A look at state amendments on August ballot

Gail Wechsler is director of domestic issues/social justice for the Jewish Community Relations Council.

By Gail Wechsler

On Tuesday Aug. 5, voters statewide will go to the polls to vote in primary elections. They also will consider several statewide ballot initiatives. Two critical initiatives on the August ballot are Amendment 5 and Amendment 7.   In an effort to educate and inform Jewish voters in the region, below is more information about each of these initiatives.

Amendment 5 — Right to Keep and Bear Arms

Amendment 5 seeks to amend the Missouri Constitution to include a declaration that the right to bear arms is an unalienable right and that the state government is obligated to uphold that right. Although not stated in the ballot language, Amendment 5 creates a new and higher level of protection to all laws relating to ownership and use of guns and ammunition, applying a “strict scrutiny” level of protection (the highest level possible).   

The Missouri Secretary of State website indicates under the “fair ballot language” for this Amendment: “A ‘yes’ vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to expand the right to keep and bear arms to include ammunition and related accessories for such arms. This amendment also removes the language that states the right to keep and bear arms does not justify the wearing of concealed weapons.”   

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These aspects of the initiative are not part of the language voters will see when they enter the voting booth.  

Based on a Resolution passed by the full JCRC Council last October, JCRC urges a NO vote on this amendment.  The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution already gives permission for individuals to keep and bear arms, and the Missouri Constitution already provides protections for the right to bear arms in defense of one’s home, property and person.  JCRC believes that making this right unalienable and raising the standard by which such rights are judged within the legal system increases the likelihood that guns may fall into the hands of those who should not possess weapons, such as those with prior criminal convictions.

Amendment 7 —Transportation Sales Tax

This is another effort to amend the Missouri Constitution.  According to the Secretary of State website,  “A ‘yes’ vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to increase funding for state, county and municipal street, road, bridge, highway and public transportation initiatives by increasing the state sales/use tax by ¾ of one percent for 10 years.  This amendment further prohibits a change in gasoline taxes and prohibits toll roads or bridges.”  

The language restricting increases in the gasoline tax and prohibiting toll roads or bridges is not contained in the wording voters will see at the ballot box.

The main coalition working in support of Amendment 7 is   Missourians for Safe Transportation and New Jobs  (fixmoroads.com).  The main coalition working to oppose Amendment 7 is Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions (votenoamendment7.com).

Organizations supporting Amendment 7 (a complete list can be found on its website) include Missouri State Troopers Association, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Missouri Petroleum Marketers, Missouri Trucking Association and Citizens for Modern Transit.  Organizations opposing (full listing on the website) include Missouri League of Women Voters, Missouri Association for Social Welfare,   Sierra Club, Missouri Coalition for the Environment and Consumers Council of Missouri.

The main arguments made by supporters are that the amendment will provide revenue for needed infrastructure repairs and will create construction jobs. The main arguments made by opponents are that the sales tax will fall most heavily on those least able to afford it and that prohibiting increases in the gas tax and on creation of toll roads unfairly allows those most likely to benefit from new construction to pay nothing or close to nothing for the costs.  

Although the JCRC has positions on tax policy in general, the JCRC Council does not have a position on this Amendment. JCRC encourages you to review the Missouri Secretary of State website and the websites noted above before casting your vote.  

JCRC urges you to review the facts and make sure you vote on Aug. 5.  

For questions or more information, contact Gail Wechsler at 314-442-3894 or [email protected].