Tobacco tax trailing; judicial change rejected

The fate of a measure to increase Missouri’s lowest-in-the-nation tobacco tax by 73 cents per pack was too close to call with more than 60 percent of ballots counted late Tuesday.

Opponents of Proposition B, which would raise the state’s tobacco tax to 90 cents per pack — the national average is $1.46 — held a slim lead with nearly 52 percent of the vote with 66 percent of the votes counted. It’s the third time in a decade Missouri voters have been asked to increase the tobacco tax, with similar measures failing in 2002 and 2006.

The tobacco tax was one of four ballot measures being contested in Missouri on Tuesday.

Voters reject change in judicial selection

Missouri voters have rejected a proposal that would have changed the process of nominating and appointing judges to the state Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals.

The proposed constitutional amendment on Tuesday’s ballot would have modified the membership of the seven-member Appellate Nominating Commission. The panel screens applicants for the top courts and recommends three finalists to the governor, who makes the appointment.

The commission now consists of a Supreme Court judge, three non-lawyers appointed by the governor and three lawyers selected by fellow members of The Missouri Bar.

The ballot measure would have removed the Supreme Court judge and required the commission to recommend four finalists. It would have increased the governor’s appointees on the commission to four and removed the requirement that none of them be lawyers.

Voters limit governor’s power on health care

Missouri voters have passed a ballot measure limiting the governor’s ability to implement part of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Voters approved a law Tuesday prohibiting the governor or his administration from taking any steps toward establishing an online health insurance exchange unless specifically authorized to do so by a state law or vote of the people.

Under Obama’s health care law, states have until 2014 to create a health insurance exchange or have the federal government run one for them. The exchanges are intended to provide individuals and small businesses a way to compare and buy health insurance policies online.

Missouri’s vote may be largely symbolic, because Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration already has halted efforts to lay the groundwork of an insurance exchange.

Voters OK St. Louis control of police

A century-and-a-half after St. Louis gave up control of its police department, the city is getting it back.

Missouri voters on Tuesday approved Proposition A, allowing St. Louis to oversee its own police.

The Civil War was just getting started in 1861 when the Confederate-backing Missouri Legislature seized control of the police departments in St. Louis and Kansas City. Lawmakers worried police in the cities might use their river locations and arsenals in support of the union.

Other border states took similar steps, but most reverted to local control soon after the end of the war. Kansas City police remain under state control.

St. Louis officials say the change will create economic efficiencies and improve police oversight when it becomes effective next July.

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