As you head to the polls to vote there will be several names on the ballot, that’s the easy part, navigating all the amendments is a mind-boggling task. What does all this stuff really mean?!?! Why can’t they just put it in everyday words that we can all understand? What will the impact be? Who will really benefit from this change? If you go into the ballot box and read these amendments for the first time, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to make a good decision. Voting on constitutional amendments is very important. These will be in our constitution forever. It’s not like if you make a bad choice for an individual, they will come back up for re-election, but constitutional amendments are there to stay.
In total, voters will have four constitutional amendments to consider, as well as a question on whether the state should convene a constitutional convention that could draft a new constitution for the state. I have been asked more times than I can count about how to vote on these measures. I have been very hesitant to do so as I do not like to tell anyone how to vote. I think people need to learn about both sides and make a decision that best reflects their personal values. With that being said, I am going to provide you with some information about the ballot measures, but please don’t take my word for it. Look into it and then make the best decision you can on November 8.
Amendment 1 would change the constitution to remove some of the restrictions on the State Treasurer when making state investments. The constitutional amendment was added to the ballot by the Missouri General Assembly with the passage of HJR 35 in 2021. The legislature approved the measure with the intent of allowing the treasurer to invest in higher interest earning investments while still preventing risky investments. If approved by voters, it would allow state investments in municipal securities possessing one of the top five highest long- term ratings or the highest short-term rating.
If approved, state governmental entities estimate no costs and increased interest revenue of $2 million per year. Local governmental entities estimate no costs and increased interest revenue of at least $34,000 per year. If passed, the measure will have no impact on taxes. Amendment 1 is supported by Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick.
If approved by voters, Amendment 3 would legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri. The proposed change to the state constitution was added to the ballot through the initiative petition process. Supporters obtained more than 200,000 verified signatures across the state, surpassing the 184,720 minimum needed, to add the measure to the ballot.
Amendment 3 would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to three ounces of cannabis. They could also grow up to six flowering marijuana plants, six immature plants and six clones if they obtain a registration card.
The initiative would impose a six percent tax on recreational cannabis sales and use revenue to facilitate automatic expungements for people with certain non-violent marijuana offenses on their records. Remaining revenue would go toward veterans’ healthcare, substance misuse treatment and the state’s public defender system.
Existing medical marijuana dispensaries would also be first in line to start serving adult consumers with dual licenses.
Regulators could create rules around advertising, but they could not be any more stringent than existing restrictions on alcohol marketing. Public consumption, driving under the influence of cannabis and underage marijuana use would be explicitly prohibited. Local jurisdictions would be able to opt out of permitting cannabis microbusinesses or retailers from operating in their area if voters approve the ban at the ballot.
State governmental entities estimate initial costs of $3.1 million, initial revenues of at least $7.9 million, annual costs of $5.5 million, and annual revenues of at least $40.8 million. Local governments are estimated to have annual costs of at least $35,000 and annual revenues of at least $13.8 million.
Opponents of the measure have criticized the concept of putting marijuana legalization into the state constitution rather than state statute. They say putting it in the constitution makes it too difficult to adapt as the industry changes and grows. Opponents also take issue with the provision in Amendment 3 that puts existing medical marijuana dispensaries at the front of the line to serve recreational users. They say the caps on the number of licenses issued for medical marijuana facilities encourage monopolies and create the appearance of corruption. Additionally, opponents have voiced concerns that the expungement policy contained in Amendment 3 is “misleading” and “problematic.”
Even recreational marijuana supporters agree that there is some problems with the way this language is written. Many are not supporting the amendment due to problems within.
Amendment 4 is a proposed change to the state constitution that is designed to protect funding for the Kansas City Police Department. The measure was placed on the ballot by the General Assembly with the passage of SJR 38 during the 2022 legislative session.
The legislature approved both SJR 38 and SB 678 as a response to efforts by Kansas City to remove $42 million from a previously-agreed-upon budget for the Kansas City Police Department (Defund the Police movement). The goal of the two proposals is to ensure the city is not able to artificially manipulate its general fund in order to cut the budget for the department. If Amendment 4 is approved by voters, the two measures would work together to require the city of Kansas City to provide one-fourth of its general revenue per fiscal year to fund the Kansas City Board of Police.
State and local governmental entities estimate no additional costs or savings related to this proposal. If passed, the measure will have no impact on taxes but will ensure the KC Police Department has funds to operate.
Voters will have the opportunity to vote on Amendment 5, which would create a Missouri Department of the National Guard. The proposed change to the constitution was placed on the ballot by the Missouri General Assembly with the passage of HJR 116 earlier this year.
Currently, 48 states have departments of defense or military affairs operated by their states Adjutants General. These departments oversee the military forces of each state. Missouri and Massachusetts are the only two states who do not have their own departments in the same manner. Amendment 5 would fix this problem by transferring our National Guard from the department of public safety into its own department.
The proposal is needed for two very important reasons:
1 – To provide a proper chain of command &
2 – To provide a more streamlined budget process as well.
During a natural disaster or state of emergency, time is of the essence. Our Adjutant General and our Guard must be able to have a direct line of communication with their Commander in Chief, the Governor. Effective communications are essential to command and control. Additionally, the measure would make room for improvement through a more streamlined budget for our National Guard. State governmental entities estimate no savings and ongoing costs of $132,000 annually. Local governmental entities estimate no costs or savings. If passed, the measure will have no impact on taxes.
Constitutional Convention Question
This November voters will also have the opportunity to call for a Constitutional Convention to revise or amend the state constitution. The question is placed on the ballot automatically every 20 years.
If voters approve the question, the governor would then call an election of delegates to serve at the convention. Elections would be held to choose 68 delegates from partisan state senate district balloting and 15 nonpartisan at-large delegates in a statewide vote.
A convention could consider everything about how the state is governed. The convention could adopt ideas that are supported by a majority of the 83 delegates. Any revisions or amendments approved by the convention would then be put to a vote of the people for their consideration.
The state constitution was last approved by voters in February 1945. The 77 years since the current constitution was enacted is the longest period in state history without a new document.
Since the adoption of the 1945 Constitution, Missourians have voted three times – 1962, 1982 and 2002 – on the question of whether to hold a convention. The “yes” side on the last vote was less than 35%. There are people who would like to see the constitution revert to something similar to its founding principles but the idea of opening it up, particularly at this time of political polarization, could be pretty dangerous. I agree that there are changes that need made to the constitution but have concerns that the changes could go in the wrong direction. Be sure to not confuse this with the effort to call a Convention of States for purposes of imposing term limits on Congress. That involves the “federal” constitution. This has NOTHING to do with that. They are totally different things. If passed, the measure will have no impact on taxes.
Growing up I was taught to not trust the preacher, bring your bible to church and follow along and make sure that what he is telling you is accurate. Don’t trust what I am telling you, don’t trust what the media is telling you. Don’t trust the mail you receive. Check it out yourself, ask questions, and make the best possible decision you can when you step into the ballot box.
My door is always open. Feel free to reach out at any time if I can assist you in any way.
Chris Dinkins is the area’s state representative for the 144th Legislative District. She can be reached by email ChrisDinkins@house.mo.gov or by telephone: 573-751-2112