Amendment 2: Stem cell initiative
If passed, Amendment 2, otherwise known as the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, would ensure that Missouri law would be no more restrictive than federal law in regard to embryonic stem cell research.
The amendment stipulates that no person can clone or attempt to clone human beings for reproductive purposes and sets forth penalties of up to 15 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both for doing so.
The amendment also states that no government employee can interfere with the transfer of public money that has been allocated for lawful stem cell research. It also would prohibit the sale of human eggs or embryos for the purpose of stem cell research, as well as the creation of embryos for that purpose. It would, however, allow donors and facilities to be reimbursed for various expenses incurred in the processing of donated eggs as well as the donor’s lost wages.
Advocates say that the initiative is necessary to protect Missourians’ access to the therapeutic benefits that many researchers think will eventually result from embryonic stem cell research. Opponents say that embryonic stem cell research violates the sanctity of life and is tantamount to manufacturing human beings for medical purposes.
To read the ballot measure in full, go to sos.mo.gov/elections/.
For more information on the ethical debate from The International Society for Stem Cell Research, go to isscr.org/.
Amendment 3: Tobacco tax increase
Constitutional Amendment 3 asks voters to decide whether the state’s tobacco tax should be increased to 97 cents from 17 cents per pack of cigarettes and to 30 percent from 10 percent on other tobacco products, such as cigarette papers, smokeless tobacco and cigars.
The increase, which would be effective Jan. 1, would generate $351 million to $499 million annually and would be used to create “A Healthy Future Trust Fund.”
Nearly 17 percent of the money would be used to finance anti-smoking programs, and the other 82 percent would go toward providing health care services for people with incomes that are 200 percent of the federal poverty level or less. Some of this money would also help pay physicians, clinics, ambulance services and emergency departments that treat Medicaid patients and uninsured Missourians.
Opponents argue that it makes no sense that most of the money will wind up in the pockets of physicians and hospitals, instead of being funneled toward programs geared toward preventing tobacco use. They also worry the increase will push Missouri smokers to stop shopping at local convenience stores, gas stations and tobacco stores and instead turn to the Internet or to stores in border states with lower tobacco taxes.
The group responsible for creating the measure, The Committee for a Healthy Future, says that the price increase will push more Missourians to quit smoking and that the money will help reduce the billions of dollars Missouri spends each year on health care caused by tobacco-related diseases.
To read the ballot language, go to sos.mo.gov/elections/2006ballot/.
Amendment 6: Property tax exemption for veterans groups
Amendment 6 would change Missouri’s Constitution to make veterans organizations exempt from paying real property and some personal property taxes. The proposed amendment would add just four words, “or for veterans’ organizations,” and give a tax exemption for property used solely for nonprofit purposes or the charitable activities of veterans’ organizations.
Currently, the state constitution exempts “purely charitable” organizations from paying property taxes, but not all counties label veterans’ organizations as purely charitable because of some of the activities they host. In the late 1990s the State Tax Commission ruled certain aspects of veterans organizations are not purely charitable. Such activities might include operating bars and restaurants, said Randy Turely, chief counsel for the commission.
One of the sponsors of the resolution, state Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville, said veterans groups would struggle to pay property taxes if counties chose to tax them.
“Many of these buildings are older buildings that are in commercial areas now, and, if forced to pay taxes at the rate that would be assessed against a commercial organization, I think they would have a hard time staying in business,” the Clay County legislator said.
Amendment 7: State pensions and salaries
Amendment 7 has a two-fold purpose. If passed, it would deny pensions to state elected officials, legislators and judges who are convicted of felonies that occur while they’re in office or to those removed from office after impeachment or misconduct.
The amendment would also change the way elected officials get pay increases. Raises recommended by the Citizens Commission for Compensation for Elected Officials would go before the legislature every two years. But if Amendment 7 passes, a two-thirds vote, rather than a majority, would be needed to reject the proposals.
Proponents of the amendment say the change is necessary to give purpose to the commission, which hasn’t met since 2000. The amendment’s legislative sponsor said commission members saw no reason to meet after the legislature vetoed every recommendation but one. Amendment 7 would make it easier for recommendations to be approved.
Opponents say that the wording of the amendment is deceptive because the forfeiture of pensions is already state law. They say the amendment would make it easier for officials to gain pay raises without being held accountable to constituents.