Medical marijuana, cigarette tax hikes, ban on sales tax on services, campaign contribution limits could be on ballot
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Initiative petitions raising the cigarette tax to benefit early childhood education and legalizing medical marijuana may have grabbed most of the attention, but several other petitions turned in signatures to the secretary of state’s office by the May 8 deadline.
The other petitions included a cigarette tax increase to education, a ban on creating sales taxes on services and placing limits on campaign contributions.
Initiative petitions can change either statutory law or amend the constitution. To change statutory law, a petition must collect the signatures of 5 percent of the total previous cycle’s gubernatorial voters in six of the state’s eight congressional districts. If the petition seeks to amend the constitution, it must collect 8 percent of registered voters in six of the eight congressional districts.
Generally, that means a petition must collect as little as 98,618 signatures required for a statutory change and 157,788 signatures for a constitutional amendment, though the signature requirement may be more depending on which districts were targeted. However, most groups will try to collect many more signatures than the requirement because the signatures must be verified by the secretary of state’s office. Generally, about 70 percent of the signatures a campaign collects will be valid, but by collecting more signatures, a group improves their odds of getting final approval for the ballot.
One of the statutory petitions included another tobacco tax hike, this one raising funds for Missouri’s transportation infrastructure. The petitioners, the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (MPCA), collected signatures in districts 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7.
“As promised, we are submitting signatures for our fair and reasonable, but still substantial, 135 percent tax increase which, after approval by Missouri voters, will provide approximately $100 million per year in new money for our state’s deteriorating roads and bridges,” said Ron Leone, executive director of MPCA, in a statement. “This fair and reasonable tax increase in our common-sense proposal will give Missouri voters an opportunity to provide new funding to help fix Missouri’s unsafe roads and bridges.”
The proposal phases in a 23-cents-per-pack increase in state cigarette taxes for transportation funding. The funds would go to a newly created Transportation Infrastructure Fund, which the campaign says ensures they can only be spent for Missouri’s transportation infrastructure.
An IP circulated by the Missouri Realtors’ Association would amend the constitution to prohibit Missouri from creating a sales tax on services.
The association says their amendment would keep the following services tax free: personal services, such as haircuts, manicures and tattoos; professional services, such as doctors, lawyers, bankers and CPA;. services for the home, such as plumbing, repairs and lawn care; and services used by families, such as dance and music lessons and self-defense classes.
“The amendment will prohibit the state from putting new sales taxes on services that Missourians use every day,” said Scott Charton, spokesman for Missourians for Fair Taxation, a group created by the Realtors to sponsor the proposal. “We believe voters will stop this cradle-to-grave tax, which would tax the services of the baby delivery doctor and the services of the grave digger and all sorts of services in between.”
Another IP would amend the constitution to limit campaign contributions. That campaign turned in more than 270,000 signatures, drawing support from Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.
“Millionaires and billionaires shouldn’t be able to buy politicians with seven-figure checks, at the expense of middle-class Missourians,” McCaskill said. “The Missourians I hear from are sick of having lawmakers that are bought and paid for. It is the time to clean up this wild west of campaign finance, and end our distinction of being the only state with no limits on political contributions, gifts, and lawmakers-turned-lobbyists. I applaud the Sauer family on this initiative and look forward to working on its passage.”
The proposal limits campaign contributions to no more than $2,600 to individuals and $25,000 to parties and says that anonymous contributions of more than $25 must be returned to the donor.
The IPs for medical marijuana and to raise the cigarette tax for early childhood education were also submitted over the weekend.
The medical marijuana amendment would allow marijuana use for Missouri patients who suffer from cancer, epilepsy, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, spinal-cord injuries and other serious or debilitating medical conditions. Only patients whose physicians certify in writing that they have a legitimate and serious medical need would be allowed to purchase medical marijuana under the proposal.
The campaign, run by New Approach Missouri, turned in almost 275,000 signatures, meaning they need about 66 percent of their signatures to be valid.
“Today is a culmination of hundreds of volunteers, thousands of hours, and months of hard work and dedication,” said Tom Mundell, an Army veteran and New Approach Missouri board member. “It is so gratifying to know that this effort will provide relief to thousands of Missourians suffering from cancer, epilepsy and other debilitating illness, including our beloved veterans. Our message to those patients and doctors in Missouri is simple: help is on the way.”
Raise Your Hands For Kids (RYH4K) raised the signatures for the early childhood education tobacco tax and submitted more than 300,000 signatures, meaning they would require only 55 percent of their signatures to be valid, depending on which districts they targeted.
“I think a huge relief and sense of accomplishment because getting 300 thousand plus signatures is not the easiest thing in the world to do and we’ve been working on it since the beginning of January,” said Linda Rallo, executive director of RYH4K, about her feelings turning in the petition. “We’re excited that so many Missourians have signed our petition and we’re happy with the response that we’re getting out in the field from everyday Missourians who value early childhood education.”
All of the petitions must be issued a certificate of sufficiency by the secretary of state’s office by the 13th Tuesday prior to the general election. This year, that date is August 8.