JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri's statewide vote Tuesday will decide the fate of initiatives dealing with tobacco taxes, oversight of police in St. Louis, an online health insurance marketplace and the selection of state appeals court judges.
There has been a full campaign with highway billboards and TV ads over a ballot measure to increase Missouri's tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products. It will be the third time in a decade that voters have considered such a tax increase. Another measure deals with the selection of appellate judges and would amend the Missouri Constitution.
Polls are open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Constitutional Amendment 3 would change the composition of a state commission responsible for nominating finalists for vacancies on the Missouri Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. It also would increase the number of judicial finalists submitted to the governor from three to four. Currently, the nominating commission has three members from the Missouri Bar, three gubernatorial appointees who cannot be members of the Missouri Bar and a Supreme Court judge. Under the measure, the judge would be replaced with a fourth gubernatorial selectee, and governors would be allowed to appoint lawyers to the commission. In addition, a former appellate judge would serve as a nonvoting commission member.
The constitutional amendment was approved by the state Legislature and needs approval from voters.
Critics contend the changes would give the governor too much power and inject politics into the process. Supporters are not actively campaigning because they are unhappy with the summary appearing before voters. Instead, they plan a future fight for "meaningful judicial reform." They contend politics remain involved in how appellate judges are picked and that attorneys have too much influence.
ST. LOUIS POLICE
Since the Civil War, a state commission has overseen the St. Louis Police Department. Proposition A would eliminate the five-member state commission comprises four gubernatorial appointees and the city's mayor.
St. Louis officials have pressed to eliminate the state commission in recent years and estimate it could save $4.5 million, mostly by ending duplication of administrative functions. Opponents such as the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union fear the measure would make it harder to establish a citizen oversight board and make it harder to access police records.
The Kansas City Police Department also is governed by a state commission, but it is not affected by the ballot measure.
Missouri's lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax would be increased from 17 cents to 90 cents per pack while state taxes on other tobacco products also would be increased. Proposition B calls for the additional tax revenue to be divvied up among K-12 education, higher education and tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The tax increase is expected to generate between $283 million and $423 million annually in additional revenue.
Voters narrowly defeated proposed tobacco tax increases in 2002 and 2006.
Opponents include the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association. They argue the tax increase could cost Missouri businesses a competitive advantage against neighboring states and cost local governments tax revenue by reducing sales. Critics also contend there are no guarantees the additional tax revenue will boost funding for education. A TV ad warns money also could go toward the federal health care law.
The American Cancer Society hopes the higher tax will motivate current smokers to stop and persuade children and teens never to start. Supporters also tout the possibility of more money for education. Leaders for the University of Missouri said a plan to expand its medical school with a second campus in Springfield is unlikely to happen without passage of the measure.
The governor could not create an online marketplace called a health insurance exchange without prior approval from state lawmakers or voters. It also would prohibit any state agency or employee from providing "assistance or resources of any kind" to the federal government to implement an insurance exchange unless allowed by a state law or required by a federal law. Lawmakers approved the measure and referred it to the ballot as Proposition E.
The measure targets part of the federal health care law. Under the health overhaul, the federal government will set up exchanges if a state does not create its own.
Missouri is the only state with a ballot measure specifically targeting insurance exchanges, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Voters in four other states are deciding on broader initiatives dealing with the health care law.