After the dust settled from the annual veto session and subsequent special legislative session, things in Jefferson City have been relatively quiet. Candidates and legislators have spent their time since mid-September campaigning for various races and ballot initiatives across the state.
There are several hot issues that will be on the ballot in November. Leading these issues is Proposition D. Prop D, if passed, would raise fuel taxes in the state by ten cents per gallon phased in over a four-year period. Money raised will help to fund desperately needed road and bridge projects. Governor Mike Parson and Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe have been leading an aggressive campaign across the state to boost support for the initiative. Six state senators and over forty state representatives have also publicly signaled their endorsement.
During October, SaferMO, which is the organization advocating passage of Prop D, has held multiple events in Kansas City, Springfield, Joplin, Hannibal, Columbia, Kirksville, Sedalia, Chillicothe, and Odessa, as well as stops at numerous other locations across the state. These meetings have been held in conjunction with MoDOT. Local community leaders, local Chambers of Commerce, as well as members of the public have shown up in large number to support Prop D at these events.
SaferMO also has an aggressive fundraising effort in place to secure the dollars needed to raise public awareness for Prop D through television, radio, newspaper and other media. Over $2.5 million has been raised thus far.
Several other items of interest are on the November ballot as well. Proposition B would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.85 per hour to $12 per hour once fully implemented. If passed, there would be an immediate increase of nearly ten percent followed by an automatic escalation raising it approximately ten percent per year for the next four years. Several statewide organizations have signaled their opposition to Prop B including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and the Missouri Farm Bureau.
Amendment 1, or the so-called “Clean Missouri” ballot initiative, will also be before voters in November. The measure covers many topics. Such topics include: new restrictions on lobbyist gifts to legislators mandating that any employee of the General Assembly, not just legislators, must wait two years after leaving employment before becoming a lobbyist; establishes new limits on campaign donations; and expands the realm of legislative records covered under the Sunshine Law.
Additionally, the way district boundaries are drawn for congressional seats, state Senate and state House seats would drastically change under Amendment 1. District boundaries are redrawn after each census to reflect shifts in population. Currently maps are drawn by a bi-partisan panel appointed by the Governor. If passed, the new proposal would put the responsibility on a new state demographer selected by the State Auditor.
The final item of interest deals with medical marijuana. Three separate proposals, Amendment 2, Amendment 3, and Proposition C will all appear on the ballot and all three seek to legalize the use of medical marijuana in Missouri. Each is slightly different in how marijuana would be regulated.
One of the most closely watched political races across the country is located here in Missouri us the US Senate race between Attorney General Josh Hawley and incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill. Polling throughout the race shows neither candidate has ever held more than a four-point lead. The pair continue to slug it out with hard hitting commercials and contentious debates. All political observers are putting this race in the “too close to call” category.
Finally, making news this month is a ruling by Cole County Judge Richard Callahan on Missouri’s Voter ID law. Priorities USA, a group which advocates for voting rights, had sued the state claiming the law passed in 2016 placed an undue burden on voters. Callahan found that the law is constitutional, with one exception. That exception hinged on voters being required to present a photo identification card, as opposed to other forms of identification. In his ruling, Callahan wrote, “No compelling state interest is severed by misleading local election authorities and voters into believing a photo ID card is a requirement for voting. As desirable as a Missouri-issued photo ID might be, unlike an American Express Card, you may leave home without it, at least on Election Day.” Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has signaled he will appeal the ruling by Callahan.
As the November 6 election is quickly approaching, senators and representatives, along with hopeful first-timers, are back at home actively campaigning to earn the right to represent their respective districts. Half of the 34 Senate seats are up for election, as are all of the 163 seats in the House of Representatives. Term limits will impact many of these seats, meaning a number of newcomers will be seated in the House and Senate chambers when session begins again in January.
We will continue to keep you updated on political happenings in Jefferson City and across the state. Nikki Strong, Strong Consultants