JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri voters were on pace at press time to give overwhelming approval to a Missouri Constitutional amendment that one state legislator says the electorate didn’t even understand.
Amendment 7 will make it harder for legislators to reject pay raises for elected officials and judges. The pay raises are proposed by a state commission created in 1994 by a constitutional amendment. Amendment 7 requires a two-thirds vote, rather than a simple majority, of the General Assembly to reject a salary change.
“I ran into many voters who thought they were voting to ban felons from receiving pension benefits,” Sen. Victor Callahan, D-Jackson County, said Tuesday night.
Callahan said the ballot language was deceptive because its first three paragraphs don’t address the main provision of the amendment, which is the change of procedures regarding pay raises. “I know some voters were horrified when they told me that they had voted for it; they had no idea that was in there,” Callahan said.
In addition to raising the vote to reject a pay increase, the measure would also repeal the Legislature’s power to reduce salary increases adopted by the commission. The amendment also denies pensions to elected state officials, legislators or judges if they are convicted of a felony that happened while in office, or removed from office because of impeachment or misconduct. State law, however, already prohibits pensions for felons or impeached officials.
Under Amendment 7 no pay raises can take effect until Jan. 1, 2009. The salary commission is supposed to meet every two years to create salary plans for judges and elected officials, but it has not met since 2000.
Voters were also giving a comfortable margin of approval to Amendment 6, which exempts veterans’ organizations from taxes on real and some personal property. The constitution already exempts “purely charitable” organizations from paying property taxes, but a ruling in the 1990s by the state tax commission declared certain aspects of veterans’ organizations not purely charitable.
One of the resolution’s sponsors, Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Clay County, said veterans’ organizations would struggle if they had to pay property taxes.
Both amendments were created and passed by the General Assembly this year.