Tobacco-tax hike, local control proposals approved for November ballot
Secretary of State Robin Carnahan announced late Tuesday that she has certified two initiative petition proposals for the Nov. 6 ballot. One calls for a hike in Missouri’s tobacco taxes, and the second would allow St. Louis to take back control of its police department.
Two were rejected. One would increase Missouri’s minimum wage, while the second would restrict the interest rates allowed for payday loans.
Carnahan said the minimum wage proposal failed to collect adequate certified signatures in four of the six required congressional districts, while the payday loan proposal failed to collect enough signatures in one of the six required congressional districts.
Her announcement didn't specify the congressional districts, but supporters of the two measures say the districts were the 1st and the 3rd in the St. Louis area.
In particular, election officials in St. Louis rejected more than half of the signatures turned in for the ballot measures, the initiative-petition supporter say.
Sources tell the Beacon that the tobacco-tax effort ran into the same problem in the city but had enough extra signatures to be certified anyway.
Advocates are expected to go to court to seek a re-examination of the rejected signatures.
All four of the initiative-petition measures are seen as potential magnets for November voters – especially Democrats.
In a statement, the two campaigns for the rejected proposals -- Missourians for Responsible Lending and Give Missourians a Raise – said they would seek re-examination of the signatures.
“We are confident that more than enough valid signatures exist among the 31,582 submitted to St. Louis for the minimum-wage petition and 28,220 submitted to St. Louis for the payday lending petition,” the groups said in a joint statement. “Initial data obtained from local authorities indicate that a significant number of signatures were improperly invalidated in St. Louis. It is our intention to examine each signature not validated by the local agencies to make sure that every registered voter who signed a petition has his or her voice heard.”
The campaigns said the certified signatures showed the payday-loan effort to be 270 short in St. Louis and St. Louis County, while the minimum-wage proposal was 1,601 signatures short.
The campaigns said they submitted 176,346 signatures on the petitions to cap payday loan interest rates and 167,304 signatures to increase Missouri’s minimum wage.
The statement noted that “at least four other initiative petitions in Missouri in the last 10 years were initially found to have fallen short of the required valid signature total, but later ordered onto the ballot by judges after a more thorough review found initial counts to be incorrect.”
Missourians for Equal Credit Opportunity, a group opposing the payday-loan cap, were happy about the effort's initial failure to make the ballot.
"We applaud the Missouri secretary of state's conclusion that the initiative petition filed by Missouri for Responsible Lending failed to provide sufficient signatures in the 1st Congressional District and therefore the entire initiative does not qualify for the November election,'' the group said in a statement. "In fact, our independent review showed there are additional invalid signatures in the 1st congressional district. These include missing signatures, duplicate signatures, signatures collected under a nameless circulators, petition circulators who were not registered with the secretary of state, and even instances of forgery."
"This decision preserves an important credit option that helps Missourians
make ends meet while avoiding expensive bounced check and late bill payment
penalty fees and associated credit damage," the group said.
Local control and tobacco tax hike
The two proposals that did make the ballot so far are likely to generate lots of controversy.
St. Louis has sought local control of its police force for decades. The state has had supervision since the Civil War.
The ballot summary is to be as follows:
“Shall Missouri law be amended to:
- allow any city not within a county (the city of St. Louis) the option of transferring certain obligations and control of the city’s police force from the board of police commissioners currently appointed by the governor to the city and establishing a municipal police force;
- establish certain procedures and requirements for governing such a municipal police force including residency, rank, salary, benefits, insurance, and pension; and
- prohibit retaliation against any employee of such municipal police force who reports conduct believed to be illegal to a superior, government agency, or the press?”
The projected savings to the state and local governments is estimated to be $500,000 for the state and perhaps $3.5 million for St. Louis, although the summary notes that “consolidation decisions with an unknown outcome may result in the savings being more or less than estimated.”
The ballot summary for the proposed tobacco-tax hike reads:
“Shall Missouri law be amended to:
- create the Health and Education Trust Fund with proceeds of a tax of $0.0365 per cigarette and 25 percent of the manufacturer's invoice price for roll-your-own tobacco and 15 percent for other tobacco products;
- use fund proceeds to reduce and prevent tobacco use and for elementary, secondary, college, and university public school funding; and
- increase the amount that certain tobacco product manufacturers must maintain in their escrow accounts, to pay judgments or settlements, before any funds in escrow can be refunded to the tobacco product manufacturer and create bonding requirements for these manufacturers?”
The additional revenue to the state is estimated to range from $283 million to $423 million annually. The summary notes that the money “will fund only programs and services allowed by the proposal.”