Government By the People?
Some Missouri legislators apparently think that the citizens of this state have too much say in the laws that govern us.
One of the best features of Missouri’s political scheme is that if enough citizens see that the General Assembly is failing to pass certain desirable laws, they can follow established procedures that allow the voters to act where the Legislature will not. The initiative process ensures that regular citizens have a direct way to enact legislation that, for whatever reason, our elected officials would prefer to avoid.
Five bills were filed recently in Jefferson City that would make it more difficult for Missouri citizens to place initiatives on the ballot for a direct vote of the people. Some of those bills are not so bad such as proposals that would impose harsher penalties on those who commit fraud in collecting signatures, or prohibit those convicted of forgery offenses from collecting signatures. But others are plainly attempts to prevent Missourians from having a direct say in passing laws that they might find favorable. For example, one bill would nearly double the number of signatures required to place an initiative petition on the ballot. A couple of others would require those gathering signatures to be residents of Missouri because, apparently, we can’t trust Kansans or
Illinoisans to hold the clipboards on which Missourians express their
support for a proposed initiative and would prohibit petitioners who have hired help in collecting the necessary signatures to compensate their workers based on how well they do their job.
The only purpose for these changes is to make it more difficult for regular citizens to ensure that our interests are being protected by legislation approved by a majority of Missouri voters. The initiative process is especially important when, as is the case with this state’s horrendous eminent domain laws, the legislators have a better ear for the ringing of cash registers than for the voice of the people.