n just a few weeks we will again head to the election booth to make our voices heard on the candidates and issues we support or oppose. Your vote does matter, and the decision you make in the voting booth will have an impact on our state. In addition to the candidates you will choose to support in November, you also will consider a number of statewide initiatives that have the potentially to make significant changes to the way our state operates. Below are brief descriptions of each of the ballot measures that will appear on the November ballot.

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Some opponents of a Missouri income tax cut say they are weighing whether to pursue a referendum petition that would put the issue before voters.

The Republican-led Legislature enacted the tax cut earlier this month by overriding a veto of Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. The measure would gradually reduce Missouri’s top individual income tax rate and phase in a new business income deduction starting in 2017, as long as state revenues keep growing.

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In the quest for early voting in Missouri, Matthew Patterson says Sunday was satisfying.

About a half-hour before the 5 p.m. deadline, supporters of a ballot initiative petition to establish early voting in Missouri submitted what they said were more than 300,000 signatures contained in dozens of boxes.

In order to go on the ballot, the initiative petition needs approximately 160,000 voter signatures.

Patterson, the Springfield-based director of Missouri ProVote, said more than 36,000 signatures were collected in the Greene County area as part of a statewide effort. Locally, the collection effort began in mid-February and lasted until this past Friday, he said.

As soon as the snow melts, Missourians may find themselves confronting a horde of people stopping them outside stores, on the streets or at their front doors.

The object: to get their signatures on petitions that would put a variety of issues – such as early voting, income taxes and teacher tenure – on the August or November ballot.

So far, almost 40 such initiative petitions, covering at least 24 different topics, have been cleared by Secretary of State Jason Kander for circulation. That’s a huge number for a non-presidential election year. In 2010, the last such non-presidential year, 23 initiatives were approved for circulation.

Today, St. Louis activists who have regularly protested Peabody Energy with high-profile rallies are pushing forward with a new kind of action against the corporation — one that they say has not been tried before in the city.

Legislators in Missouri have passed and delivered to Governor Jay Nixon an initiative reform bill that increases penalties for fraud and forgeries on petitions, bans those convicted of fraud or forgery from circulating petitions, provides a time-limit on ballot title challenges (so that petitions cannot be held up indefinitely through litigation) and requires the Secretary of State to post the text and ballot titles of initiatives online (something the current Secretary of State has already begun doing).

“We’re trying to make sure that the signature gatherer isn’t a forger,” State Senator Scott Sifton, D-Affton, said.

Missouri lawmakers sent a bill to the governor that would change the process for citizens to place proposals on voting ballots.

House Bill 117 makes new requirements for those involved in petitioning to have a proposal appear on election ballots in 2014. State Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa, who handled the bill in the Missouri Senate, says it will make the petition process more open and understandable to voters.

“It does five things basically, and the main thing you want to think about is transparency,” Wasson said.

House Bill 117 would require the ballot title to appear on initiative and referendum petitions, and would increase penalties for persons who commit petition signature fraud.

Missouri could start holding public hearings on proposed ballot measures next year under legislation heading to Gov. Jay Nixon for approval.

The state Legislature passed several initiative petition reforms in a bill before the session ended last week. In addition to the creation of public meetings on the proposals, the legislation sets up requirements so Missourians will be able to access information about petitions online, requires petition circulators to disclose whether they are being paid for signatures and by whom, and enhances penalties for petition signature fraud.

Missouri has seen a large jump in the use of citizen petitions in recent years – from 16 submitted to the secretary of state’s office in 2004 to 143 submitted last year.

In a 32-1 vote late Wednesday, the Missouri Senate endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee that Missouri’s farmers have the right to farm.

The Senate changed the original language in the legislation ”” House Joint Resolution 7 and 11 ”” that would have barred voters from passing initiatives that would infringe on farmers’ rights.

That portion of the legislation was removed after opposition from senators concerned about blocking the initiative petition process.

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Lawmakers this year have been supporting proposed changes to the way initiative petitions are proposed and circulated in the state.

“I found, when I got involved with this,” said Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa and chairman of the Financial & Governmental Organizations and Elections Committee that helped write the bill, “there are people who would like to make (the petition process) a lot easier.

“There are people who would like to make it a lot harder.”

Missouri’s Constitution allows people “to propose and enact or reject laws and amendments to the constitution by the initiative.”

Read more from The News Tribune.

People who fraudulently sign petitions for ballot initiatives could face stiffer penalties under legislation given initial approval by the Missouri Senate.

A bill endorsed Wednesday by senators would make the crime of petition signature fraud a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of between $1,000 and $25,000.

Violators currently can face a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The legislation also expands the crime to cover petition circulators who use trickery to obtain signatures or who knowingly submit forms with false signatures.

Read more at BND.com Here

The Missouri House has approved legislation aimed at increasing the transparency of initiative petitions that bypass the Legislature to put proposed laws or constitutional amendments on statewide ballots.

Sponsors of the petitions must gather signatures from registered voters for their proposal to qualify for the ballot.

Under the House legislation, the secretary of state’s office would offer a public comment period after a proposal is submitted. For those proposals that actually qualify for the ballot, the Joint Committee on Legislative Research would hold a public hearing.

Those vexatious legislators in Missouri, irked by a recent ballot measure, are attempting to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, which would limit the people’s power of petition.  The proposed amendment –HJR 11 – overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives last week. It would allow only the legislature to create laws regarding farming and agriculture in the Show-Me State.

Still smarting over state voters’ approval of strict dog-breeding rules in 2010, some Missouri legislators want to bar future initiative petition drives from dealing with agricultural issues.

The House voted Thursday to place on the November 2014 ballot a constitutional amendment that would guarantee “the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices.” Under the proposal, only the General Assembly could write laws regulating “livestock production and ranching practices.”

The House passed the amendment on a vote of 110-41. It now moves to the Senate.

Two statewide elected officials seem at odds over the petition process in Missouri. Jason Kander, the Show-Me State’s new Secretary of State, just implemented an online program that displays initiative proposals as soon as they are filed, allowing the public a five-day comment period before the secretary of state and the state auditor must complete their ballot summary and fiscal statement, respectively.

In the past, initiative proposals were not posted on the secretary of state’s website until after a ballot summary and fiscal note were written, so citizens had no comment period at this stage in the process.