- Associated Press - Monday, May 19, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri voters will have a lot to think about this year when they step in the ballot booth. There will be choices to be made about farms, guns, lottery tickets and taxes, to name just a few.

That’s because legislators referred an unusually large number of issues to the ballot - the most in 16 years.

Lawmakers this year approved six proposed constitutional amendments for the ballot, and two additional ones were referred there as a result of measures legislators passed in 2013.

The proposals will go before voters in November, unless Gov. Jay Nixon decides to schedule some for a different date, such as the August primaries.

The Democratic governor said Monday he didn’t believe it was necessary for the Republican-led Legislature to try to amend the constitution so often.

“The Legislature continuing to treat the constitution as something they should have amended quarterly is not right,” Nixon said in an interview after an unrelated news conference in Troy. He added: “It seems to be a very activist way to go about trying to govern.”

The eight legislatively referred ballot items are the most during a two-year General Assembly since 1997-1998, when lawmakers authorized 10 issues that were placed on ballots in April 1998, November 1998 and April 1999.

The most prominent of this year’s measure will ask voters whether to impose a three-quarters cent sales tax for roads and other transportation projects that is projected to raise $534 million annually for 10 years. It would be the largest tax increase in Missouri history, benefiting a highway and transportation system that has been experiencing a sharp decline in available money.

The transportation tax was placed on the ballot by a bipartisan vote, though some Republicans objected to the general notion of raising taxes while some Democrats objected that the particular type of tax could fall heavier on lower-income residents. Construction and business groups are expected to finance a multimillion-dollar campaign for the proposal.

Other measures may be more likely to drive turnout among rural and conservative voters, thus potentially benefiting Republican legislative candidates. One proposal would create a right to farm within the Missouri Constitution while another would fortify the right to keep and bear arms.

Dave Robertson, a political scientist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said some of the ballot measures appear to be “innovative ways to get people interested” in an election that lacks a natural draw, such as a race for president, governor or U.S. Senate.

“You’re able to put some symbolic issues on the ballot that satisfy your constituents - that get some of your constituents to the polls,” Robertson said.

At least one of those measures backed by Republican lawmakers could pre-empt an initiative petition organized by Democratic activists. It would authorize an early voting period before elections that would be substantially shorter than the one pursued by the initiative campaign.

Other proposals would:

- Authorize a new lottery game benefiting state veterans homes.

- Add electronic data to a list of things protected from unreasonable searches and seizures.

- Allow evidence about prior criminal acts to be used against people facing prosecution for child sex offenses.

- Give lawmakers new powers to override gubernatorial budget cuts.

As lawmakers prepared to vote on the last of the measures in the final hours of the session Friday, Sen. Paul LeVota noted the sheer quantity of issues voters will be facing.

“We’re going to have a crowded ballot,” said LeVota, D-Independence.


Associated Press writer Jim Salter contributed to this report from Troy, Missouri.


Follow David A. Lieb at: https://www.twitter.com/DavidALieb



Click to Read More

Click to Hide