Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kander Certifies Four Petitions for Ballot, Including Tobacco Tax Hikes, Campaign Donation Cap

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kander Certifies Four Petitions for Ballot, Including Tobacco Tax Hikes, Campaign Donation Cap

Article excerpt

JEFFERSON CITY * Secretary of State Jason Kander has certified four ballot initiatives to go before voters in November, including two controversial tobacco tax hikes and a limit on campaign contributions, he announced Tuesday.

Several of the proposals considered for the ballot this year have been outlined in legislation previously rejected by GOP supermajorities in the Legislature, including tax increases, caps on political donations and the legalization of medical marijuana. For issues that face a difficult time getting through the Legislature, a ballot initiative can serve as an end-around.

The growing popularity of government by referendum or gathering a required number of signatures for a petition and allowing voters to weigh in on changes to the state constitution has been attributed both to frustration with political leaders and as a last resort for those who back causes they can't get lawmakers to support.

One such effort, to raise Missouri's 17-cent-a-pack tax on cigarettes by 60 cents for early childhood programs, has been widely panned by education officials and politicians, including Chris Koster, the Democratic candidate for governor.

Koster told St. Louis Public Radio on Saturday that the measure would create a new education bureaucracy by setting up a fund for the revenue it would bring in. It's rare area of agreement between Koster and his GOP challenger, Eric Greitens, who criticized the initiative during a primary debate in June.

But Jane Dueker, attorney for Raise Your Hand for Kids, who submitted the petition, said the initiative actually promotes local control for areas the state has not adequately funded.

"I think obviously we look forward to talking to the attorney general about exactly what this initiative does," Dueker, also a prominent Democrat, said. "Right now there is no concerted enormous investment in early childhood education. This initiative will provide funding for local control, unique local needs, in a way that's never been done before. While there will be a group of people who decide which programs get the investment, it is based on need that comes from local areas."

Although Kander said the petition has enough signatures to move forward, he also has acknowledged he might be forced to throw out the petition if the court rules against him or Raise Your Hand for Kids in any of the several lawsuits that are pending. Opponents are arguing he should have tossed out the signatures because the ballot summary presented to those who signed it didn't match one that was later rewritten by an appeals court.

Opposing groups slammed the certified petition Tuesday. We Deserve Better Missouri said a misleading ballot summary made it a "disservice" to voters, and Missouri Cures warned a provision in the measure that prohibits revenue being used for stem cell research could lead to "damaging consequences" for patients and medical researchers. …

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