With the municipal elections over, we must again look toward November’s general elections to change our Republican-heavy legislature.
The Declaration of Independence was a letter of complaint and the notice of becoming a sovereign nation. It clearly stated who has the final word to change the laws of the land: “That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed ...”
The United States Constitution also makes it clear who really governs the nation: “We the People of the United States ...”
Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” reiterates who has the final word on changing laws: “... that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
The Missouri State Constitution in Article 1, Section 1, states, “That all political power is vested in and derived from the people; that all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.”
Now, the GOP-dominated Missouri General Assembly is seeking to take away the will of the people and their constitutional rights.
The GOP wants to amend Article 3 of the state constitution. HJR 20 and SJR 2 do essentially the same thing — they make it harder for the citizens of our fair state to initiate and pass new laws and constitutional amendments through the petition and ballot process.
The Missouri Constitution currently permits an initiative to be placed on the ballot if 8% of the legal voters in two-thirds of the congressional districts sign a petition to initiate the action.
The revisions would require that 10% of legal voters registered to vote in Missouri sign the petitions in all congressional districts to bring an initiative to the people for approval.
The new amendment would also require a super majority, two-thirds of the votes, to pass the ballot issue, as opposed to the simple majority vote required today.
Then, there is House Bill 850, which would prohibit “the modification of summary statements or ballot language approved by the General Assembly for Constitutional amendments or statutory measures.
“Courts will not have jurisdiction to rewrite or edit such language prior to placing it on the ballot.”
That means that the GOP would be able to use misleading language in its summary statements to assure passage of GOP-friendly statutes and initiatives without the oversight of the courts.
All this is being done because the GOP members under the “Gray Dome” are upset that three citizen initiatives were introduced and passed by the vote of the people in general elections. Those people-led initiatives included the expansion of Medicaid, the legalization of medical marijuana and the Clean Missouri reforms to the election laws, gerrymandering and lobbyists’ gift giving.
Although it passed by an overwhelming public majority, our legislators eliminated the Clean Missouri Amendment. They are refusing to fund Medicaid expansion. They made it difficult for those seeking to get into the medical marijuana business through fees and inspections requirements. Now, they want to eliminate honesty in ballot language.
Why is the Republican-led state legislature so keen on limiting our right to petition the government? Because they know that the more people vote, and the more liberal the initiative and voting laws, the more likely it is that Democrats will win seats in the legislature and win supported ballot initiatives.
I also see the limiting of ballot initiatives as a possible violation of the First Amendment. One way of redressing grievances is through the public initiative process.
Here comes the slippery slope argument: If the new initiative restrictions are approved, if HB 850 is passed, there would be no barriers to keep the Republican Party from dominating our state legislature for the foreseeable future.
Today’s Republican Party is no longer the party of Lincoln, for and by the people. It is the party of limited citizen involvement in the governmental process. It is the party of big business and billionaires. It is the party that seeks to remain in power by hook or by crook, ignoring the will of the citizens.
We cannot allow either of these joint resolutions or any voter suppression bill to pass through our legislature. If they do, the state of Missouri will become an aristocracy, where a few — our GOP-led legislature — believe that the residents of Missouri are unfit to govern.