Primary Election 2014
Sun July 20, 2014
Missouri Voters To Decide On Privacy Protection, Veterans' Lottery Ticket
Of the five proposed constitutional amendments Missourians will get to vote on in August, two of them have generated little attention and virtually no controversy. One would expand the right against unreasonable search and seizures to include electronic communications and data, while the other would create a new Missouri lottery ticket to fund the needs of veterans.
Electronic data and communications
The privacy protection initiative began life as Senate Joint Resolution 27. The Missouri Constitution currently states that citizens "shall be secure in their persons, papers, homes and effects" from unreasonable searches and seizures, and no search warrants shall be issued without probable cause and without describing the person, place or thing to be seized. If voters pass Constitutional Amendment 9, electronic data and communications, i.e. emails, texts, tweets, etc., would be added to those protected items. The proposal was initially co-sponsored by state Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific.
"Most people understand that with the emails that they have and with the text messages that they're sending, with all the communications that we have, I think that people are going to understand that this particular proposal is just a way for us to bring our constitution in line with today's technology," Curtman said. "That really is all it is, it's a common-sense issue."
The primary sponsor, state Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, has set up a campaign committee to raise funds for advertising, although ads have yet to begin airing.
The GOP-penned proposal is also backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which often butts heads with Republican politicians. Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri, says the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring a search warrant before police can search someone's cell phone is a step in the right direction, but that Missouri's proposed constitutional amendment will go further.
"There are technological and digital and electronic communications that go beyond our cell phones," Mittman said. "The kind of information we might share on Facebook, or tweets we might send, or photos we might share on Pinterest, or videos we might want to provide to friends…all those are deserving of and need the robust protection that we expect."
The ballot measure received strong support from both Republicans and Democrats during this year’s legislative session, although some House Democrats voiced concerns over whether it's necessary to change the state constitution to protect emails and other electronic data. The Missouri Sheriffs Association is officially neutral, although its executive director, Mick Covington, said the proposal has nothing that would infringe or harm their ability to serve the public.
Veterans lottery ticket
Missouri voters will also decide whether to create a new lottery ticket to help fund the state's veterans' homes, cemeteries and outreach programs. If Constitutional Amendment 8 passes, the Missouri Lottery would begin selling the special lottery ticket by July 1 of next year; all net proceeds, around 25 cents of every dollar, would be deposited in the state's veterans' commission capital improvement trust fund. The legislation creating the ballot measure was sponsored by state Rep. Sheila Solon, R-Blue Springs.
"The lottery ticket will restore full funding for our veterans' outreach programs, which have been dramatically cut due to shortfalls in funding," Solon said.
She added that Missouri's seven veterans' homes are at capacity and more than 1,800 vets are on a waiting list to move in.
"And also it hopefully would help us to build up that fund so that we could maybe build a new home," Solon said, "or to at least address some of the concerns we have with the veterans' home in Mexico, Missouri, (which) is not meeting federal standards…our veterans are aging, (and) we're having a growing number of our Vietnam veterans now who are needing care at our veterans' homes."
The Missouri Veterans Commission is officially neutral on the proposal, but spokesman Daniel Bell said commission members would be happy to have any money derived in an appropriate manner that would help veterans in Missouri.
The Missouri School Boards Association said in an email that it was neutral on the bill. Right now, according to the Missouri Lottery website, about a quarter of every dollar spent on lottery goes to education.
The proposal did receive some criticism on the House floor earlier this year from state Rep. Jeremy Lafaver, D-Kansas City. He called the proposed lottery ticket an inefficient way to fund veterans' needs.
Veterans' lottery tickets in other states
If passed, Missouri would join Illinois, Iowa, and Kansas in selling lottery tickets to fund the needs of veterans. Kim Voore, spokesperson for the Iowa Lottery, says it has generated more than $15 million since 2008 for veterans' needs, averaging between $2 million and $3 million a year.
The Illinois Lottery's website states that its "Veterans Cash" instant ticket has generated more than $11 million since 2006, although the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that sales had dropped in 2013 to $715,000. Lottery Director Michael Jones says he likes the veterans' game because proceeds will go to "something that people believe in." Jones also cites similar lottery games, such as "Red Ribbon Cash," which provides money for AIDS research, and a new scratchers game passed by Illinois lawmakers this year to support Special Olympics.
The Kansas Lottery sells four instant-win tickets that benefit veterans. Public Affairs Director Sally Lunsford says the games have generated more than $12 million for veterans' programs over the past 11 years and that a record-setting $1,795,054 was generated for veterans in Fiscal Year 2014.
Idaho has veterans-themed scratcher tickets, but proceeds from those games go to public schools. Texas had a veterans lottery ticket at one time, but has since discontinued it. Pennsylvania has the only state lottery that designates all its proceeds to the elderly, though it does not differentiate between elderly veterans and life-long civilians.
Both proposed constitutional amendments will be decided by Missouri voters on Aug. 5.
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport