St. Louis lawyer behind failed tobacco tax increase is pushing new initiative
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St. Louis lawyer behind failed tobacco tax increase is pushing new initiative

Date: October 8, 2013
By: Matt Kalish
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Secretary of State Jason Kander announced Tuesday he received a potential ballot initiative that would give voters a chance to extend students voting right on their state university's school board.

Kander's office said Tuesday they are in the process of drafting the ballot summary language and is accepting public comment on the issue. St. Louis lawyer Brad Ketcher submitted the initiative. Ketcher was formerly chief of staff to former Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan.

Several attempts by the General Assembly to add a student vote to university school boards have failed in recent years. In 2012, a bill allowing for a student voting member died in the House Higher Education Committee. A 2011 amendment to a higher education bill that also would have added a student voting member failed in the House 99-53.

Assistant Legislative Director for the Associated Students of the University of Missouri Kaitlin Steen said, a group that lobbies on behalf of students who attend the four UM System schools, said they're encouraged by the filed initiative after a series of setbacks in the General Assembly.

"There has definitely been a problem to go about it this way," Steen said. "We're open to new ideas."

State Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, said he'd support the measure if it makes it onto the ballot. He said he is curious as to who is behind the push.

Ketcher would not disclose to the Associated Press who is behind the proposed measure and did not return calls for comment.

Chairman of the House Higher Education Committee Mike Thompson, R-Maryville, said the addition of a student with voting rights could be a slippery slope.

"If they do get a vote then you have turned your board from what we call a lay board into a constituency board," said Thompson.  "Now we have a special interest group on the board."

If the wording of the petition is approved by Attorney General Chris Koster's office, Ketcher can then circulate it across the state to add it to the ballot.

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