Celebrating Our Freedom/Independence
The recent celebration of Independence Day should serve as a reminder of just how blessed we truly are to live in a nation that is devoted to the cause of freedom and liberty. It also should serve as a call to action that if we enjoy and truly value what we have, we must continue to invest our efforts so that we can provide the same opportunities to our children and grandchildren that have been afforded to us.  It was Thomas Jefferson who said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” and Ronald Reagan said  "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction."  Our founding fathers faced considerable risk and sacrifice to draft, sign, and pledge the Declaration of Independence.  It should never be forgotten that brave men and women before and throughout our history have stood watch in defense of our freedoms, and many have given their lives so that we might enjoy this celebration of our independence. These are things we cannot and should not take for granted.  We call home a place where we can speak our minds and express our opinions in the way we see fit, and where our willingness to work hard is the only limitation on our ability to enjoy prosperity. Certainly, it is not a perfect nation but it was created with perfect intentions that are grounded in the desire to give every person the opportunity to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  One of the things that I treasure most about our area, is that our appreciation and reverence for our service men and women and the gift that they have maintained for us is not a one day, once per year affair; but something that we here hold dear all year long.
August 5 Election / Overview of Ballot Measures
While there are just a handful of races throughout the 142nd District that will be decided in the coming August 5th primary election, there are a number of proposals which have the potential of significantly impacting our Missouri Constitution which will appear on the ballot. Changing the constitution is no small matter and for that reason I think it’s important to let you know what is coming. Below is a brief overview of each proposed constitutional change. I hope you will find these helpful as you look ahead to the Aug. 5 election.  This election will be as important as any other to let your voice be heard.
Amendment 1 - Right to Farm
Amendment 1 will give Missouri voters the opportunity to enact a constitutional amendment affirming the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices.  Known as the “Right to Farm” bill, it would, upon voter approval, “ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed." The amendment would prevent changes made to state law that infringe on the rights of farmers.  The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and other groups that would love to end all animal agriculture in our state vehemently oppose this measure, because it makes it much more difficult for them to enact their agenda through legislation/ballot measures (which they are in a continual process of trying).  There has already been a considerable amount of political spin/rhetoric surrounding this issue, with some saying that "the language is vague," "this would unduly protect agriculture," or "this will benefit corporate producers."  The truth is this; Amendment 1 will benefit and protect all of agriculture (small, large, private or corporate) across our state from those individuals/groups that do not have our interests or food supply as a concern.
Amendment 5 - Right to Keep and Bear Arms
Amendment 5 is a proposed constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters, would reinforce the right of Missouri citizens to keep and bear arms, ammunition and firearm accessories in defense of their family, in addition to the current rights to protect a person’s home, property or themselves. The amendment would also make these rights unalienable, and obligate Missouri to uphold these liberties and under no circumstance decline to protect against their infringement.  While we currently enjoy the 2nd Amendment of our Federal Constitution, and Article I, Section 23 of our Missouri Constitution, this would strengthen our position on the right to keep and bear arms while extending the protections to ammunition/accessories. Changing the legal test/standard of the courts to "strict scrutiny," (which is the highest level available) would add further safeguards to all future statutes that the Missouri Legislature would pass in the event that the laws were being challenged in court.
Amendment 7 - Transportation Sales Tax
Amendment 7 will give voters the opportunity to decide whether to pay more in sales tax in order to provide additional funding for Missouri’s roads/highways/biking/airports/rail (one of the fallacies that hasn't been fully disclosed, is that these funds would be used for all of the aforementioned, not exclusively road improvement) transportation. The proposed constitutional amendment would raise the state sales tax by three quarters (3/4) of a cent to generate approximately $534 million annually for maintenance and construction projects for the state’s transportation infrastructure.  If approved by voters, the sales tax increase would take place in 2015 and be in effect for a period of 10 years, after which would require legislative approval to continue.  While the administration/Commission of MoDOT has continued asking for more funds in recent years, our area has seen a decrease in the level of service (and I do not fault our local MoDOT employees); as a result of the current Transportation Commission composition (primarily St. Louis/Kansas City members; yet they can still afford to fly to their meetings around the state...), the "Bolder 5 Year Direction" plan and redistricting.  I could agree that our infrastructure is in need; but it is quite clear with the project list that has been unveiled that we (in our area) will see neither the "economic boom" from construction, nor the economic gains from an improved system; both of which are being promised if this tax would successfully pass.  Did I mention that this is the largest tax increase in Missouri's history?
Amendment 8 - Veterans Lottery Ticket
Amendment 8 will give voters the opportunity to support the creation of a new lottery ticket to raise funds for veterans’ programs. If approved by voters, the Missouri Lottery would create a new ticket with proceeds from sales of the ticket to be deposited into the Veterans Commission Capital Improvement Trust Fund, which is used to fund construction and maintenance for veterans’ homes and cemeteries in the state.
Amendment 9 - Protecting Electronic Information
Amendment 9 is a proposed constitutional amendment designed to protect Missourians’ electronic information from unwarranted search/seizure (4th Amendment). If approved by voters, the state constitution would protect email, cell phone data and other electronic information in the same way it currently protects the papers, homes and effects of individuals from search or seizure without a warrant or probable cause.  Given the recent and continued actions of the Federal and State Executive branches (NSA, IRS, EPA, DOR, DNR, etc.) in their collection of data (pictures, emails, phone calls, etc.) on every one of us rather than focusing on actual terrorists, this is a much needed update to our State Constitution to properly capture the founder's intent for the technological world that we currently live in.
Contact Information:
As always, please do not hesitate to call or write me anytime with your questions or thoughts on these or any other issues. My Capitol office is 573.751.1490 and my email is Robert.Ross@house.mo.gov.  Thank you for the honor to serve as your Representative in the Missouri House of Representatives.