Ballot issues listed for vote on Tuesday

Sunday, November 3, 2002

Measures appearing on Tuesday's statewide ballot would change the costs of cigarettes and call for a state constitutional convention, among other choices. Following are all the issues up for vote in Missouri, with explanations about what the measures intend to do and how opponents and proponents view them:

Proposition A -- Cigarette Taxes: A "yes" vote is to add 55 cents to the state excise tax on a pack of cigarettes, raising the tax from its current level of 17 cents to 72 cents per pack. Taxes on other tobacco products would triple to 30 percent of the wholesale cost. The estimated $342 million a year the new tax would generate would be earmarked for reimbursing health care providers under Medicare, an existing prescription drug program for the elderly, life sciences research, early childhood education programs and efforts to reduce smoking.

Supporters say smokers are a drain on the state's health care system and as a result should pay more to fund health programs. They also say higher taxes would discourage more Missourians, particularly teenagers, from smoking.

Opponents say the bulk of the revenue would go into the pockets of the health care providers that put the measure on the ballot and that only 7 percent of the revenue would be spent on programs directly related to smoking. They also claim the measure would expand state welfare spending and unfairly target low-income Missourians who could least afford the tax.

Constitutional Amendment 1 -- St. Louis City Home Rule: A "yes" vote is allow St. Louis city residents to make future changes to the structure of the city's government locally without requiring the approval of the General Assembly. The proposal would carry no cost to Missouri taxpayers.

Supporters say it would free state lawmakers, including those from rural areas, from having to deal with city issues and give them more time to spend on matters of statewide interest. They also say it would give St. Louisans the same level of local control enjoyed by residents of all other Missouri cities.

There is no organized opposition.

Constitutional Amendment 2 -- Collective Bargaining for Firefighters: A "yes" vote is to give firefighters, ambulance personnel and dispatchers the right to bargaining collectively with their employers and enter into binding contracts concerning wages, working conditions and other conditions of employment. Such employees would be precluded from striking. It would cost local taxpayers an estimated $251,600 to $3.15 million a year, depending on the number of local governments that enter into such agreements.

Supporters say emergency personnel deserve the same bargaining rights as private sector workers. They also say the measure would improve firefighters' wages and equipment, the latter enhancing on-the-job safety.

Opponents say it would reduce local control over labor matters and potentially require local governments to raise taxes to meet firefighters' wage demands.

Constitutional Amendment 3 -- Term Limits Exemption: A "yes" vote is to exempt some partial terms from the existing legislative term limits of eight years in each chamber of the General Assembly. Those serving partial terms could stay in the House for up to nine years and in the Senate for up to 10 years.

Supporters say that in imposing term limits in 1992, Missouri voters never intended to penalize lawmakers who fill vacancies created by death or early retirement. At present, some House members have to leave after just seven years, some senators after five years.

There is no organized opposition.

Constitutional Amendment 4 -- Public Utilities: A "yes" vote is to allow two or more municipalities to jointly operate public utilities without being subject to regulation by the Missouri Public Service Commission. The measure would provide potential savings to taxpayers and impose no costs.

Supporters say it would encourage cities to cooperate on utility projects, which could lower the costs customers pay for service. Currently, a utility operated by one city isn't subject to PSC edicts, but joint ventures are.

There is no organized opposition.

Constitutional Convention: A "yes" vote is to call a convention to revise and amend the Missouri Constitution. Delegates, who would be selected at a later election, could choose to completely rewrite the document or simply propose amendments. Voters would have to ratify any new constitution or amendments the convention produced. The cost for holding a convention is unknown.

There is neither organized support for nor opposition to the measure, which automatically goes on the ballot every 20 years. However, some say the present constitution, adopted in 1945, is outdated and could stand to be modernized. Others say the current charter has served the state well.

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