TARGET 8 fact checks ad attacking Amendment 3

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COLUMBIA — It stacks up as one of the most confusing decisions Missourians will have to make on election day. Amendment 3 would increase the taxes on cigarette packs to 60 cents by 2020 and impose an additional fee on tobacco wholesalers at an initial rate of 67 cents per pack. The proceeds of the tax would go to an early childhood trust fund.

KOMU 8’s Target 8 investigative team analyzed claims made by We Deserve Better, an advocacy group opposing Amendment 3, in one of its campaign ads.

"There’s language that discourages medical research": TRUE

In the initiative petition, Section 54(b) 2 states, “No funds 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 Article III, section 38(d).”

Missouri School Board Associations Executive Director Melissa Randol said the specific language prohibiting monies to medical research comes from previous attempts to raise the tobacco tax.

“We have had three prior initiatives on the ballot, in the past, to attempt to raise tobacco tax,” Randol said. “In the past, no language was included about how the money would be used in terms of health care. The attempt was just to spend on early childhood, but there were no restrictions on that, so they killed it because they claimed the money would be used for other purposes. So, we specifically included, this time, language of who gets the money and who doesn’t.”

Missouri Cures Executive Director Dena Ladd said her organization opposes the amendment.

“We do not understand why they would mention stem cell research in a ballot initiative that deals with raising tax on tobacco products and early childhood education,” Ladd said. “It has nothing to do with stem cell research. They kind of dragged us into this fight.”

Ladd said medical research groups fear Amendment 3 will negatively stigmatize stem cell research and hurt the work they put into passing a 2006 measure known as Amendment 2, which protects stem cell research.

Ladd said at that time, there was legislation that would have banned stem cell research in Missouri.

“That was a really hard-fought battle and over the last two years, we continue to fight to keep those protections in place,” Ladd said.

A retired Missouri Court of Appeals judge, James Dowd, published a legal opinion stating that Amendment 3 wouldn’t affect any of the constitutional protections for stem-cell research.

However, Ladd said Missouri Cures' attorney did a legal analysis as well and they disagreed.

“This is something you should be concerned about," she said.

"Adds 135 words defining abortion": TRUE

Section 54(b) 2 includes a section with exactly 135 words prohibiting funds to be used towards abortion services in Missouri:

“None of the funds collected, distributed or allocated from the early childhood health and education trust fund shall be expended, paid, or granted to or on behalf of existing or proposed activities, programs, or initiatives that involve abortion services including performing, inducing, or assisting with abortions, as defined in law, or encouraging patients to have abortions, referring patients for abortions not necessary to save the life of the mother, or development of drugs, chemicals, or devices intended to be used to induce an abortion. None of the funds collected, distributed, or allocated from the early childhood health and education trust fund shall be expended, paid or granted to or on behalf of any abortion clinic, abortion clinic operator, or outpatient health care facility that provides abortion services unless such services are limited to medical emergencies.”

According to an Amendment 3 analysis, Missouri Alliance Freedom, a group that opposes abortion, is fighting the measure.

The group states, "We are more cautious and, at the very least, cannot support an amendment inserting language into the constitution that arguably legitimizes abortion in our state."

Another group against abortion, Concerned Women for America, opposes the amendment because, if passed, the term "abortion services" will be in Missouri's Constitution for the first time.

Abortion rights supporter NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri is also in opposition to the amendment. It stated in a press release, "The proposed cigarette tax plan could steer public funds to anti-choice groups as well as further impeding abortion access in the state." 

"Prohibits law enforcement from enforcing tougher anti-tobacco laws": INCOMPLETE

Section 54(c) 3, states, “One percent of the funds deposited in the fund shall be used by the Director of Public Safety and the Director of Revenue to employ personnel for the sole purpose of criminal tobacco enforcement of existing state laws regarding tobacco products.”

The statute states the money will go towards enforcing “existing state laws,” whereas the claim states police cannot enforce “tougher” anti-tobacco laws.

"And undermines Missouri’s ban on sending public money to private schools": TRUE

Section 54(a) states the funds deposited would be "available for distribution to public and private entities." Section 54 (b) 2 also states:

"Distributions of funds under this amendment shall not be limited or prohibited by the provisions of Article 9, Section 8."

Article 9, Section 8 is "Prohibition of public aid for religious purposes and institutions."

Missouri School Board Associations Executive Director Melissa Randol said Missouri has to work with private providers to adequately serve and provide quality education to the Missouri pre-K population. She said tax dollars are currently going to public and private childhood education providers already.

“Our public schools do not have facilities to accommodate all 3, 4 year olds who would be eligible for public pre-K,” Randol said. “That’s exactly why this was drafted the way it is. To allow funding to continue the way it is right now in Missouri with Missouri Preschool Project Funds, Head Start – all those kinds of fund. We partner with private providers.”

Ladd said she supports early childhood education, but doesn’t think Amendment 3 is the right way to do it.

“This is a very flawed ballot initiative,” Ladd said. “It’s funded by R.J.R and should not change our constitution.”

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company is a supporter of Missouri's Amendment 3. The company has spent more than $12 million on ads backing the measure. The company said in a statement that it's the first time the company has ever supported a tax increase on tobacco.

"We believe Amendment 3 is both fair to our consumers and clearly in the best interests of the people in Missouri."