A few weeks ago, I asserted that citizens’ initiative petitions and the subsequent votes are much more representative of voters’ views than that of state legislators. The reason is simple: Legislators are swayed by money contributed by donors, but those donors do not give money to the many citizens who vote on initiative petitions.

Recently, the Missouri legislature and the governor approved a measure that prohibits abortion past eight weeks of pregnancy — a period in which many women don’t even know they are pregnant.

A quick view of the website Follow the Money reveals that an anti-abortion entity — Missouri Right to Life — gave a lot of money to legislators in hopes of influencing their vote in favor of the very restrictive anti-abortion bill. There is, as The Kansas City Star revealed, an initiative petition that would negate the legislative-passed law. It is doubtful that Missouri Right to Life will donate money to each potential voter, and it is likely that the horrid anti-abortion law will not see the light of day.

Legislators did not represent the majority of their constituents when they voted for the bill that prohibits an abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy. A recent poll shows that almost 55% of Missouri voters favor “safe and legal abortions,” hardly the consensus of the state legislature. From that, it follows that the initiative petition result will likely negate the “unsafe and illegal” law.

Another issue where the citizenry has gone where legislators of all stripes have not gone is gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is loosely defined as setting up legislative districts that are favorable to whichever party is in control in hopes that it remains that way. The U.S. Supreme Court recently threw up its hands and claimed that this was not a Constitutional or legal matter. Fortunately, the citizens of this state adopted Constitutional Amendment 1, known as Clean Missouri, and set up a process that takes redistricting out of the hands of the politicians and gives the power to an independent commission. While there have been quite a few legislative attempts to negate this, long ago I learned that legislation cannot undo the mandates of the Constitution. In spite of various bills, none of them passed, and we are free of gerrymandering districts in favor of the ruling party. No doubt, those of the ruling party will try again next year, with the same result: Legislation cannot alter the Constitution.

Another issue in Clean Missouri’s Constitutional Amendment 1 — that of legislators being subject to the Sunshine Act (RSMO Chapter 610) — would never have passed the General Assembly. Yet citizens did not want legislative secrecy and wanted the communications of legislators and their monied supporters opened up. Most of the most controversial bills are not favored by constituents but by outside interests. Those outside interests provide the language and money to legislators who introduce and support their bills.

It follows that Missouri citizens are NOT being represented in the state legislature. Follow the money.

Ken Midkiff, formerly the director of the Sierra Club Clean Water Campaign, is now chair of the city’s Environment and Energy Commission and serves on the board of directors of the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.

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