Initiative petitions come into the home stretch to become ballot measures

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – At 5 p.m. July 26 a very important deadline will expire for the five initiative petitions that were submitted to Secretary of State Jason Kander’s office May 8. Today marked the final day that local election authorities could turn in their verified signature lists for certification by Kander’s office.

Kander and his staff will have two weeks to verify the findings of the local election authorities, do a final tally of the number of signatures collected and then handing out certificate of sufficiency to those that will finally be placed on the ballot. If they do not, then the Secretary of State must explain why the signatures did not pass muster in a certificate of insufficiency.

The signatures collected must be a certain number for each of the state’s eight Congressional districts, but signatures need to be collected from a minimum of six of those districts. For a constitutional amendment petition this year, the number of signatures required is eight percent of the number of people who voted for governor in 2012 in six of the eight congressional districts. That means roughly 157,000 signatures are required for certification.

The five initiative petitions approaching their final test are two constitutional amendments that would raise the state’s tobacco tax to pay for either early childhood education or highway infrastructure improvements (depending on the petition), a constitutional amendment that would legalize medical marijuana, a statutory change that would prevent new taxes on services, and a constitutional amendment to limit campaign contributions.

Some of the roads for those potential ballot have been rockier than others. The Early Childhood Education Amendment promoted by Raise Your Hands For Kids (RYH4K) has faced legal challenges intended to bar it from the ballot, but it has also gathered over 330,000 signatures.

The IP is one of the two that would raise tobacco taxes.

Opponents have mainly consisted of those supporting the other IP that would raise tobacco taxes, with Ron Leone, the executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, at the forefront of the effort.

However, medical groups have spoken out against the RYH4K petition for language they believe stigmatizes against stem-cell research. Some education groups have also criticized the petition. The Missouri Association of Rural Education says the petition would allow for state money to go to private and parochial schools. Proponents, ranging from children’s advocacy groups to the Missouri NAACP and other education groups like the statewide PTA, believe it will offer significant benefit to the state’s youngest children with a renewed focus on early childhood education.

The IP has also fought a battle in court over the ballot summary language, which was deemed “misleading” a few weeks ago by the Western District Appeals Court. Kander, however has said he would certify the signatures, despite the name change.

The others have quietly been gathering their support. New Approach Missouri submitted roughly 275,000 signatures for their medical marijuana legalization, which would make Missouri the 26th state to legalize the substance for that purpose. Informal polls have found substantial support for the proposal, but it is unclear if that will translate to the electorate at large.

The Missouri Realtors Association have pushed to prohibit taxing services that are currently not taxed. That includes everything from barbershops, salons and tattoo parlors to plumbing and lawn care to dance or martial arts lessons or even the services of doctors and lawyers.

And the final initiative petition to limit campaign contributions, called the Missouri Campaign Contribution Reform Initiative gathered over 270,000 signatures. It was put forward by Todd Jones a lawyer for a group called Returning Government to the People. The effort is funded largely by Fred Sauer of the Orion Investment Company in Clayton.

We will know in two weeks’ time which of these petitions made the cut and which fell short. The deadline to issue a certificate of sufficiency is Aug. 9.