Quick Clarification on Quote in the Columbia Maneater
I was quoted this morning in the University of Missouri–Columbia’s student newspaper, The Maneater, as part of a story about a proposal to have a state bond issue for education construction. I briefly want to explain a little further what I meant. The reporter quoted me accurately, but my original quote could have been a little more clear, and because I got a call from a state rep this morning asking me to clarify, I should probably do so.
This is my quote about the bond issue, from the article:
“The legislature shouldn’t just pass this onto the people,” he said. “If they believe the benefits outweigh the costs, then they should pass it, but this is something they should think carefully about.”
When I said they should not just pass it on to the people, I didn’t mean that they should pass the bond issue without allowing Missourians to vote on it — a process that is legally required for almost all bond issues. I am fully aware that bond issues require voter approval. Rather, I meant two things: First, the legislature as a whole should not just use the fact that voters will vote on this as an excuse simply to put it on the ballot without first fully debating the costs and benefits of the proposal. Second, in a related way, individual legislators should not say, “I don’t support this proposal, but I want to let the voters make the decision, so I’ll vote to put it on the ballot.” I want the legislators to consider the issue fully, from all sides, and if the majority of the legislators believe it will benefit Missouri, then — and only then — should they put it on the ballot so that the voters can have the final say.
I generally prefer the traditions of a representative republic over more direct action democracy. I prefer elected officials to make the tough decisions, and to have voters then judge whether to reelect them based on those decisions, rather than having those decisions made through referendums and the like. I don’t prefer that process because I believe elected officials are smarter than the voters, nor because I think elected officials make better decisions than the voters. Instead, I prefer it because I think that, in general, the legislative process is slower and more deliberative than the type of constant voter initiatives they have in California. There are certainly some issues, such as smoking bans and concealed carry, for which the general public intrinsically understands the questions at hand every bit as well as elected officials do, and I think those types of questions are better suited to go straight to the voters. (Let’s leave aside the difficult question of whether people should be able to vote on the fundamental rights of others in the first place.)
I think that a major bond issuance entails enough complications that both legislators and the general public need to give their separate approvals to before it goes forward.