The August primary ballot was loaded with ballot issues and the November 4th ballot will be also.  United for Missouri does not endorse or oppose candidates for office but we do offer our recommendations on ballot issues.

The November 4th ballot will contain four (4) proposed amendments to our state Constitution. We the People reserved the right to change our Constitution ourselves which means the Governor nor the General Assembly can change constitutional provisions without our vote to do so.  Specifically, the Missouri State Constitution requires any change to it to be placed on the next General Election by the General Assembly.  The Governor may move the issue to an earlier election if the timing permits.

People sometimes question the need to vote on things to go into the constitution. There are those who raise legitimate questions as to whether something should be constitutional or statutory.  The reasons for the General Assembly placing things into the constitution rather than statute can be policy driven, political or both.

An example of a policy driven proposed amendment is because a constitutional amendment is required to change an existing part of the constitution or in order for the issue to be constitutional it must be added to the constitution.  Amendment 2, 6 and 10 fall into this category.

Another policy reason to place something in the constitution is pretty straightforward. As we mentioned above, neither the Governor nor the General Assembly can change the constitution without a vote of the people. So, if we don’t want a future legislature to change something we believe is extremely important, then you would put it in the constitution.  A debate as to whether the issue rises to constitutional level will likely then ensue.

Political reasons can take many forms. The most obvious is an issue that has high public sentiment attached to it such as the Marriage Amendment etc.  The political reason for placing a statutory change on the ballot is somewhat different than a constitutional proposal.

A proposed constitutional change must go on the ballot.  There is no alternative.

Anything that goes on the ballot cannot be vetoed by the Governor including a statutory issue. So statutory items that the General Assembly would want to pass but would face a certain veto without prospects of a veto override would likely be placed on a ballot.  Amendment E prohibiting the establishment of a Healthcare Exchange without a vote of the legislature or people was the latest example of this.  As with a constitutional amendment, the Governor cannot veto the measure but can decide to place an issue on an earlier ballot if sufficient time to do so is available.

Placing an issue on the ballot as a constitutional measure could indicate politically how important the issue is to the General Assembly placing the issue on the ballot.  Not only does the General Assembly want to prohibit future General Assemblies from changing the issue but they also get some political mileage out of proposing the change.  This would be considered the best of both worlds for a legislator.

The four (4) amendments that are on the November 4th ballot are all proposed changes to the state constitution.  All have caused some controversy and discussion of varying length and degree.

The amendments are more nuanced than the August amendments and can be quite difficult to decipher. The recommendations United for Missouri provides may be at odds with other conservative groups. We offer our recommendations with our reasoning for them as a tool for you to use along with other information and the amendments themselves to decide how you will vote.

United for Missouri receives no funding to be for or against any issue so our recommendations are based on what we believe the right course of action is for our state.

You can click on the links below to see the actual language that will go into the Constitution if approved. Following this recommendation summary is the basis for the recommendations themselves.

Whether you agree or disagree with our recommendations, the most important thing you can and should do on Tuesday, November 4th is to be informed and then VOTE! If you are not an informed voter, you should do us all a favor and not vote.

Amendment 2 – Introduction of Testimony                                        NO

Amendment 3 – Teacher Tenure                                                              NEUTRAL

Amendment 6 – Early Voting                                                                     YES

Amendment 10 – Governor’s Withholding Authority                  YES

 

Basis for recommendations

Amendment 2

Official Ballot Title:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that it will be permissible to allow relevant evidence of prior criminal acts to be admissible in prosecutions for crimes of a sexual nature involving a victim under eighteen years of age?

If more resources are needed to defend increased prosecutions additional costs to governmental entities could be at least $1.4 million annually, otherwise the fiscal impact is expected to be limited. 

Fair Ballot Language:

“yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to allow evidence of prior criminal acts, whether charged or uncharged, to be considered by courts in prosecutions of sexual crimes that involve a victim under eighteen years of age.  The amendment limits the use of such prior acts to support the victim’s testimony or show that the person charged is more likely to commit the crime.  Further, the judge may exclude such prior acts if the value of considering them is substantially outweighed by the possibility of unfair prejudice to the person charged with committing the crime.

“no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution regarding the use of evidence of prior criminal acts to prosecute sexual crimes.

If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.

 

Amendment 2 without a doubt presents one of the hardest decisions voters will have to make of all the proposed amendments.  Today it seems that every time we read the newspaper, listen to radio or watch a local news broadcast there is a story of some child being abused or even killed by a repeat offender.  Under the current state of the law, the jury hearing these cases cannot be told that the defendant is a repeat offender or how many times the defendant has been convicted of sexual crimes with a child under the age of 18. It also does not allow them to be told of accusations of such crimes whether charged or not.

Amendment 2 allows the judge presiding over the case to decide not only if past convictions can be introduced to the jury but whether the defendant has been accused of such crimes in the past, “charged or uncharged”. The judge may not allow the introduction of this information if he/she believes it would unfairly prejudice the outcome and outweighs the value of the jury knowing about them.

The language of the amendment presents concerns about “innocent until proven guilty”.  While a judge has to determine whether allowing previous convictions or accusations it still presents the opportunity to be convicted based on the past accusations true or not and not the evidence that supports the current charge.

While the crimes being addressed here are heinous and deserve the maximum punishment, the rights of everyone being innocent until proven guilty must reign supreme.  Allowing evidence of “charged or uncharged” crimes (“charged” does not mean convicted) would undoubtedly prejudice the outcome of a trial yielding a verdict that may not be totally reliant on the evidence presented in that specific case.

Allowing evidence of previous convictions during sentencing is one thing but adding evidence unrelated to the specific charge being adjudicated and the language “charged or uncharged” during trial is an attack on all of our liberty not just the person on trial.

Paul Hamby has written this regarding Amendment 2:

In politics, things are often not as they appear.  This can be true in front of a jury too. In a recent Columbia Daily Tribune article a defense lawyer said;

The argument that a new law is needed to protect children is hard to oppose… Propensity evidence of prior crimes against children would prejudice a jury against any defendant and make it almost impossible for an innocent person to win acquittal.” “It is truly the bell that cannot be unrung,” she said.

Think about that statement…   An innocent person is accused and people are brought in to testify – about previous accusations – does not have to be prior convictions – and now the jury has a new level of suspicion of guilty.

“It is truly the bell that cannot be unrung,”

I do not want any child abusers loose on the street, but we must make sure that innocent folks are not accused, tried and convicted vigilante style by mob rule or someone seeking revenge.

United for Missouri has no qualms about child molesters being convicted and given the maximum sentencing possible once convicted. However, we cannot support the language as written in Amendment 2. United for Missouri recommends a NO vote.

Amendment 3

Official Ballot Title:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:

  • require teachers to be evaluated by a standards based performance evaluation system for which each local school district must receive state approval to continue receiving state and local funding;
  • require teachers to be dismissed, retained, demoted, promoted and paid primarily using quantifiable student performance data as part of the evaluation system;
  • require teachers to enter into contracts of three years or fewer with public school districts; and
  • prohibit teachers from organizing or collectively bargaining regarding the design and implementation of the teacher evaluation system?

Decisions by school districts regarding provisions allowed or required by this proposal and their implementation will influence the potential costs or savings impacting each district. Significant potential costs may be incurred by the state and/or the districts if new/additional evaluation instruments must be developed to satisfy the proposal’s performance evaluation requirements.

Fair Ballot Language:

“yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to require teachers to be evaluated by a standards based performance evaluation system. Each system must receive state approval in order for the local school district to continue receiving state and local funding. Teachers will be dismissed, retained, demoted, promoted and paid primarily using quantifiable student performance data as part of the evaluation system. The amendment further requires teachers to enter into contracts of three years or fewer with public school districts, with exceptions. The amendment also prohibits teachers from organizing or collectively bargaining regarding the design and implementation of the teacher evaluation system.

“no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution regarding teacher contracts and performance evaluation systems.

If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.

Amendment 3 was placed on the ballot via the initiative petition process that We the People have reserved to ourselves in the Missouri Constitution.  The amendment would remove the current statutory teacher tenure process and would place the current process of approval for teacher evaluations in the state constitution. One of the ways it would do this is to require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to approve all teacher evaluation programs. The latter process occurs today but is not in the constitution.

The sponsor of Amendment 3, Teach Great, has said they are not pursuing this amendment after all.  You won’t see any commercials or receive any mailers in support of it.  You may see some in opposition to it.

A lot can be said about Amendment 3 but with the sponsors not supporting it there’s little use.  However, there is a lot of misinformation about the amendment.  James Shuls has prepared an excellent piece on debunking this misinformation.  You can find his “Enough with the bad arguments against Amendment 3here

Amendment 3’s objectives should be simplified and DESE responsibilities removed. With no entity to support Amendment 3, it will easily go down to defeat.  Look for the education establishment to claim credit for saving something or other.  It will deserve none.

Amendment 6

Official Ballot Title:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to permit voting in person or by mail for a period of six business days prior to and including the Wednesday before the election day in general elections, but only if the legislature and the governor appropriate and disburse funds to pay for the increased costs of such voting?

State governmental entities estimated startup costs of about $2 million and costs to reimburse local election authorities of at least $100,000 per election. Local election authorities estimated higher reimbursable costs per election. Those costs will depend on the compensation, staffing, and, planning decisions of election authorities with the total costs being unknown.

Fair Ballot Language:

“yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to permit voters, in years when the legislature provides funding, an early voting period of six business days prior to and including the Wednesday before election day to cast a ballot in all general elections. This amendment does not allow early voting on Saturday or Sunday.

“no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution to provide all voters with a six-business day early voting period.

If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.

Amendment 6 is presented as a means by which we don’t have to be bothered to take some time out of a specific day for the specified purpose of casting a vote.  As a whole, Americans have become lazy voters. Most registered voters don’t take the time to vote. Conversely, an argument could be made that equally dangerous are the under or uninformed voters who do take the time to vote.

Why do we take this precious ability to select leaders at all levels who make decisions on our behalf for granted by not voting or being woefully uninformed? Makes you shake your head when you see people in foreign lands with ink stained thumbs literally risking their lives to cast their votes.  Here in America, ho hum, just another day.

Amendment 6 was originally placed on the ballot by the legislature to head off a really bad idea of early voting that would have thrown any integrity you may think exists in elections today in the toilet and pulled the lever. Fortunately, that really bad proposal didn’t make it on the ballot.

Some conservatives oppose Amendment 6 because of their fear that it will be too easily manipulated and the aforementioned integrity of elections affected even more.  For the most part, Amendment 6 implements no excuse absentee voting for 6 days prior to the election.  “Regular” absentee voting remains in place under Amendment 6.

Missouri already has a period of voting 30 days in advance of the actual election. It’s called absentee voting and is provided for in the state constitution. You can either ask for a ballot to be mailed to you or you can go into your County Clerk’s office (or election authority depending on your locale) and cast an absentee ballot in person.  You must offer an “approved” excuse for doing so.

Amendment 6 essentially implements no excuse absentee voting for the 6 days prior to the election.  You can do it either by mail or in person at the County Clerk’s office.  The only difference between what is already in the constitution and election law and Amendment 6 is that no excuse is necessary to cast the ballot during that period.

In both cases, the fact you voted is recorded. You cannot vote a second time.  If you attempt to vote again at your polling place, the judges will know you have already voted.

Some will tell you that since the really bad early voting proposal didn’t collect enough signatures to make it on the ballot that Amendment 6 should not pass.  The left, led by the Secretary of State opposes Amendment 6 because they know if it passes it will be that much more difficult to get the real integrity busting, early voting proposals they want passed.  They complain about the costs of implementing Amendment 6 when the cost of their really bad proposal would make Amendment 6 be a drop in the bucket and result in untrustworthy election results.  They want a system where you can vote in your pajamas from home. And that’s only a slight exaggeration!

All in all out, you should take your right to vote extremely seriously.  However, we do not believe Amendment 6 provides any more opportunity to cheat and is certainly preferable to the alternative early voting scheme.  United for Missouri recommends a YES vote on Amendment 6.

Amendment 10

Official Ballot Title:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to require the governor to pay the public debt, to prohibit the governor from relying on revenue from legislation not yet passed when proposing a budget, and to provide a legislative check on the governor’s decisions to restrict funding for education and other state services?

State governmental entities expect no direct costs or savings. Local governmental entities expect an unknown fiscal impact.

Fair Ballot Language:

“yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution regarding the requirements placed on the governor for proposing a state budget and for withholding money appropriated in the budget passed by the legislature. This amendment prohibits the governor from reducing funding passed by the general assembly without receiving legislative consent, and provides certain other restrictions on the governor’s ability to increase or decrease line items in the budget. This amendment further prohibits the governor from proposing a budget that relies on revenue from legislation that has not yet passed in the general assembly.

“no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution regarding the requirements placed on the governor for proposing a state budget and for withholding money appropriated in the budget passed by the legislature.

If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.

Amendment 10 is a much needed check and balance to the Governor’s withholding powers.  Whether Democrat or Republican, governors have used their withholding power as leverage with various groups.

Governor Nixon has honed this act to a sharp point.  During his entire tenure as governor, he has relentlessly used his withholding power to keep the education establishment and others in-line. He has abused the power to withhold by using it when no revenue shortfalls actually exist.

Amendment 10 will still allow the Governor to withhold funds when revenues are projected not to meet the estimates on which the budget was based.  However, it gives the legislature the ability to override “political” withholds like those Governor Nixon has been implementing.

Amendment 10 would take a 2/3’s vote of the legislature to override any withholds.  This in turn would require the Governor to make the case to the people’s representatives and senators that in deed the revenues are appearing to fall short.  Failing to do so, we should expect the legislature to override “political” withholds.

It’s a good addition to the checks and balances currently in our state constitution.  United for Missouri recommends a YES vote on Amendment 10. 

Conclusion

It’s important to be informed. You may or may not agree with some or all of our recommendations but it is important that you know why you don’t agree. There is nothing wrong with disagreement if it’s based on facts and not hyperbole.

Be informed and vote November 4th!

 

Sincerely,

  

Carl Bearden

Executive Director

United for Missouri

  

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