Measures on casinos, health care workers to make Missouri ballot

Tuesday, August 5, 2008 | 6:55 p.m. CDT; updated 11:45 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 3, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri voters in November will decide whether to repeal the state's limit on gambling losses while increasing taxes on casinos and whether to allow home health care workers to unionize.

The secretary of state's office announced Tuesday that of the four groups to submit ballot measures earlier this year, only two had gathered enough valid signatures on petitions to be placed on the ballot.

The casino question asks voters to repeal Missouri's law limiting gambling losses to no more than $500 in a two-hour period. The measure would also increase the tax rate for casinos to 21 percent from 20 percent.

A group with financing from Ameristar and Pinnacle casinos submitted the petition. The group calls itself the "Yes for Schools First Coalition" because casino taxes go toward public education.

In a statement Tuesday, a spokesman for the coalition said increasing the casino tax would direct more than $100 million per year toward public schools. Spokesman Scott Charton also said eliminating the $500 loss limits would help Missouri casinos compete against those in neighboring states.

Charton said the measure would "protect thousands of Missouri jobs and help boost our economy by eliminating Missouri's outdated, uncompetitive loss limit regulations, which don't exist in any other state."

Missouri casinos contend that repealing the loss limits and barring constructions of new facilities is crucial because of newly planned casinos in Kansas. Missouri lawmakers also have considered legislation that mixes a repeal of loss limits repeals, higher casino taxes and bans on building new facilities.

Also certified for the November ballot is a question on allowing home health care workers to unionize and creating the Missouri Quality Homecare Council. The council's job would be recruiting, training and stabilizing a work force for home health care.

Ballot measures changing the state constitution require signatures from more than 8 percent of the votes cast in the 2004 gubernatorial election from six of Missouri's nine congressional districts. That amounts to between 140,000 and 150,000 signatures.

For petitions changing state law, it takes more than 5 percent of the total votes from the 2004 governor election in six congressional districts — or 86,000 to 95,000.

The secretary of state's office announced Tuesday that groups supporting measures to restrict the use of eminent domain for private development and to require the use of more renewable energy didn't meet those thresholds.

The eminent domain measure would have amended the Missouri Constitution in two places and was broken into separate initiative petitions. For both measures, supporters fell several thousand signatures short of the 28,787 signatures needed in the Second Congressional District, which covers Lincoln and parts of St. Charles and St. Louis counties.

The renewable energy petition was 526 signatures short of the 14,860 need in the Third Congressional District, which covers Jefferson and Ste. Genevieve counties, plus parts of St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis.

A proposed constitutional amendment barring many state affirmative action programs also won't appear on the ballot, because supporters did not turn in any signatures by a May deadline.

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