Barry County voters align with state on amendments

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Local voters in favor of Right to Farm, against transportation tax

Barry County voters were in line with statewide decisions when it comes to the five constitutional amendments on the Aug. 5 ballot.

Barry County voters cast ballots in favor of Amendment 1, Amendment 5 and Amendment 9, and they voted against Amendment 7 and Amendment 8.

Amendment 1, also known as Right to Farm, saw strong support from Barry County voters with 67 percent in favor and 33 percent against (4,154 votes to 2,083 votes). The statewide vote was much closer, as only 2,528 of the 994,974 votes decided the difference. Statewide, the amendment received just over 50 percent in favor (498,751 votes to 496,223 votes).

Supporters said the proposal will protect agriculture producers from initiatives backed by out-of-state organizations, such at the Humane Society of the United States, from seeking to restrict farming and stop animal production. Opponents claimed the language supports corporate interests who want unrestricted authority to run large farms.

Opinions were divided among state leaders, as Gov. Jay Nixon opposed Amendment 1 and Attorney General Chris Koster favored it.

Amendment 5, known as the Missouri Right to Bear Arms amendment, also saw great support from Barry County voters, with 79 percent in favor and 21 percent against (4,882 votes to 1,295 votes). Statewide, the final result was closer, with 61 percent voting in favor and 39 percent voting against (602,076 votes to 385,442 votes).

The amendment aims to exert a higher standard over proposed gun control laws, arguing restrictions would have to prove "a compelling government interest" to stand. Opponents saw the amendment as a direct challenge to passing any restrictions on gun ownership, including by violent criminals or the mentally ill.

A similar amendment passed in Louisiana in 2012.

A much-discussed amendment that failed to pass was Amendment 7, which would have created a 3/4-cent statewide sales tax to fund transportation projects. In Barry County, voters rejected the amendment with 58 percent against and 42 percent in favor (3,636 votes to 2,581 votes). Statewide, the amendment failed with 59 percent against and 41 percent in favor.

The tax would have raised $480 million annually and would have sunset after 10 years. It would have also prohibited an increase to the fuel tax or the imposition of toll roads.

Proponents had sought a funding mechanism since current highway funding would allow no new construction and limited maintenance in future years. Mechanisms for alternative funding at a lower amount have gained no traction in the General Assembly.

Opponents argued a sales tax leans on non-users of roads for a significant portion of its funding. An equivalent would have to add 14 to 17 cents per gallon in fuel taxes to generate as much revenue.

With the failure of the measure, projects that would have benefit from the additional funding, including expansion of the Monett Regional Airport and widening Highway 60 between Monett and Republic to four lanes, have gone by the wayside.

Amendment 8, which would have created a new lottery game benefitting projects and services relating to veterans, also failed in the election. Barry County voters voting 52 percent against and 48 percent in favor (3,192 votes to 2,983 votes). Statewide, the margin was 55 percent against and 45 percent in favor.

Proponents argued greater funding would support renovations to veterans' homes and cemeteries in the state for an aging population of veterans. Funds for that purpose in the state's Capital Improvement Trust Fund have shrunk in the past six years. The Missouri Veterans Commission has no other funding source and has drawn operational money from the trust fund in recent years.

If new ticket sales benefitting veterans cut into current lottery sales benefitting education, state funds would have shifted to make up any reduction. Presently, all Missouri lottery profits go to education. Voters in Washington state approved a similar lottery in 2010 and withdrew it after two years when other lottery revenues declined. A veterans lottery ticket has proven successful in Iowa but decreased lottery sales in Illinois.

Finally, voters in Barry County and statewide overwhelmingly passed Amendment 9. Barry County voters were 82 percent in favor and 18 percent against (4,989 votes to 1,129 votes), and statewide, the measure passed with 75 percent in favor and 25 percent against.

The passed amendment changes the constitution to offer new protections on electronics communications and data from "unreasonable searches and seizures," treating electronics the same as paper documents or other property.

The amendment is a reaffirmation of the June 25 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Riley v. California, which made it a requirement to obtain a subpoena to access cell phone records.

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