WHAT OTHERS SAY: Ballot proposals offer stark contrast to legislature's follies

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:51 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 16, 2012

And then there were four.

After a record 143 initiative petitions were submitted to the Missouri secretary of state this election cycle, only four remain with a chance to end up on the November ballot.

If each proposal is certified as having enough valid signatures and survives any last-minute legal hurdles, here's what Missouri voters will be asked to decide on Election Day:

• If control of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department should be returned to the city, taking it away from a state board that has existed since the Civil War.

• If payday loan interest rates should be capped at 36 percent. The predators who prey on the poor currently charge an average annual percentage rate closer to 400 percent.

• If Missouri's minimum wage should increase by $1 to $8.25 an hour.

• If Missouri's lowest-in-the-nation 17-cent tax on a pack of cigarettes should go to 90 cents, below the national average but enough to raise around $400 million, much of which would be earmarked for education.

There are good reasons to support each initiative, and at various times we have urged lawmakers to pass similar legislation.

But our point today is not to rally support for initiatives that are not yet officially on the ballot, but to note the stark contrast between how strongly Missouri voters have spoken and how their elected officials are bumbling away what is left of this year's legislative session.

It's not easy to get an issue on the ballot. It takes in the neighborhood of 100,000 valid signatures of registered voters spread around the state's congressional districts to qualify for ballot access. Collecting them takes dedicated volunteers and a fair amount of campaign cash to pay signature gatherers.

And in the case of the group trying to rein in payday loan abuses, there was the not-so-minor matter of fighting through the intimidation of the deep-pocketed payday operators from out of state willing to spend millions to protect their Missouri cash cow.

Here's what all this means: While the Republican-controlled legislature diddles away the state's future talking about the president's birth certificate, keeping gun owners safe from job discrimination that doesn't exist, fear-mongering at the expense of Muslims, handing out corporate tax credits while cutting funding for the blind, passing anti-worker bills and blaming teachers for society's ills, real Missourians are worried about their neighbors.

The local control issue would right a 151-year-old wrong. Two of the ballot proposals aim to help the working poor, people doing their best to contribute to the economy but barely scraping by. The tobacco tax would buttress education funding, both at the K-12 level and at colleges and universities, building a stronger workforce and making sure that students don't get clobbered every time tough budget decisions are made.

Each of these issues was brought to the Legislature and discarded. So the people are sending a message to their lawmakers: People matter. The middle class matters. The poor matter.

The Missouri's state flag bears a powerful motto: "Salus populi suprema lex esto."

"The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law."

In November, the people of Missouri can breathe life into that motto. And while they are at the polls, they can choose legislators worthy of the people they serve. Back up the bus.

Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.