Last week I discussed the proposed cigarette tax increase and the renewal of the state parks sales tax. This week I’d like to continue discussing other important issues that will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot. Amendments 2, 4 and 6 will be up for a vote of the people and I encourage you to read and study all three in order to cast informed votes, as the campaign contribution limits, sales and use tax and Voter ID measures have far reaching implications.
An open and transparent government and election process is what Missourians expect and what they deserve. In recent years the Missouri Legislature has worked to find a solution to ethics and campaign contribution laws. Many bills have been brought in front of the General Assembly with varied success. This year there is an outside campaign to get campaign contribution limits placed on the ballot.
Amendment 2, if passed, would cap campaign contributions at $2,600 per election for individual candidates and $25,000 for political parties. If passed, this measure would reinstate the will of the people, as expressed in 1994, when 74 percent of Missouri voters approved Proposition A, which limited campaign contributions. The Legislature repealed the proposition in 2008, and currently there are no limits on campaign contributions.
The proposed new limits would be placed on state and judicial candidates, committees, and political parties. One purpose of the amendment is to prevent individuals and entities from intentionally concealing the source of contributions. The amendment would also establish penalties for violating the contribution limits, which would start with a notice to return the funds, and could be as severe as a class D felony.
Those in support of the amendment believe it is important to restore limits so that large donors do not have too much influence. Opponents of the measure say the current system better ensures transparency in the system.
A prohibition on new sales and use taxes is the focus of Amendment 4. The proposed amendment would prohibit state or local sales or use taxes on services, such as manicures, haircuts, car repairs, child care and rent. The current state sales tax is 4.225 percent and any service or activity not taxed locally prior to Jan. 1, 2015, would not be subject to a local sales tax if the amendment passes.
The measure comes as a response to other states that have enacted taxes on services as a way to avoid raising income or property taxes. Opponents say the amendment could lead to the elimination or reduction of vital local services. Supporters believe the measure protects those who are least able to afford new taxes, including senior citizens, the disabled and others on fixed incomes.
In September, during the annual Veto Session, the Legislature overrode the governor’s veto of House Bill 1631, which seeks to implement a photo ID requirement for voters. The companion bill, House Joint Resolution 53, has now been placed on the ballot and would require voters to provide photo identification in order to cast a ballot. House Bill 1631 would only take effect if Amendment 6 is passed by voters. This issue has been controversial and has seen many bills fail in previous years. The General Assembly has worked to address some of the issues that have caused it to fail in the past.
The proposed amendment states that valid forms of identification would include photo IDs issued by the state, the federal government or the military. If a voter does not have a valid ID, that person can still receive a regular ballot by signing a statement, under penalty of perjury, attesting they are who they claim to be. If no statement is signed, the voter can vote provisionally. To ensure no eligible voter is disenfranchised, the state and all fee offices will be required to provide a free photo ID to any voter who does not possess one and any documents necessary to obtain it.
Once again, as the election is upon us, I encourage you to be informed voters and to educate yourselves on the ballot measures presented to Missourians this year. These ballot initiatives have the ability to impact the state for decades into the future. I hope you will visit the Secretary of State’s website for official ballot language and resources to help you come to a thoughtful decision on these issues.
Mike Cunningham is a Republican member of the Missouri State Senate, representing District 33. Contact him at 573-751-1882 or www.senate.mo.gov/cunningham