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DAVID ROSMAN: For the most part, don't mess with state constitution

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:32 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Almost two weeks. That is how much time you have until the Aug. 5 primary election, and if you think this one is not important, well, let's take a look.

David RosmanMost of the candidates in the primary races are running unopposed. The big exception is the 4th Congressional District, where incumbent Vicky Hartzler is running against John Webb for the Republican nomination.

Mr. Webb has been relatively quiet, and I believe Hartzler will beat him handily. Nate Irvin, the Democratic candidate for the seat, is unopposed in his race. Between Vicky and Nate in November, I just hope the young man gives it a good old college try.

The big issues in the election are the constitutional amendments on the slate. As my regular readers know, I do not like to add more minutia to an already overbloated state constitution and will urge a "no" vote on all but one of the issues.

Constitutional Amendment 1, the so-called “Right to Farm” bill, starts the frenzy.

I have a problem with this amendment because it is so broadly written and appears to be a harbinger of bad things to small farms in Missouri. On the ballot, voters will be asked this question:  “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed.”

My question is simple: What exactly does this mean?

Will the farmers still be subject to Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Natural Resources regulations? Will the state still be able to investigate and fine those engaged in deceptive practices? Despite Attorney General Chris Koster's glowing endorsement, I believe this proposed amendment is written too broadly and will lead to vast deregulation of the farming industry including food safety regulations. A “no” vote is recommended.

Constitutional Amendment 5 is also unnecessary and designed to circumvent federal law. Voters will be asked whether the ownership of “arms … is a unalienable right and that the state government is obligated to uphold that right?”

Does this mean that you and I will be able to buy a submachine gun without federal licensure? In fact, none of the amendments to the Constitution are unalienable; that is limited to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I strongly recommend a “no” vote.

Constitutional Amendment 7 is an exception to my general rule. This amendment would charge “a temporary sales tax of three-quarters of 1 percent to be used solely to fund state and local highways, roads, bridges and transportation projects for 10 years, with priority given to repairing unsafe roads and bridges.”

Though I do not like the means of the taxation — I prefer a user tax here — the money is necessary to maintain and improve our infrastructure. The key word here is “temporary,” and here I suggest a “yes” vote.

Proposed constitutional Amendment 9 appears on the ballot this way: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that the people shall be secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects.”

This is a knee-jerk reaction to Edward Snowden’s revelations that the National Security Agency is spying on Americans. You know Snowden, the same guy the GOP loves to call a traitor. This is yet another attempt to circumvent the federal court and only repeats the rights given in the U.S. Constitution under the Fourth Amendment.

In fact the courts have already ruled on a number of issues concerning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrants, the search and seizure of personal mobile telephones, and the Fourth Amendment in terms of electronic privacy. This is another unnecessary addition to our state Constitution, and I advise a “no” vote.

Boone County wants to “impose a new county-wide sales tax at a rate of one-eighth of 1 percent for the purposes of providing funding for parks, recreation and economic development, including the Central Missouri Events Center at the Boone County Fairgrounds.”

People have been talking about improving the the events center for a long time now, and I believe it is time we improve the facility. But I have a problem with yet another addition to our sales tax, which in many cases is approaching 8 percent. There are better ways to fund the center, and I believe a “no” vote is appropriate here.

These are my thoughts on the matter, and I know you will put in your two cents at the  polling booth.

By the way, Boone County is in need of poll workers. You will be paid for your time. You may sign up to be a Boone County poll worker at showmeboone.com/pollworker.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of his commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.


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Comments

Ellis Smith July 23, 2014 | 7:09 a.m.

It happened before the births of most currently living Americans, but there was this TEMPORARY federal tax enacted called an "income tax." I have no problem with income taxes - REASONABLY "graduated" ones - but temporary tax measures do seem to have a habit of becoming anything but.

[For a comment on taxation for highway maintenance*, turn to the Reader Comment section and see my note to John Schultz.]

Since I'm no longer a Missouri resident I don't believe I should comment on the issues in question. I won't be voting on them.

As for constitutions, eons ago when I was in college a professor asked the class why it is that our federal constitution (including amendments) is so short but our state constitutions (as well as more than a few foreign federal constitutions) are so blasted long.

He gave us a very good answer.

*-This is a situation where the feds MUST be involved, because the highway net does not cease and then begin anew each time a state boundary is crossed. Ditto commercial aviation.

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