February 13, 2016

Voters likely to decide whether to raise cigarette taxes, minimum wage, cap payday loan rates

The Secretary of State’s Office has submitted four initiative petitions for verification. Spokesman Ryan Hobart says if the signatures are verified, they’ll go on the November ballot. Voters would decide whether to increase cigarette taxes, minimum wage, cap payday loan interest rates, and give local control back to the St. Louis Police Force.

Spokesman Ryan Hobart says 143 petitions were filed this year, a record number, but only the aforementioned four have made it this far in the process.

He says it’s been going up every year: by comparison, 14 initiatives were submitted in 2004.

This year’s petitions will now be sent on to the local election authorities in counties and cities across the state so signatures can be verified against their voter registration records. Petitions that meet the legal criteria will be certified by Aug. 7.

Signatures for the following petitions were submitted for verification:

· Statutory Amendment to RSMo Chapters 84, 86 and 105, Relating to Municipal Police Force: http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2012petitions/12init_pet.asp#2012088.

· A Statutory Amendment to RSMo Chapters 149 and 196, Relating to Cigarette and Other Tobacco Product: www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2012petitions/12init_pet.asp

· A Statutory Amendment to RSMo Chapters 367 and 408, Relating to Payday, Title, Installment, and Consumer Credit Loans: http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2012petitions/12init_pet.asp

· Statutory Amendment to RSMo Chapter 290, Relating to Minimum Wage: http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2012petitions/12init_pet.asp

For a petition seeking to change Missouri statute, valid signatures from registered voters equal to five 5 percent of the total votes cast in the 2008 governor’s election from six of the state’s nine congressional districts must be submitted. Depending on the combination of districts, the number of signatures required ranges between approximately 91,818 and 99,600 valid signatures.

Payday loan interest rates have been a hot-button issue in the legislature in recent years, but bills have not been passed.

A group called Missourians for Responsible Lending says it’s gone too far, taking advantage of society’s most needy citizens.

“The payday lending industry and the hired guns working for their shadowy front group pulled out all the stops to protect their 400 percent interest rates,” says  James Bryan, treasurer. “They’ve threatened churches and faith leaders, lied to and harassed voters on the streets, and worked to disenfranchise the citizens who signed petitions — but we have prevailed.”

Another group called Give Missourians a Raise speaks out against the practice.

“As payday lending executives and other CEOs get richer, regular people in Missouri are struggling to make ends meet across Missouri,” says James  Morris, treasurer. “It’s wrong to pay people less than $8 an hour and charge them 400% interest rates. These initiatives are important step forward to an economy that works for all of us.”