The Will of the People, Revisited
Today, I’m going to Jefferson City to testify on bills related to the initiative and referendum powers that the Missouri Constitution secures to this state’s citizens. One of the points that I hope to make plain is related to an article that ran last week on the Kansas City Star‘s Prime Buzz blog, which quoted the president of the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO as saying that the organization would work to prevent citizens from being able to vote on whether Kansas City or St. Louis should replace their earnings taxes, claiming, “This is not the will of the citizens.”
The irony, of course, is that nothing demonstrates “the will of the citizens” more than, say, letting them vote for themselves!
This is yet another example of a problem I have noted several times before: Powerful interests can (and do) game the system to prevent Missouri citizens from voting on issues of great importance. The most prominent example is the way that the Missouri Municipal League has for years been engaging in litigation strategically calculated to keep eminent domain reform off of the ballot. The most damning element, in my mind, is that at least in the case of the Missouri Municipal League, the opponents acknowledge the virtual certainty that eminent domain reform would be approved if the citizens were allowed to vote on it.
If an organization or some other group of citizens is concerned about the wisdom of any given ballot initiative, they are well within their rights to communicate their concerns to voters and to try to persuade Missourians not to approve the proposition. But to manipulate the system in such a way that citizens are denied the opportunity to adopt what they believe to be valuable changes to their laws is reprehensible.