Why We Need to Tighten the Initiative Petition Process
The Kansas City Star has a write-up on a perfect example of why Missouri needs to tighten up the requirements for initiative petitions to amend the constitution. By “tighten up,” I mean “make more difficult.” Missourians will now get to vote on whether or not our utilities will be forced by constitutional law to use more renewable energy in the future. This is a decision that should not be made by voters. It should be made by the utilities, the regulatory agencies that oversee them, and elected officials on the appropriate committees that can study this complicated issue. The idea that voters — the vast majority of whom will have absolutely no idea what the economic implications (good and bad) of this petition are — will make this decision is absurd.
I write this while giving the benefit of the doubt to the people who prepared it and assuming they have at least some idea of what they are talking about. As the 2006 Kansas City light rail initiative petition demonstrated, though, you can’t necessarily make that assumption. Here is one atrocious example:
[The petition] also would limit rate increases associated with moving to renewable energy resources to 1 percent.
So, we are going to mandate all sorts of changes to the companies, but now allow them to pass those costs on to customers. I can’t see anything bad coming from this. No potential for reduced investment in other areas (like nuclear), or reduced wages for employees, or reduced returns to shareholders (such as Joe Sixpack’s IRA), to make up for this legally mandated loss. The idea that you can just force a company to absorb costs and assume there will not be negative consequences is idiocy.
To the defenders of the petition process, I know that the legislature also makes a lot of stupid laws. But, at least in theory, those stupid laws are also changeable — i.e., the village law. These petitions amend our constitution, making it difficult to alter decisions on an issue such as this where the people making this complicated decision will have no idea what they are purporting to do, beyond a feel-good move to renewable energy.