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Sunday Poll: How Will You Vote On Missouri’s 3 Medical Marijuana Measures?

September 30, 2018 Drug Policy, Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Sunday Poll: How Will You Vote On Missouri’s 3 Medical Marijuana Measures?
Please vote below

In just over five weeks Missouri voters will decide if the state joins the majority of states that have already legalized marijuana for medical use.

Thirty states and the District of Columbia currently have laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form.

Eight states and the District of Columbia have adopted the most expansive laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Most recently, sales of recreational-use marijuana in California kicked off on Jan. 1. In Massachusetts, retail sales of cannabis are expected to start later this year in July. Voters in Maine similarly approved a ballot measure legalizing marijuana in 2016. The state, however, has not yet adopted rules for licensed marijuana growers or retailers, nor has it begun accepting licenses. Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill that would have established a legal framework for sales of the drug.

The vast majority of states allow for limited use of medical marijuana under certain circumstances. Some medical marijuana laws are broader than others, with types of medical conditions that allow for treatment varying from state to state. Louisiana, West Virginia and a few other states allow only for cannabis-infused products, such as oils or pills. Other states have passed narrow laws allowing residents to possess cannabis only if they suffer from select rare medical illnesses. (Governing)

Our neighbor to the East, Illinois, has had a test medical marijuana program for a couple of years. Arkansas, to the South, approved it in 2016 and the program should begin in 2019. For Missouri voters it isn’t a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote:

Missouri voters will find not one but three different proposals aiming to legalize marijuana for medical purposes when they pick up ballots Nov. 6. 

Some language is similar across all three proposals, but they are not identical. Here are some common questions and answers that explain how each would function.

What’s on the ballot?

Two constitutional amendments and one change to state law regarding medical marijuana have been proposed:

  • Amendment 2, supported by a group called New Approach Missouri
  • Amendment 3, supported by Springfield physician-attorney Brad Bradshaw
  • Proposition C, supported by a group called Missourians for Patient Care

All three would legalize growing, manufacturing, selling and consuming marijuana and marijuana products for medicinal use at the state level. (Proposition C touts an additional requirement that local community support would be required before and after its local licensing authority approves medical marijuana use.)

Proposition C would tax marijuana sales at 2 percent; proceeds would be split four ways to fund veterans health care, public safety, drug treatment programs and early childhood development initiatives.

Amendment 2 would tax marijuana sales at 4 percent, with the resulting proceeds going to fund veterans health care programs. This is the only proposition that would allow for home-growing of marijuana.

Amendment 3 would tax sales by growers to dispensaries at $9.25 per ounce for marijuana flowers and $2.75 per ounce for leaves and would tax sales by dispensaries to patients at 15 percent. The proceeds — projected to be by far the most of the three measures — would go toward setting up a research institute and efforts to cure currently incurable diseases, with money set aside to acquire land for the institute’s campus and to fund transportation infrastructure, medical care, public pensions and income tax refunds.

Under all three proposals, prospective patients and primary caregivers would apply to the state for identification signifying their ability to receive and prescribe medical marijuana, respectively. Those hoping to cultivate, manufacture or sell marijuana products would apply for separate licenses. (Springfield News-Leader)

Today’s poll seeks to find out how you plan to vote on the three medical marijuana measures on the ballot.

This poll will automatically close at 8pm tonight. On Wednesday I’ll discuss my thoughts on each of the three, what happens if all three are approved, etc.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Opinion: Illinois & Missouri Need To Study ‘Vehicle Miles Driven’ Tax To Replace Fuel Taxes

September 12, 2018 Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy, Transportation Comments Off on Opinion: Illinois & Missouri Need To Study ‘Vehicle Miles Driven’ Tax To Replace Fuel Taxes
Fuel prices include taxes in the posted price

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll on how Illinois should fund road infrastructure maintenance/improvements was because of current political commercials in their heated race for governor.

J.B. Pritzker is up with a new ad, attacking GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner and an affiliate of the Republican Governors Association over ads criticizing the Democratic governor candidate about a vehicle mileage tax.

The Rauner ad features a woman identified as “Denise Smith” warning that Pritzker “wants a car tax, which will also come along with a tracking device.” State Solutions, an RGA affiliate, accuses Pritzker in an ad of plans for a 1.5-cent-per-mile vehicle mileage tax.

Pritzker in January told the Daily Herald the idea of a vehicle mileage tax was worth “exploring” but has since said he was open to ideas on how to pay for a capital bill and wasn’t wedded to it. He did not identify a specific amount of mileage tax as the State Solutions ad alleges. (Chicago Tribune)

I used the following, from a 2016 article, to explain Illinois’ options for paying for needed roads, as outlined by the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC):

GAS TAX
The MPC argues the state will need to raise $2.7 billion a year, half to spend and half to go towards bonds:

This is equivalent to a $0.30/gal increase in state motor fuel taxes and a 50 percent increase in vehicle registration fees. The tax and fees should be indexed to the consumer price index to keep pace with inflation. MPC recommends the state constitution be amended to create a transportation trust fund to protect this revenue. To acknowledge the effect of these increases on lower- and middle-income Illinoisans, the state earned income tax credit should double to 20 percent of the federal amount.

Because the state’s motor fuel tax has been unchanged for so long, Illinoisans are paying far less for road maintenance today when inflation is calculated:

The Illinois Senate has used the MPC’s estimates to draft legislation that would raise the gas tax by 30 cents, making it the highest gas tax in the nation.

Of course, not everyone is happy with that proposal. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce says Illinois needs to look into other options to fix roads. The Chamber’s recommendation includes an increased state income tax and a lower wholesale gas tax, while getting rid of some tax exemptions for goods like food and medicine.

MILEAGE TAX

Senate President John Cullerton has proposed a different way to get around a gas tax hike; a mileage tax. Illinoisans would pay 1.5 cents per mile in one of three payment options. From the Daily Herald:

Drivers could have a device that tracks the miles through geolocation technology, charging only for the miles driven on public highways and roads.

Alternatively, they could have an odometer tracker, which reports only number of miles driven, not where. The downside to this, notes Susan Martinovich of CH2M, an environmental and engineering consulting firms, is that drivers would be charged for miles driven out of state.

Finally, Illinoisans could opt out of installing any devices and pay a flat mileage tax of 1.5 cents per mile for 30,000 miles.

A mileage tax would also help the state raise revenue even as gas usage declines, thanks to better fuel efficiency and electric cars. The MPC’s plan also recommended Illinois stop raising funds tied to gas purchases eventually. It pushed for a mileage tax system by 2025. (GovTech.com)

Cullerton, a Democrat, introduced SB3267 in February 2016. It never got far in the legislative process.

I want to step back from politics and look at the big picture.

The first US state tax on fuel was introduced in February 1919 in Oregon. It was a 1¢/gal tax. In the following decade, all of the US states (48 at the time), along with the District of Columbia, introduced a gasoline tax. By 1939, an average tax of 3.8¢/gal (1¢/L) of fuel was levied by the individual states.

In the years since being created, state fuel taxes have undergone many revisions.[6] While most fuel taxes were initially levied as a fixed number of cents per gallon, as of 2016, nineteen states and District of Columbia have fuel taxes with rates that vary alongside changes in the price of fuel, the inflation rate, vehicle fuel-economy, or other factors. (Wikipedia)

The first federal fuel tax happened after all the states had fuel taxes — in 1932 during the end of the Hoover administration. The initial temporary tax became permanent.  Eventually federal fuel taxes became part of a trust fund for roads. All was good for decades, but then it began to change:

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards are regulations in the United States, first enacted by the United States Congress in 1975, after the 1973–74 Arab Oil Embargo, to improve the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks (trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles) produced for sale in the United States. (Wikipedia)

These CAFE standards have been highly effective at improving the fuel economy of vehicles. Less fuel, however, means less revenue for roads. Politicians at the state & federal levels are reluctant to increase fuel taxes. The smart solution is to look at a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax. Oregon, the first state with a fuel tax became the first state to begin a test of a mileage tax.

Way back in 2001, Oregon recognized the problem that many state legislatures are now staring down: gas tax revenue is falling inexorably as vehicles become more fuel-efficient, threatening transportation budgets. The state launched a task force that investigated 28 alternative funding mechanisms before selecting a mileage tax as the one that best met a wide range of criteria: fairness, efficacy, ease of implementation, public acceptance, enforceability, privacy protection, etc.

In 2006, the state recruited 299 volunteers for participation in a year-long trial of a prototype system. Because any real-world mileage tax will be phased in over a long period of time, it has to harmonize with the existing gas tax. The Oregon experiment neatly solved this problem with a pay-at-the-pump system:

* A small GPS receiver in participants’ cars tracked miles driven.
* When participants went to the gas station to fill up, a wireless scanner at the pump detected the GPS receiver and recorded the car’s current mileage, which was then sent to a central database to determine miles driven since the last payment. No specific location data was transmitted.
* The payment system at the gas station applied either the standard gas tax (for cars that didn’t have a GPS system) or the mileage tax (for participating cars). The experiment was designed to be revenue neutral, so fees were about the same in either case. (Terrapass)

Of course, a VMT tax also has drawbacks:

Poor, disadvantaged, and rural people tend to commute farther than the affluent, and drive less efficient cars. The gas tax already charges them disproportionately. A straightforward VMT would too. Any lawmakers crafting a Vehicle Miles Traveled framework would need to consider such concerns. Again, technology could come to the rescue, identifying drivers who merit discounts or subsidies. (Wired)

If the feds & states all switched to a VMT tax to replace fuel taxes we’d see much more compact development, greater use of public transit. etc. — in a few generations. Missouri & Illinois should both join Oregon & others in studying VMT:

California is conducting a pilot VMT study, and the state of Washington is expected to conduct one, as well. Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania have all applied for federal support to test how a VMT tax could work across multiple states. (Brookings)

It’s time to change how we fund road construction.

— Steve Patterson

 

Please Vote Yes on Prop B to Raise Missouri’s Minimum Wage

September 5, 2018 Economy, Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Please Vote Yes on Prop B to Raise Missouri’s Minimum Wage

A lot of people fear increasing minimum wages, but where it has increased the dire predictions have not come true.

As the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found in a 2011 study, every dollar increase in the minimum wage corresponds with an annual increase in consumer spending per minimum wage household by $2,800. It makes sense. Elevating wages strengthens consumers’ buying power. Workers with more money in their pockets are also consumers who support local businesses, creating a virtuous cycle of growth and opportunity for our residents and our local economy.

There will always be Chicken Littles who are sure the sky is falling in the face of progress, but Chicago has proven them wrong. The city that works has clearly shown fair pay and a strong business climate can go hand-in-hand. (Crain’s Chicago Business)

When those at the bottom get a raise the money gets spent immediately. It often gets spent locally. This is true for big cities, and in rural communities. Yes, some businesses will have higher wage costs but they’ll likely see higher revenues as people have more money to spent.

Will raising the minimum wage have an effect on taxes and taxpayers?

Because people who earn minimum wage are those most likely to spend their income and spend it with local small businesses for basic necessities like food and clothing, it is estimated by the state of Missouri that state and local government tax revenue could increase by as much as $214 million dollars.

Additionally, the extra money spent by low-wage workers gets funneled back to businesses large and small that need to hire more workers to keep up with the increased demand, helping to create even more economic growth. That’s great for those small, local businesses and it’s great for Missouri taxpayers. (Raise Up Missouri FAQ)

In November Missouri voters will consider a slow graduated increase of the minimum wage, here’s the ballot language for Proposition B:

Do you want to amend Missouri law to:

  • Increase the state minimum wage to $8.60 per hour with 85 cents per hour increase each year until 2023, when the state minimum wage would be $12.00 per hour;
  • Exempt government employers from the above increase; and
  • Increase the penalty for paying employees less than the minimum wage?

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. (Raise Up Missouri)

The full detailed language can be viewed here.

Missouri’s current minimum wage is $7.85/hour.  Three border states (Oklahoma, Kansas, & Iowa) have a lower minimum wage than Missouri — all are the same, $7.25. The three other border states (Arkansas, Nebraska, & Illinois) have higher minimum wages than Missouri. Of the three that are higher, they range from $8.25 (Illinois) to $9 (Nebraska).

Hourly workers aren’t just teens, they include all sorts — including Yale-educated actors like Geoffrey Owens:

He went on to say that he took the job at the grocery store because it allowed him the “flexibility” he needed to stay in the entertainment business.

Owens still acts and has been teaching acting classes for several years. He has a net worth of $300,000. In addition to his work on The Cosby Show over the years, Owens has appeared on episodes of Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, That’s So Raven, Boston Legal, Las Vegas, Medium, Without a Trace, Flashforward, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and The Affair.

Owens worked at Trader Joe’s for 15 months but had to quit because of the unwanted attention, however, the company said that he is welcome to come back anytime. (Source)

Owens is the son of a former librarian turned congressman (since retired, deceased).  Hourly workers might be 17…or 57, but they’re working and their earnings will likely be spent — going back into the economy.

Here are the results of the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: How do you plan to vote on Proposition B in the November 2018 midterm election?

  • Definitely no 4 [19.05%]
  • No 0 [0%]
  • Leaning no  0 [0%]
  • Unsure 2 [9.52%]
  • Leaning yes  4 [19.05%]
  • Yes 1 [4.76%]
  • Definitely yes 9 [42.86%]
  • I’m not a Missouri voter 1 [4.76%]

Please vote YES on Prop B on November 6th.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: Missouri’s Investigation Into Clergy Abuse Will Find Results Similar To Pennsylvania

August 29, 2018 Crime, Featured, Missouri, Religion Comments Off on Opinion: Missouri’s Investigation Into Clergy Abuse Will Find Results Similar To Pennsylvania

Missouri Attorney General, Josh Hawley, the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, recently opened an investigation into sex abuse by priests within the Catholic church:

This review makes Missouri the first state to publicly announce such an inquiry after the searing Pennsylvania grand jury report released last week, which documented a wave of abuses and coverups spanning decades and involving more than 300 Catholic priests.

It remains unclear whether other states have launched new efforts to investigate alleged abuses after the Pennsylvania report. While other states may be conducting or considering beginning investigations, none has said so publicly. The Washington Post reached out to the offices of attorneys general in 49 states and the District of Columbia after the Pennsylvania report was released to survey their responses. Authorities in most of these offices either said that they could not comment on potential investigations or that their offices lacked the authority to immediately act and investigate local cases.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis said Thursday that it welcomed the review in Missouri and that the examination was being conducted at its request. St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson said he knew the public was calling on the attorney general’s office to investigate the Catholic Church and that “we have nothing to hide,” adding that he was inviting Hawley to review the church’s files on anyone who has been accused of sexual abuse. (Washington Post)

How did we get to this point?

Although some accusations date back to the 1950s, molestation by priests was first given significant media attention in the 1980s, in the US and Canada.

In the 1990s the issue began to grow, with stories emerging in Argentina, Australia and elsewhere. In 1995, the Archbishop of Vienna, Austria, stepped down amid sexual abuse allegations, rocking the Church there.

Also in that decade, revelations began of widespread historical abuse in Ireland. By the early 2000s, Church sexual abuse was a major global story. (BBC)

So a worldwide problem brought to light, once again, this time by Pennsylvania’s grand jury investigation.

It has even reached the head of the church.

A report released this weekend by a former Vatican ambassador to the United States charges that Pope Francis knew about sexual abuse by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, removed a suspension placed on him by Pope Benedict, and proceeded to make the known abuser one of his most trusted advisors. Pope Francis “knew from at least June 23, 2013 that McCarrick was a serial predator, [but] he covered for him to the bitter end,” wrote Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, nuncio to Washington from 2011-2016, before demanding the pontiff resign. (USA Today)

Vigano is a right-wing critic of Pope Francis, so make of this what you will.

Cathedral Basilica St. Louis

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was on this topic. I phrased the question from the positive view — that Missouri wouldn’t be as bad as Pennsylvania.

Q: Agree or disagree: Missouri’s investigation into clergy sex abuse will uncover nothing like Pennsylvania’s recent case, on a per capita basis.

  • Strongly agree 2 [10%]
  • Agree 3 [15%]
  • Somewhat agree 3 [15%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [5%]
  • Somewhat disagree 0 [0%]
  • Disagree 6 [30%]
  • Strongly disagree 1 [5%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 4 [20%]

Until it’s done none of us know what the outcome will be, but Bernard Law went to Boston from more than a decade in Springfield MO.

Law’s name became emblematic of the scandal that continues to trouble the church and its followers after a Boston Globe investigation revealed that he and other bishops covered up child abuse by priests in the Boston Archdiocese.

Law at the time apologized to victims of John Geoghan, a priest who had been moved from parish to parish, despite Law’s knowledge of his abuse of young boys. Geoghan was convicted in 2002 of indecent assault and battery on a 10-year-old boy. (CNN)

It seems likely priests were shifted around here just as they were in other states/countries.  Assuming the investigation isn’t just a political campaign stunt, I anticipate similar results to Pennsylvania — on a per capita basis. Pennsylvania has more than twice the population of Missouri.

Meanwhile the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue said the Pennsylvania report was lies.  “Most of the alleged victims were not raped: they were groped or otherwise abused, but not penetrated, which is what the word “rape” means.” 

My question is why does it appear clergy abusing children is more prevalent in Catholicism, compared to other religions around the world? Is my perception incorrect, are clergy in other religions doing the same thing? Leaders of other religions covering it up?

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Opinion: Eric Greitens Was a Victim of Himself

June 6, 2018 Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Opinion: Eric Greitens Was a Victim of Himself
Mugshot of Missouri Governor Eric Greitens

Eric Greitens, Missouri’s now-former governor,  played the roll of victim when he announced a week ago he’d be resigning at the end of that week.Like many of you I watched it live on television.

Here is the full text:

Good afternoon. Today I am announcing that I will resign as governor of Missouri effective Friday, June 1, at 5 p.m. 

I came to office to fight for the people of Missouri, to fight for the forgotten. I love Missouri, and I love our people. That love remains. I am thankful to all those who have worked beside me, sweated beside me, those who gave their time, their energy, their precious resources so that we could pursue our mission of taking Missouri in a new and better direction. We have accomplished a lot together. I am proud of you, and I am proud of all of our work.

The last few months have been incredibly difficult for me, for my family, for my team, for my friends and for many, many people that I love. This ordeal has been designed to cause an incredible amount of strain on my family. Millions of dollars in mounting legal bills, endless personal attacks, designed to cause maximum damage to family and friends. Legal harassment of colleagues, friends and campaign workers. And It’s clear that for the forces that oppose us, there is no end in sight. I cannot allow those forces to continue to cause pain and difficulty to the people that I love. 

I know, and people of good faith know, that I am not perfect, but I have not broken any laws nor committed any offense worthy of this treatment. I will let the fairness of this process be judged by history. It has been a great honor and a privilege to serve as your governor. Traveling the state, I have talked to many of you who harbor extraordinary anger at this ordeal and for those who have pushed and promoted it. 

For those who would be moved to vengeance, let us allow history and God to bring justice. We must, as we have always done, work to improve the lives of those around us. This is not the end of our fight. I will always be a fighter for the people of Missouri. A great deal of work is left undone. The time has come, though, to tend to those that have been wounded, and to care for those who need us most. So for the moment, let us walk off the battlefield with our heads held high. We have a good and proud story to tell our children. Let’s love them and each other every day.  (Springfield News-Leader)

May God continue to bless you and to bless the great state of Missouri.

You can watch the video here. It was that second paragraph where Greitens portrayed himself as the victim:

The last few months have been incredibly difficult for me, for my family, for my team, for my friends and for many, many people that I love. This ordeal has been designed to cause an incredible amount of strain on my family. Millions of dollars in mounting legal bills, endless personal attacks, designed to cause maximum damage to family and friends. Legal harassment of colleagues, friends and campaign workers. And It’s clear that for the forces that oppose us, there is no end in sight. I cannot allow those forces to continue to cause pain and difficulty to the people that I love. 

No doubt this time was difficult for him and his family, but the designer is Eric Greitens himself! He couldn’t take responsibility for his actions. To quote our president. SAD!

Here’s his original campaign video that got him noticed and the nomination.

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll most readers also felt he wasn’t the victim:

Q: Agree or disagree: Eric Greitens is the victim of a plot designed to force him to resign as Missouri’s governor.

  • Strongly agree 5 [16.67%]
  • Agree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat agree 3 [10%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [3.33%]
  • Somewhat disagree 0 [0%]
  • Disagree 6 [20%]
  • Strongly disagree 15 [50%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

I doubt there’s much policy positions of now-governor Mike Parsons that I’d agree with, but I’m pretty sure we won’t see a mugshot of him or that’ll he’ll be on the national news or late night shows.

A future poll question might be about the office of Lt. Governor — should it remain vacant or bill filled? By appointment or special election?

— Steve Patterson

 

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