Progressive Case for YES on 3 — Part II
Learning from the Past, Being Smarter About Special Interests
Ok, I Agree With the Importance of Early Childhood Education, But Isn’t This Just Being Pushed by the Tobacco Companies?
Contrary to some of the information that is circulating about Amendment 3, it was actually drafted by a small group of early childhood professionals. I know because I was involved in those conversations. Prior to running for office, I spent the majority of my career in early childhood education. Over 300 stakeholder meetings occurred before the drafting of the Amendment.
Washington University in St. Louis put out studies in 2009 and 2012 about the reasons that the last two cigarette tax increases failed. It was largely because proponents of the tax were fighting big tobacco, wholesale tobacco, convenience stores, and pro-life, each of which are very powerful lobbies. It is nearly impossible to fight all of them and win.
Early on, the decision was made to meet with each lobbying group and see what they would be willing to support to not kill the amendment. Only big tobacco was willing to negotiate because they saw the writing on the wall. Even then, they did not come to the table until it had been worked on for nearly 1.5 years, and they saw the traction that was being gained by the proponents of the measure. Missouri has the lowest cigarrette tax in the nation, and it’s unlikely to stay that way. This tax is only a $.60 increase, which is much lower than what was sought in previous amendments, and is what has made some smoking prevention groups come out in opposition to this tax because they want it to be higher in order to have the most impact on decreasing smoking rates. It makes sense for big tobacco to cut their losses and fight to pass a tax that is lower than previous proposals. So yes, big tobacco does benefit.
Wholesale tobacco and the convenience stores had the chance to come to the table and negotiate and they chose not to. They are the special interests funding the opposition campaign.
Isn’t This Prohibiting Funding for Stem Cell Research or Abortions in Missouri?
Utilizing lessons learned from the 2006 campaign detailed in the study, an attempt was made to neutralize the opposition by adding specific language stating that the money would not be used to support abortions or stem cell research in the 2012 initiative, which also failed. As detailed in a 2012 study also from Washington University in St. Louis, the pro-life groups were still not satisfied, but were not as active as in prior campaigns due to the ballot language excluding funding of stem cell research.
Fast forward to 2016, and once again proponents of a cigarette tax took the recommendations of the Washington University in St. Louis study, (ironically, the same group that is now opposing us) and added the protective language to the policy. The Washington University report recognized the 2012 anti-abortion, anti-stem cell language helped, but it was not strong enough to stop all pro-life opposition. In order to neutralize opposition, we made adjustments and used the following language:
2016 language: “None of the funds collected, distributed, or allocated from the Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund shall be used for human cloning or research, clinical trials, or therapies or cures using human embryonic stem cells, as defined in Articles IX, section 38(d).”
The effect of this language is ensuring the revenue from this specific 60-cent tobacco increase can only go towards early childhood and smoking cessation/prevention programs. The language does nothing to change Missouri’s existing laws as they relate to abortion or stem cell research or funding. A legal opinion was even issued by retired Missouri Court of Appeals Judge James R. Dowd where he stated that “It is evident that there is no risk that a Missouri court could read the proposed amendment as a repeal of Amendment 2 (the Amendment authorizing stem-cell research), either expressly or by implication.”
Long story short, there are special interests driving both side of this initiative to protect their interests. If I’m going to side with a special interest, I’m going to side with the one who is also willing to support kids.
Click here to read the full ballot measure language