Representative Jim Neely's Capitol Report
Missouri Receives REAL ID Extension
Missourians will be able to use their Missouri-issued identification cards to fly domestically and visit federal installations until August of 2019. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently granted an extension to the state that will allow existing Missouri driver licenses and identification cards to be accepted by federal agencies until Aug. 1 of next year.
The grace period that was previously extended by DHS had been set to expire in January of 2019. Missouri requested an additional extension in order to have time to make new REAL ID-compliant licenses available. The state anticipates having the new driver licenses ready by March of 2019, so the extension until August will ensure Missourians are able to travel without interruption.
“With this additional extension, which is valid through Aug. 1, 2019, citizens can rest assured they’ll be able to continue using their Missouri-issued driver licenses and ID cards for official purposes, including domestic air travel, until they are able to apply for a REAL ID-compliant driver license or ID card in March,” said the director of the Missouri Department of Revenue,
A Look Ahead to the November Ballot Initiatives
When Missourians head to the polls in November, they will cast their votes to decide a number of ballot issues that could make changes that will impact areas ranging from the price of gas to the minimum wage to the use of medical marijuana. Listed below are brief overviews of each of the issues that will appear on the November ballot for voters to consider.
Amendment 1 – “Clean Missouri”
Commonly referred to as “Clean Missouri”, Amendment 1 is heralded by proponents as a way to improve government transparency and fairness, but criticized by opponents as nothing more than an attempt by out-of-state billionaires to change the Missouri Constitution for partisan gain.
If approved by voters, Amendment 1 would:
·Change the legislative redistricting process so that it is overseen by a state demographer appointed by the State Auditor, and then reviewed by a citizen commission. The current process calls for a bipartisan panel selected by the governor to oversee the process.
·Set campaign donation limits at $2,500 for the state Senate and $2,000 for the House. The current state law, as set forth by Constitutional Amendment 2, which passed in the Nov. 2016 election, sets the mark at $2,600.
·Create a two-year revolving door ban against legislators becoming lobbyists.
·Eliminate the majority of lobbyist gifts worth more than $5.
·Limiting the ability of individuals and organizations to circumvent the contribution cap limits by counting the money from single-source committees toward the totals for the actual original donors.
·Put an end to legislative fundraising on state property
·Require legislative records and proceedings to be open to the public
Proponents say the changes would ensure that neither political party is given an unfair advantage during the redistricting process; limit the influence of big money and lobbyists in state government; eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts to members of the General Assembly; and make government more transparent by making legislative records open to the public. Supporters also point to the more than 300,000 signatures the initiative received from Missourians, and say the initiative will make the voices of citizens matter more in Jefferson City.
Opponents say the measure is an attempt by billionaire outsiders to decide who represents Missourians in their state legislature, and note the $325,000 in “dark money” donations the initiative has received. They say the redistricting change would put the process in the hands of an unelected political appointee who could manipulate legislative districts so that neighborhoods and communities are divided into multiple districts. Opponents also say that while transparency in government is good, it’s important that the communications between citizens and their elected officials remain private so that the health, financial, or legal issues of citizens will not become public knowledge.
Amendment 2, Amendment 3, Proposition C – Legalization of Medical Marijuana
Missourians will have the opportunity to decide on three initiatives dealing with medical marijuana. All three initiatives, which received enough signatures to make it on the ballot, would allow patients with cancer, HIV, epilepsy and some other conditions to have access to medical marijuana. Where the proposals differ is in how medical marijuana would be regulated and taxed, and where the tax dollars would be allocated.
Amendment 2 would change the state constitution to tax marijuana at 4 percent and allocate the $18 million in annual taxes and fees to veterans programs. The measure would cost the state $7 million in annual operating costs. It would also generate $6 million annually for local governments. The proposal would give regulatory authority for licensing the cultivation, testing and sale of marijuana to the Department of Health and Senior Services. The state would be responsible for a "seed-to-sale tracking system" to ensure marijuana only goes to qualified patients.
Amendment 3 would change the state constitution to tax marijuana at 15 percent and generate approximately $66 million annually in state revenue. The funds would be used to establish a state-run institute to research cures for incurable diseases. The proposal has an annual operating cost of approximately $500,000. It would impose fees on licenses and tax the cultivation of medical marijuana.
Proposition C would change state law to tax marijuana at 2 percent and generate annual revenues of at least $10 million to the state and $152,000 to local governments. The funds would be used for services for veterans, drug treatment, early childhood education and public safety in cities where medical marijuana facilities are located. The proposal would have an initial cost of $2.6 million and then an annual cost of $10 million. Oversight of medical marijuana would be placed in the hands of the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Public Safety.
Proponents say medical marijuana is less addictive than opioids and overuse will not lead to death. They say the measure would give patients with debilitating conditions the opportunity to work with a doctor to obtain the most appropriate medical treatment option. They point out that 30 states have already legalized marijuana, either recreational or medical. Opponents say legalizing marijuana for medical use would allow more people to access it illegally. They also note that cannabis would remain illegal at the federal level where it is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance alongside heroin and many synthetic opioids. They say it should be up to the FDA to determine if marijuana is medicine.
If all three measures were approved by voters, the Secretary of State’s Office says the constitutional amendments would trump state law, and whichever amendment received the most votes would overrule the other.
Proposition B – Minimum Wage Increase
Missouri voters will be able to decide whether to increase Missouri’s minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.85. Proposition B would increase the minimum wage starting in 2019 to $8.60 and would then increase it each year by 85 cents until it reaches $12 per hour in 2023.
The state’s current minimum wage of $7.85 translates to $314 a week earnings, and slightly more than $16,000 in annual salary. Increasing the minimum wage to $8.60 would result in an annual salary in excess of $17,500. A $12 minimum wage would result in an annual salary of nearly $24,500.
Proponents say increasing the minimum wage would help more Missourians make a living wage so they can meet their basic needs and take care of their families. They say the increase would result in an additional $1 billion in consumer buying power in Missouri, which would help businesses by injecting new dollars into the economy. Opponents say an increase in the minimum wage could force some companies out of business, or require them to cut back on hours and jobs. They say that a minimum wage is not meant to be a living wage, but that minimum wage jobs are meant to give individuals access to a first job opportunity where they can develop skills to obtain a higher paying job.
If the proposal is adopted by voters, state and local governments estimate no direct costs or savings from the proposal, but operating costs could increase by an unknown annual amount that could be significant. State and local government tax revenue could change by an unknown annual amount ranging from a $2.9 million decrease to a $214 million increase depending on business decisions.
Amendment 4 – Bingo
Lawmakers approved legislation (HB 1484) this year to give voters the opportunity to change provisions in the Missouri Constitution dealing with the regulation of bingo. The constitutional amendment would allow individuals who have, for at least six months, been a bona fide member of an organization licensed to conduct bingo to participate in the operation of a bingo game. The Constitution currently requires at least two years of membership prior to participation. It would also remove the statutory restrictions on the advertisement of bingo.
Supporters say the change would allow newer, more active members of qualified organizations to participate in the operation of bingo games. They say there is no reason for the current two-year membership requirement. They note that bingo games are a common fundraising source for charitable organizations and this would alleviate some of the pressure on older members.
Proposition D – Fuel Tax Increase to Provide Funding for Highway Patrol and Roads
Because of legislation (HB 1460) approved during the 2018 regular session, voters will have the opportunity to decide if the state’s tax on fuel should be increased to provide a dedicated funding source for the state highway patrol, which will free up funding for Missouri’s roads and bridges.
If approved by voters in November, the measure would gradually phase in a fuel tax increase of up to 10 cents per gallon by raising the tax by 2.5 cents a year for four years beginning July 2019. The current tax is 17-cents per gallon. If passed, the increase is projected to generate about $412 million when fully implemented. Of these funds, $124 million would be divided among counties and cities for local road construction and maintenance, and the remaining $288 million would be appropriated by the General Assembly between the Department of Transportation, which would use the funds solely for road and bridge work, and the Highway Patrol.
Proponents of the measure say it will provide safer roads and bridges for Missourians. They note that Missouri is near the bottom – 49thin the nation – with its current fuel tax of 17 cents per gallon. States with lower fuel taxes typically make use of toll roads, which Missouri does not. As a result, Missouri ranks 46th in the nation in revenue spent per mile of highway.
Proposition D also contains a component that would create tax exemptions for Olympic, Paralympic, and Special Olympic prizes. The proposal would also set up the Emergency State Freight Bottleneck Fund to pair state general revenue with local and federal funding to address extreme freight bottlenecks found at some major highway intersections.
Yours in service,
Representative Jim Neely
Proudly Serving the 8th House District
Clinton, Caldwell, Ray, & Clay Counties
Missouri House of Representatives