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Editorial — Amendments: Are they truly necessary now?

August 1, 2014

in Local

SWO-webMissouri’s constitution can be amended in three ways and one of them involves the state’s voters. Next Tuesday, they will be asked to do just that — five times.

A constitution is defined as a “set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed… When these principles are written down into a single document or set of legal documents, those documents may be said to embody a written constitution; if they are written down in a single comprehensive document, it is said to embody a codified constitution…”

By their very nature, constitutions are permanent documents and, as a rule, are changed — or amended — only when there are important, or even critical, societal and legal issues to make such a move necessary.

When Missourians vote next Tuesday, they should ask themselves whether the matters they are voting on merit a constitutional change, or could be better handled in the normal legislative way.

One of the issues on the ballot, Amendment 1, is known as the “right to farm” amendment. If that is an issue, which some dispute, it should be handled by the legislature. Missouri’s Constitution doesn’t need to be involved. Besides, there’s a possibility that if it passes, the amendment could result in increased litigation costs and possibly the loss of federal funding. Is that worth and amendment to the constitution?

There’s also a gun-related amendment on the ballot and again the question is one of necessity. Doesn’t our federal and state constitutions already cover the gun question?

A temporary sales tax that would benefit Missouri’s highways is another amendment issue and once again the question should be: Could this be covered legislatively? Why is it necessary to change the constitution for a temporary benefit? Does that mean that, if passed, another amendment would have to be approved to rescind it?

Then there is the amendment to create a “veterans lottery ticket.” This could be a touchy issue because of the word “veterans.” Moneys generated by such a move would be used for projects and services related to veterans. What isn’t mentioned is that this same money would be taken from educational programs, which the lottery was supposed to be for in the first place.

There is also an amendment to change the constitution “so that people shall be secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects…” This one, in our view, has some merit because the electronic communication explosion is undeniable and needs to be addressed.

None of the five proposed amendments involve simple questions and their financial impact on the state is debatable. No one is sure, according to all reports we have seen, just what the cost will be, if any.

So, it isn’t necessarily a financial question as much as one of actual need. Changing a constitution is a serious matter and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly or hastily.

Space available here won’t allow us to reprint the actual ballots that voters will face. Nevertheless, it is important for voters to carefully study their ballots before making a decision. That it’s a bit of a complicated task can’t be argued, nor can its importance.

Still, we wonder whether changing the constitution over issuess that could just as well be handled through the normal legislative process is truly necessary. Voters might consider that question as well.

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The newspaper business is a bit more complicated than most folks might realize. While that’s not an excuse for anything, there are occasions when things happen that we can’t control.

That was the case last week. Our paper is printed outside Sedalia and last week’s edition was delayed because the press used broke down and wasn’t repaired until Saturday. Our distribution is handled through the U.S. mail and the break-down caused that to be delayed as well.

We normally have Tuesday as our deadline, with distribution scheduled for Thursdays. It didn’t happen this time and we apologize for that. Hopefully, this was a one-time event.

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Should you have an opinion or comment on th is or any other subject, please contact us at sedaliaobserver@gmail.com, write us at Sedalia Weekly Observer, 2700 West Broadway, Suite 10, Sedalia, Mo., 65301, including your name, address and telephone number, or simply come by for a visit.

 

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