In a not-too-apologetic concession speech in 1966, Dick Tuck, a California state senator who had lost his bid for reelection, started off with this: “The people have spoken, the bastards.”

That quite honest and nonpolitical statement appears to have been changed by our state legislature into this: “The people have spoken; ignore them.”

Legislators of all stripes have never liked initiative petitions, where citizens decide to adopt something that the legislature has failed to do. But, until this session of the Missouri legislature, politicians had been reluctant to advocate changes, not wanting to appear anti-citizen.

While most legislators won’t admit it, citizens are not swayed, as legislators are, by moneyed interests. Hence, Clean Missouri.

By an overwhelming 62 percent, the citizens of this state approved Constitutional Amendment 1.

As reported in this newspaper and many others, state legislators introduced a flurry of bills that would purport to undo what the people have done. They were trying to make changes they viewed as taking away some of their power. One of the claims was that the citizens did not know what they were doing.

The most prominent proposal was approved by the House but never made it through a Senate committee. The issue is likely to be revisited next year, however, with an attempt to put a question on the 2020 ballot.

In my freshman political studies class, we learned that legislation cannot undo or change a constitutional amendment. The sponsors of the bills to amend Clean Missouri must have skipped that class.

It is pure nonsense to claim that citizens did not know what they were doing when they passed Clean Missouri. This claim does not pass the laugh test, since a clear majority voted for it.

The people of this state knew exactly what they were doing, and they did so with the full knowledge that, quite often, the state House and Senate act in direct contradiction of constituents’ wants and needs.

In addition to trying to muck up Amendment 1, the state legislature passed a bill, SB 391 — again as reported in this newspaper — taking away local control over “agriculture operations” (CAFOs), in spite of much opposition.

Lawmakers ignored the legitimate claim that local government is closer to the people and best understands local concerns. Instead, they heeded those beholden to corporate agribusiness, which preferred to have one set of rules for the entire state, ignoring the notion that “one size does not fit all.”

After all, they know best, and the public be damned.

To add injury to insult, legislators in Jefferson City also passed a bill that would make most abortions illegal after eight weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant. This apparently is following Alabama’s lead, although somewhat less onerous.

Years ago, before Roe v. Wade, a friend of mine whose father had lots of money got an abortion. Rich folks have always had access to doctors who were more than willing to perform abortions, although the medical records might call them “appendectomies” or some such thing.

The new abortion bill will disproportionately affect poor, black women, whose recourse could be various unsafe methods.

Gov. Mike Parson declared that this is what Missourians want. He must have been viewing only the polls that show less-than-overwhelming support for anti-abortion. Most polls, however, show 55 percent to 65 percent, depending on the poll, of Missouri residents support safe and legal abortion.

Is he representing his constituents or only a preferred few?

Several “tort reform” bills were also passed during the recent legislative session. What all the bills have in common is limiting lawsuits by citizens against alleged evildoing by corporations and decreasing company liabilities.


About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

Why it became the business of the state legislature to stick its nose into citizen lawsuits is easily ascertained by looking at the amount of money corporations have pumped into the legislature — about $5.8 million since 2013.

These legislative results are only the most egregious examples. To put it bluntly, many citizens of this state do not believe state lawmakers are acting on their behalf.

That’s one reason most people don’t pay much attention to the antics of their elected state officials. When they do pay attention, they usually back policies legislators don’t support.

Only by truly representing the interest of constituents rather than moneyed entities can people once again trust elected state officials. Only when that happens — about the time hell freezes over — should Clean Missouri be reconsidered.

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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