The first and the last statewide ballot issues that Missouri voters will see on Nov. 6 have no relation to each other, except for this:
Neither has any business being on the ballot.
Both Amendment 3, which would change the constitution to give the governor more power to pick judges, and Proposition E, which would take away power from the governor to unilaterally create a state health exchange, are cruel legislative jokes.
Voters need to make sure the joke is not on them. Republican lawmakers, seeking to make purely partisan political points, put both issues on the ballot. One gives the governor power he doesn't want; the other seeks to take away power he doesn't have.
Vote no. Twice.
Protect the independence of the judiciary
For about a decade now, a handful of rich business people and a cadre of Republican Party operatives riding the gravy train have tried various ways to politicize the merit-system plan by which judges are chosen in Missouri's large metro areas and its appellate-level courts. If you can buy a judge with campaign cash, your likelihood of winning lawsuits goes up dramatically. Just look to Illinois to see how that works.
Here's the only thing voters really need to know about Amendment 3: The people who are responsible for it being on the ballot aren't even campaigning for it. It was, and is, part of a cynical campaign to remove independence from the judicial branch, and thus diminish the individual rights of all Missourians. It was, and is, a sham.
How Missouri got to this position is important in understanding how truly horrible Amendment 3 is.
As a Missouri Supreme Court judge, William Ray Price Jr., a Republican, tried to work with the critics of the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan, where a commission of experts interviews potential judges and offers the governor a panel of three to choose from. The Missouri Plan, in effect since the 1940s, and imitated across the country, was adjusted by Judge Price and the Supreme Court in response to criticisms that it wasn't open enough.
Now, thanks to changes made two years ago, the applications for judicial vacancies are open records, posted on the Internet. The interviews of the Appellate Judicial Commissions are open to the public.
The process is better.
But the critics, who deceitfully hide the source of their funding through a web of political action committees, were never interested in accountability. They never have articulated any real problems with the independence of the state's judicial nomination procedures, merely finding fault with decisions that don't fit their world view.
Judge Price, no longer on the court, is done mincing words over this destructive attempt to give one or another of Missouri's three branches of government more control over the other.
"What they want is one-stop shopping," he told the Post-Dispatch editorial board in a meeting about Amendment 3. "They want to buy the governor and then control the judges."
One of the reasons the Missouri Plan works so well in elevating merit over partisanship in choosing judges is that no individual governor, Republican or Democrat, can have significant power in molding the court in his vision. Governors have influence over time in choosing the appellate judicial commissions that nominate judges. Amendment 3 would change that, giving one governor the power to appoint his cronies and all but guarantee full control over the choosing of judges.
Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, the one person in the state most likely to gain political power were Amendment 3 to pass, is opposed to the amendment.
So is nearly every judge and legal organization in the state.
Saying no isn't good enough here. Amendment 3 must be crushed. The political operatives who profit by continuing this cynical attempt to do real damage to Missouri's judiciary must be sent a loud message that will be heard by their secretive funders.
Leave our judges alone.
Vote no on Amendment 3.
A solution in search of a problem
Proposition E is a legislative attempt to rile up partisan opposition to President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act by changing state law to fix a nonexistent problem.
The proposition would make it illegal for the governor to unilaterally impose a state health exchange on Missourians. Guess what? The governor can't do that, and despite ridiculous allegations made by some Republicans, Mr. Nixon never tried to do so.
Critics were right when they accused Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Democrat, of playing politics with the wording of the proposition. She did. But that didn't make the intention of the partisans who put it on the ballot any less of a waste of time.
Proposition E is meaningless. If Republicans take the White House and Congress, and follow through on plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it serves no purpose. If the act stands, as we believe it will and should, the Legislature will still maintain the power to design and pass the required state exchange itself. Ironically, the Republican-dominated House already did that once, figuring that it's better for Missourians to design the state health exchange than have the federal government's model forced on the state. The only reason lawmakers didn't finish the job is so they could spend one more fall campaigning against Obamacare.
What a complete waste of time.
Vote no on Proposition E.
Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.