House of Representatives
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Address: Capitol Building
room 103BB
201 West Capitol Ave.
Jefferson City, MO 65101-6806
Phone: 573-751-4183
Fax 573-522-0471
Email: susan.meredith@house.mo.gov
Legislative Assistant: Glenda Blattel

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St. Louis, MO 63146
Phone: 314-878-2088
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Constitutional Amendments for November
As I've promised many of you, here are some plain English interpretations of the constitutional amendments that will be on your November ballot.
There are four proposed amendments to the Missouri State Constitution. It's important to give thought to what is appropriate for inclusion in the Constitution. In theory, a Constitution should be broad enough to stand the test of time, as changing the Constitution can (and should require a great effort). As many people noted previously, a constitution should not dive too far into the details; the details should be left to the legislature, local governments and the people.


    To jump to a particular amendment, click the link below:
Note:  The format is as follows. The Secretary of State's ballot language is displayed in the gray box, followed by an explanation of the amendment. After that, some brief pros and cons; and a bottom line section that will suggest what a yes or no vote will mean.

I'm trying to be objective, so that you can make your own decisions about how to vote. Many voters found the language confusing in August. My goal is to help people better understand the issues on which they are voting. 

Constitutional Amendment 2 — Admissibility of Evidence (click here for the full text of the legislation or petition)

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.
Amendment 2, if ratified by Missouri voters on November 4, would alter the rights of criminal defendants under the Missouri Constitution to allow relevant evidence or allegations of prior criminal acts to be used against a defendant accused of a sex crime involving a victim of less than 18 years of age. The statutes and rules regarding what can and cannot be introduced as evidence in a trial are very strict, designed to limit the types of evidence to the most factual information and to ensure that the defendant receives a fair trial.

Evidence that a defendant has committed or may have committed previous crimes other than the crime for which he or she is currently charged generally isn't admissible in courts due to its prejudicial nature. In Criminal Code cases, guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Hearsay evidence is not allowed in any criminal cases at this time, anywhere in the U.S. A problem with this is that it can be applied unevenly by different courts. That makes it likely that evidence of this sort could become the focus of an appeal, which raises the possibility of a convicted felon being released on a technicality.

The Pro: Supporters say allowing evidence of so-called prior bad acts to be admissible for the limited purpose of establishing a defendant's propensity to commit sex offenses involving a child will make it easier to corroborate a child victim's testimony.

The Con: Critics say that allowing such evidence is inherently prejudicial as it can cause a jury to convict based on a defendant's past crimes — or mere allegations of crimes — without regard to the defendant's actual guilt in the case at hand.


Bottom Line

Vote YES to allow the use of evidence and allegations not allowed in current criminal trials.

Vote NO to maintain the current rules of evidence that protect the rights of the accused.


 
Constitutional Amendment 3 — Teacher Tenure (click here for the full text of the legislation or petition)

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.
Under the Teacher Tenure Act, public school teachers earn tenure after working for five successive years at the same school district. Until they do, they are considered probationary teachers. A tenured teacher who moves to another school district must start over as a probationary teacher and doesn't earn tenure until after five straight years of employment with the new district.

The school board may terminate a tenured teacher's contract for cause due to:
  • A physical or mental condition that adversely affects his or her ability to instruct or associate with children
  • Immoral conduct
  • Incompetency, inefficiency or insubordination in the line of duty
  • Willful or persistent violation of, or failure to obey, the school laws of the state or the published regulations of the local school board
  • Excessive or unreasonable absence
  • Conviction of a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude
The petition drive to place this on the ballot was largely funded by investor Rex Sinquefield

The Pro: Supporters contend that Amendment 3 would create accountability by requiring teachers to be evaluated based on student performance (i.e. test scores). Amendment 3 would also allow districts to reward high performing teachers with additional compensation, instead of basing pay on seniority, which will provide teachers with another incentive to do their best.

When forced to implement layoffs due to funding cuts or reorganization, Amendment 3 will allow districts to keep the best teachers, not just the most senior teachers.

The Con: Nothing in Missouri's tenure law prevents school districts from firing bad teachers. Amendment 3 would undermine local control by constitutionally imposing a set of rules that cannot be changed without a voter-approved constitutional amendment.

Education policy is best set by local school board under guidelines established by the legislature that can be changed to reflect evolving realities.

Although supporters say that eliminating tenure would allow districts to keep the best teachers, it would also allow districts to retain the cheapest and least-experienced teachers while dismissing more highly compensated veteran teachers.


Bottom Line


Vote YES to create state regulated performance standards for teachers, the end of
teacher tenure for public school teachers, and a diminished role for teacher unions.


Vote NO to maintain local control and include teachers organizations
in the creation of any new performance standards.


 
Constitutional Amendment 6 — Early Voting (click here for the full text of the legislation or petition)

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.
If ratified by Missouri voters on Nov. 4, Amendment 6 would constitutionally authorize an optional six-day early voting period starting on the second-to-last Wednesday prior to a November general election and ending on the Wednesday immediately prior to the election, excluding the intervening Saturday and Sunday. In other words, the early voting period would run from Wednesday through Friday two weeks prior to Election Day, and then Monday through Wednesday during the week before the election; and only during regular business hours. Early voting would not be allowed during the five days immediately prior to Election Day.

Amendment 6 would allow early voting only in election years in which the General Assembly provided funding in the state budget to local election authorities for that purpose. As a result, lawmakers could choose through the state budget process to allow early voting for some general elections, but not others, or they could decide to never allow early voting.

Nothing in the Missouri Constitution as it currently exists prohibits the General Assembly from authorizing early voting by state law. Therefore, by constitutionally dictating the form early voting must take, Amendment 6 actually would impose new restrictions on the legislature's power in regard to early voting and prevent it from extending the early voting period or allowing early voting on weekends and evenings.

The Pro: Amendment 6 establishes a reasonable six-day early voting period that won't place an undue burden on local election officials. Closing the early voting period a few days before the election will help ensure election officials have enough time to prepare for Election Day.

The Con: Amendment 6 creates the illusion of early voting with no guarantees that early voting will ever take place since it gives lawmakers the power to block early voting by withholding funding. This raises the possibility that a majority within the General Assembly could deny early voting, any time that they feel it is politically expedient.

If early voting did take place, The process created by Amendment 6 is very restrictive, allowing early voting for only for a few days, a couple weeks out from the election; then cutting off early voting a 5 days before the election. Early voting would be restricted to business hours only.

Amendment 6 prohibits early voting on Saturdays and Sundays — the most popular voting days in states that allow early voting.

The voting calendar would look like this.



Bottom Line


Vote YES to put a limited, restrictive early voting period in place.

Vote NO to maintain current election rules, and allow the creation of a longer,
voter friendly early voting system with more options in the future.


 
Constitutional Amendment 10 — Budgetary Changes (click here for the full text of the legislation or petition)

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.
Amendment 10, if ratified by voters on Nov. 4, would alter the balanced-budget provision of the Missouri Constitution to give the General Assembly the power to overrule mid-year spending cuts that the governor makes to keep the state budget in balance. It also would prohibit the governor from including revenue from proposed, but not yet enacted laws, when presenting his non-binding budget recommendations to lawmakers each year. In addition, it would prohibit the governor from withholding appropriations for the public debt, something no governor has done in recent memory, if ever.

If voters ratify Amendment 10 on Nov. 4, it could have immediate consequences on the state budget since it would grant lawmakers the ability to override gubernatorial withholdings. As with overrides of line-item vetoes, two-thirds majorities in both legislative chambers would be required. Lawmakers could try out this new power with the start of the 2015 legislative session in January.

The Governor is on duty full time and available immediately should a budget crisis require quick action. If this responsibility were to rest with the legislature might have to be called into a special session in the event of budget shortfalls.

The Pro:

Amendment 10 will provide a legislative check against abuse and misuse of the budget withholding power by the governor.

Supports believe that that when it is necessary to make mid-year budget cuts, Amendment 10 will give the spending priorities of the legislature power over the governor's priorities.

The Con: Amendment 10 will severely weaken the Missouri Constitution's strong balanced-budget requirement.

When the legislature authorizes spending levels that exceed available revenue, the governor must have the unilateral power to bring the budget in balance. Should the leadership of the General Assembly wish to override any gubernatorial spending cuts or holds, they would need to call a special session (currently the Constitution requires the petition of 75% of the House and Senate). That is not a quick process and could possibly lead to unforeseen difficulties, not to mention the expense of bringing representatives and senators back to Jefferson City for the session.

Every governor from Kit Bond to Jay Nixon has exercised this particular budget responsibility, with withholds and line item vetoes, and it has not been questioned by anyone until now.

Granting the legislature the authority to overrule the governor's budget-balancing actions would remove a vital part of the checks and balances between the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of Missouri Government and empower lawmakers to act irresponsibly and authorize the state to spend more money than it has.

Bottom Line

Vote YES to place the responsibility for adjusting state expenditures
and keeping the budget balanced with the General Assembly.

Vote NO to retain important checks and balances in managing state finances,
and not give inordinate power to the legislature.



Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul.

— Mark Twain —
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