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Government & Politics

Missouri voters get to decide medical marijuana, minimum wage, ethics reform in fall


This fall, Missouri voters will decide whether to raise the minimum wage, legalize medical marijuana and institute sweeping ethics reforms after a slate of progressive campaigns collected signatures across the state to put the issues on the November ballot.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft on Thursday certified five initiative petitions to appear on November’s general election ballot.

Two petitions, if passed, would legalize medical marijuana by amending the Missouri Constitution. A third medical marijuana petition would legalize the drug in state statute.

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Another constitutional amendment proposed by the Clean Missouri campaign would institute ethics reforms and change the way the state draws legislative districts. The fifth petition would raise the minimum wage to $8.65 per hour next year and boost it by $0.85 each year until it reaches $12 per hour in 2023.

Any legal challenges to the petitions must be filed in the next 10 days, according to a release from Ashcroft’s office.

Raise Up Missouri and Missouri Business for a Fair Minimum Wage both support raising the minimum wage and urged Missourians to vote “yes” in a release after Ashcroft’s announcement. Both argue that raising the minimum wage will benefit the Missouri economy.

“The gradual minimum wage increase will give businesses time to adjust while experiencing benefits such as cost savings from lower employee turnover and increased sales thanks to greater consumer buying power,” said Pam Hausner, business campaign manager for Missouri Business for a Fair Minimum Wage and owner of Big Vision Design in Kansas City.

Jack Cardetti, spokesman for A New Approach Missouri, said he and members of his campaign were “thrilled” that their constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana would appear on the ballot. Their measure would tax medical marijuana sales and direct the funds toward health care for veterans through the Missouri Veterans Commission.

“It’s time to put doctors and patients back in charge of their medical treatment options,” Cardetti said.

Missouri voters also will have a chance to weigh in on Clean Missouri, a wide-ranging ethics reform measure that would eliminate most lobbyist gifts for state lawmakers, open legislative records, further limit campaign contributions for legislative candidates, create a two-year cooling off period before politicians can take lobbying jobs and change the way the state draws its legislative districts.

Under Clean Missouri, a nonpartisan expert would take over the process of drawing Missouri House and Senate districts. The proposed districts would be reviewed by a citizen commission to ensure they’re competitive. An independent demographer would help create the maps. Districts will be redrawn after the 2020 census.

Kathleen Boswell, president of the League of Women Voters of Missouri, said Clean Missouri is a “chance to increase fairness, integrity and transparency in government.”

“Year after year, politicians are re-elected with big money, in districts drawn by politicians and party insiders,” Boswell said in a release. “Amendment 1 limits the influence of special interests in the legislature and ensures no party is given an unfair advantage when redistricting occurs after the next census.”

Former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth, a Republican, also supported the proposal in the release issued by Clean Missouri.

“Amendment 1 will ensure fair and competitive elections so elected officials cannot take their voters for granted and must earn their support,” Danforth said. “I’m proud to be part of a bipartisan group of reformers to ensure voters come first — and that Missourians’ voices will always be heard in our democracy.”

Critics have taken issue with Clean Missouri’s redistricting mechanism and pointed to donations it may have gotten indirectly from billionaire George Soros. Missouri Sen. Bob Onder, R-St. Charles County, has called the proposal a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and said it would shift the legislature to the left. The redistricting portion constitutes “gerrymandering on steroids,” he said.

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