Government & Politics

Voter ID, campaign contribution limits among issues on Missouri ballot

Missouri’s November ballot will be crowded with issues for voters to decide, ranging from a photo ID requirement to vote to an increase in the state’s tobacco tax.
Missouri’s November ballot will be crowded with issues for voters to decide, ranging from a photo ID requirement to vote to an increase in the state’s tobacco tax.

Missourians will face a crowded ballot when they go to the polls in November, with voters deciding the fate of five proposed constitutional amendments.

In addition to casting a vote for president, U.S. Senate, governor and a host of other elected offices up and down the ballot, voters will also answer the following questions:

▪ Should a tax that pays for soil and water conservation and for state parks and historic sites be renewed for another 10 years?

▪ Should there be limits on campaign contributions to political candidates?

▪ Should the state’s tobacco tax be increased, and if so, should it go toward early childhood education or road and bridge repair?

▪ Should government be prohibited from enacting a sales tax on services like haircuts or day care?

▪ Should the state be allowed to require voters to provide a government-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot?

Another proposed amendment that would have legalized medical marijuana fell short of the required signatures to get on the ballot. Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Democrat who is running for U.S. Senate, said he hoped state lawmakers would take up the issue when they return to the Capitol in January. Otherwise, supporters can try again to get the issue on the 2018 ballot.

The most controversial measure on the ballot is the photo ID requirement to vote. Democrats and their allies have vowed to mount a campaign against the proposed amendment, which they say could result in voters without an ID being disenfranchised.

Republicans have tried to implement a voter ID law for more than a decade. They finally passed a version of the law earlier this year and managed to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of the bill. But it can’t go into effect unless voters pass the constitutional amendment. That’s because the state Supreme Court deemed voter ID unconstitutional in 2006.

Voters can also expect a spirited campaign over Missouri’s lowest-in-the nation, 17-cents-per-pack tobacco tax.

There are two proposals before voters that would hike the tax on cigarettes.

One would amend the state’s constitution to gradually raise the tax 60 cents per pack and use the new money to pay for early childhood education. The parent company of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., makers of Camel and Newport cigarettes, is bankrolling that campaign.

The other would increase the tobacco tax 23 cents per pack and put the money toward road repairs. That campaign is being run by the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, a longtime opponent of previous efforts to raise the cigarette tax, and is being largely funded by smaller, value-brand cigarette companies like Cheyenne International LLC and Xcaliber International Ltd.

It’s unclear what happens if both taxes are approved by voters, with most expecting a lengthy court battle if that happens.

Health groups, like the American Cancer Society, are opposed to both measures. They don’t believe the proposed increases are big enough and have concerns that the campaigns are funded by tobacco companies.

Voters will get the chance to reinstate campaign contribution limits as well. Missourians voted overwhelmingly to establish contribution limits in 1994, but that law was repealed by the Republican-controlled Missouri General Assembly in 2008.

The current proposal would cap donations to candidates at $2,600 per election and to political parties at $25,000. It also would impose other campaign-finance restrictions aimed at preventing political committees from obscuring the source of their money. It would not impose a cap on local elections.

The effort to prohibit sales taxes on services is being bankrolled by the Missouri Association of Realtors. It’s seen as an attempt to thwart GOP mega donor Rex Sinquefield’s goal of doing away with the state’s income tax and replacing it with a modified and expanded sales tax.

“The threat of new taxes on services is real, and you don’t wait until your house is on fire to get a fire extinguisher,” the campaign’s spokesman, Scott Charton, said in a statement. He added that the proposed constitutional amendment “will protect Missouri families from new taxes on services they use every day.”

Jason Hancock: 573-634-3565, @J_Hancock