Constitutional wrap up
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Constitutional wrap up

Date: November 4, 2008
By: Rebecca Beitsch
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - All of the Missouri ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments passed late Tuesday evening.

Missourians have adopted an English-only amendment to the constitution, expanded options for storm water bonds, established a home-care attendant council, and increased required renewable energy sources for publicly owned utilities to 15 percent.

Proposition B:

Missouri voters passed Proposition B which establishes the Missouri Quality Home Care Council, which will be granted the authority to recommend standards and wage rates for home care workers, and recruit more people to the field.

Home care attendants are currently regulated by both the Department of Health and the Department of Social Services. Under the proposition, a statewide sole bargaining agent for all home-care workers will be created by a majority vote of home-care workers. Although home care attendants will be able to collectively bargaining, the proposition bans them from striking.

Critics call the measure an attempt at unionizing home health care workers. "We're taking a group of people and turning them over to a private group. It's bad business," said Mary Shantz, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Home Care.

According to an interview with the Associated Press, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry  has questioned the initiative, although it said it is still evaluating how to respond to it. The chamber said in a statement that the proposal would allow unionization if 10 percent of the workers expressed a desire to organize, well below the 30 percent generally required to vote on unionizing.

The chamber said it wants voters to be aware that "a seemingly innocent November ballot initiative contains potentially harmful language that could greatly increase health care costs for the state and private providers."

But proponents see the proposition as a way to get better working conditions for home care attendants. Richard Blakley, executive director of the Disabled Citizens Alliance for Independence, said "the point is to have someone to bargain with the state. We're looking for a mechanism to help get higher wages."

The Missouri Quality Home Care Council will consist of 11 members appointed by the governor, five from the Department of Health and Senior Services, the Missouri Centers for Independent Living, and the governor's advisory councils on aging and disabilities. The other six are people who have used home care services from Consumer Directed Services. A ballot summary estimates the cost of the council at $510,560 a year.

Proposition C:

Proposition C, dubbed the Missouri Clean Energy Initiative, passed with a considerable margin Tuesday.

Proposition C, requires investor-owned utilities to use 15 percent renewable energy sources in their total output by 2021.  Annual rate increases to pay for these alternative energy costs would be limited to 1 percent. Utility providers will still be able to adjust their prices for inflation. Approved energy sources include landfill gas, wind and solar power, biomass and hydroelectricity.

Proponents of the proposition cite economic development in billions of dollars through creation of thousands of jobs.  

Because the initiative applies to investor-owned utilities, only three companies--AmerenUE, Kansas City Power & Light, and Empire District Electric--would be affected.

Empire District Electric has taken a neutral position on the initiative.

AmerenUE opposes the measure and has expressed concerns that the adopted ballot initiative does not address energy efficiency and conservation. Company officials also cited uncertainty as to whether providing 15 percent renewable energy by 2021 is possible without increasing rates over 1 percent.

Richard Marks, a spokesperson for AmerenUE, criticized the ballot initiative for its clause regarding renewable energy credits (RECs) and solar energy. An REC is, in the ballot initiative's language, "a tradable certificate of proof that one megawatt-hour of electricity has been generated from renewable energy sources." Proposition C would require solar energy to comprise 2 percent of utility companies' energy portfolio.

"If companies can't achieve or feel that it's not possible to achieve the requirements for solar, they're just going to buy those RECs in Texas or Arizona," Mark said. "Every customer in Missouri will pay for those RECs, but the development and research for that energy will benefit the states in which those RECs were purchased. That will not promote development and growth in Missouri."

Kansas City Power & Light supports the ballot initiative. "All the way around, we think this is a good opportunity to collaborate with our customers for a cleaner energy  future," said Chuck Caisley, senior director of public relations at KCP&L.

Constitutional Amendment 1:

Amendment 1, the English-only Amendment passed overwhelmingly on Tuesday.

Amendment 1 makes English the official language of government proceedings but would leave translation services unchanged.

It adds to the Missouri Constitution a provision that requires all governmental meetings at which any public business is discussed or decided or public policy is formulated. This can mean any meeting, conference call, video conference, Internet chat or message board where public business is discussed.

Opponents of the amendment contend it is unnecessary and that it sends the message that Missouri does not welcome immigrants. Proponents say it causes no harm to immigrant groups and protects constituents by ensuring that citizens can understand government proceedings.

Rep. Jerry Nolte, R-Gladstone, said the amendment is a preemptive measure that will keep government transparent.

"If we were to conduct our committee meeting in, let's say, German, that would not be conducive to open government that the population can properly understand and make good judgments as to how we're serving them," Nolte said. "I would say that the target is to make sure we have open government that is readily understood by the population and then they can keep their eye on it."

However, one of the state's leading organizations for immigrant rights, Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates, opposes the adopted amendment. The coalition argues that the amendment has no practical use because there is no danger of government meetings in Missouri being carried out in a language other than English.

State Sen. Harry Kennedy, D-St. Louis, who opposes the amendment, said it's a good election issue, but it fails to address any serious matter that Missourians are actually facing.

"The majority of people are going to say, 'Hey listen, my neighbor or I am in danger of losing our house. My company is downsizing. I can't send my child to the college I want because tuition has gotten too expensive,'" he said. "Why are we talking about English-only when in reality it's not going to do anything but be a negative?"

Constitutional Amendment 4:

Amendment 4 passed late Tuesday evening.

The amendment expands the types of projects that could be covered by bonds the state sells to raise money for storm water projects.

Supporters say Amendment 4 would make it easier for water and sewer districts to obtain tax-free grants and loans from the state. No organized public opposition emerged.

One provision the amendment clarifies is that only public water and sewer districts could receive loans or grants for the storm water control projects. The Missouri Constitution already prohibits the state from granting or lending public money to private individuals or corporations, so the change might be superfluous.

The proposal also eliminates the restriction that state grants can pay for no more that 50 percent of a project's total cost. The existing requirement is that local governments or water and sewer districts must pay at least half. If the amendment passes, the state theoretically could cover the entire cost of local projects.

It also eliminates the existing cap of $20 million per fiscal year on appropriations to the storm water control fund. The restriction that appropriated money must be divided evenly between loans and grants is eliminated.