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Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016

We need initiative to get informed, too

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Come November, Missouri voters will go to the polls and vote for a long list of candidates. But it also appears likely that voters will face a record six ballot issues that will seek to raise the minimum wage, skyrocket the tax on cigarettes and restore last year's cuts to the Medicaid health care program for the poor.

There's also the controversial issue of stem cell research and one that would restrict the use of eminent domain. And finally, there's the ever-popular proposal to impose a spending limit on state government.

I've never been a real fan of the citizen initiative on ballots. For starters, let's be honest, these measures are not the grand idea of an ordinary citizen. Signatures are collected on petitions primarily by paid signature gatherers. In fact, I personally declined to sign one such petition here last week but person after person put their names on the sheet and I guarantee, few knew what the heck they were signing. I listened intently to the petition gatherers and then watched as others signed with a glazed look in their eyes.

But that aside, the truth is that voters generally won't have a clue on what they are voting on come November. It may be easy to understand the minimum wage and even perhaps hiking the price of cigarettes considerably. But ask the average voter the ramifications of stem cell research and you'll get a dazed look. Ask how the limit on government spending can impact their lives and they won't have a clue.

But our system of government says that if enough people ask for a change, then the voters can decide. Unfortunately my lack of faith tells me that the people aren't always right.

We'll decide if we want to add 80 cents to the price of a pack of cigarettes with most of the "new" money going to pay the health care costs for the poor. And we'll decide if we want to spend more money on Medicaid for the poor. And we'll vote on raising the minimum wage so that more lower income Missourians have funds available to help pay for more health care costs.

Do you get the trend?

Between now and November, voters will hear a lot more information on these six initiatives. But most voters will go to the polls with one important issue on their minds and then they'll vote on the other issues with little or no interest nor information.

Initiative ballot issues are like that other lesson in life - be careful what you wish for because when you get your wish, you may be surprised with the result.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen