By Andy Arnold, Arnold & Associates
The IP Raises Questions about Abortion, Stem-Cell and Tobacco Research & Religious School Funding too…
Let’s say I’m a fan of early childhood education programs and am considering supporting the initiative petition (IP) being circulated by the group Raise Your Hands 4-Kids. The initiative imposes a new tax on cigarettes sold in the state of $1.27 a pack, when you add the base tax (60-cents a pack) to the “equity fee” (67-cents pack), for a nearly 750% increase in cigarette taxes in Missouri.
Sounds good right? Let’s stick it to smokers and the cigarette companies and raise some quick money for kids programs.
Now let’s say I’m Pro-life, opposed to the federal medical emergency exception allowing abortions; or, I’m pro stem-cell research and supported the successful Missouri Cures ballot issue back in 2006; or I hate tobacco and want the state to conduct research that shows the harmful effects of continued use; or I’m pro-public school opposed to using public funds for grants or vouchers to assist religious schools.
If you identify as a supporter of any of these issues, that admittedly have nothing to do with early childhood education program funding, but everything to do with the RYH4Ks IP, then you’re going to want to read the language relating to these issues included in the early childhood education IP… because word matter and if passed by voters, this language will be enshrined in the Missouri constitution.
The RYH4K’s IP says money raised by the new taxes can’t be used for abortions or abortion services, “unless such services are limited to medical emergencies”1. Federal law requires hospitals that accept federal payments to provide treatment for medical emergencies. Performing an abortion in this situation is rare, but is allowed under this exception. Apparently this language was inserted into the IP because a small portion of the money raise by the new tax is earmarked for hospitals.
The RYH4Ks IP says none of the money raised by these new taxes can be used for “human cloning or research, clinical trials, or therapies or cures using human embryonic stem-cells”2. This provision goes on to couple this prohibitive language with the lifesaving cures amendment added to the Missouri Constitution by voters in 20063. Missouri Cures and the Missouri Biotechnology Association opposes this provision as they believe it’s an attempt by anti- stem-cell research advocates to limit lifesaving cures research.
The RYH4Ks IP says none of the money raised by these new taxes can be used for “tobacco related research of any kind”4, an obvious concession made by RYH4Ks for their primary donor Reynolds American International Services (RAI), affiliate company of RJ Reynolds Tobacco. Missouri Ethics Commission records show that RAI has contributed over $2million to RYH4Ks to get the IP, the anti-research provision and the “equity fee”, that is only assessed on RAI’s competitors, into the Missouri Constitution.
And finally, the RYH4Ks IP allows money raised by these new taxes to be used for early childhood programs operated by private religious schools. The Missouri Constitution currently prohibits public funding for religious schools5, however the IP contains a sentence- “Distributions of funds under this amendment shall not be limited or prohibited by the provisions of Article IX, Section 8”6– that circumvents this prohibition and allows grants or vouchers of public money to be used for religious schools.
The spokesperson for RYH4Ks would prefer that you keep your focus on the fuzzy puppy- more funding for early childhood education- and ignore the other stuff- language related to abortion, stem-cell & tobacco research or religious school funding. However, these additional provisions matter and raise questions to alarming to ignore.