assembly or by the residents of Missouri via an initiative petition. Not every state allows residents to do this and our process has not been without controversy. Since the initiative petition bypasses the legislative process, the measure is sometimes poorly written and doesn’t always cover all the contingencies that are usually worked out through the legislative committee hearing procedure.

You might remember when the minimum wage initiative passed a few years ago, and the legislature had to come back and correct problems with emergency services personnel that work odd shifts. That’s just one example, but you get the picture.

A ballot measure can either amend the Missouri Constitution itself or Missouri statutes. On Nov. 6 we will see both on the ballot, so let’s look at what we have to vote on.

Constitutional Amendment 3 is proposed by the General Assembly and addresses the nonpartisan court plan and the manner in which Supreme Court and court of appeals judges are selected. In simple terms, a “yes” vote changes the constitution and grants the governor more power in the process, and a “no” vote leaves the process the way it currently stands.

Proposition A is proposed via citizen-led initiative petition and changes Missouri statutes (not the Constitution) and only affects the city of St. Louis. Currently the city’s police force is controlled by a board appointed by the governor. A yes vote will give the city the option of assuming control, and a no vote leaves it in the hands of the state. This might seem like a very straightforward measure, but I can tell you that there is not consensus even among St. Louis leaders. Even though it only affects the city of St. Louis, because it involves the possibility of transferring control from the state, all voters in Missouri have to approve the measure for it to pass.

Proposition B is another citizen-led initiative petition that would change Missouri statutes (not the Constitution) and has to do with the taxation of tobacco. If approved it would impose a tax of $0.0365 per cigarette and 25 percent of the manufacturer’s invoice price for roll-your-own tobacco and 15 percent for other tobacco products. Proceeds from the tax would create the Health and Education Trust Fund used to reduce and prevent tobacco use and for school funding. A no vote would obviously strike down the proposal and leave the tax rate where it is.

Proposition E is proposed by the General Assembly and would change Missouri statutes (not the Constitution). If approved, it would 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 the Legislature. If the measure fails, then the Missouri law will not be amended. This is in direct reference to Obamacare that requires exchanges to be set up in each state.

You notice that I didn’t give you my personal opinion on these initiatives and amendments. I definitely have my own thoughts and could easily share them with you, but for the purpose of this particular column I just wanted to make sure that you were aware of what is out there for you to vote on in November.

These issues are extremely important and the information I gave you was nowhere near enough for you to make an informed decision. I have provided you with the basics, so now I charge you with the responsibility to gather the rest of the information that you need — read the ballot language, talk to your legislators, and do whatever you can to educate yourself. It is important that each of us make informed votes on every issue and not rely on bits and pieces of sound bites.

Kevin Wilson, a former state representative, lives in Neosho.