Richard von Glahn, Policy Director – Special commentary to The St. Louis Labor Tribune
One-hundred-fifteen years ago, Missourians saw fit to enshrine the right to direct democracy into our state constitution through the initiative petition process. Doing so was meant to provide citizens a check on our legislature, to make sure our voices would be heard even if politicians weren’t hearing us. It has been part of our state, our culture and democracy for over a century.
This history makes it a trusted process.
Even in a time of extreme political polarization Missourians still trust one another. That is why Missouri’s current ballot initiatives process rank highest in voter’s confidence for how to make laws, because everyone gets an equal chance to vote and make change. Why is it held in such high esteem? Because lobbyists and political contributions hold less influence when everyone gets a vote on an issue.
So, in a time when our politics are broken, the ballot initiative process allows us to come together and solve important issues facing our communities.
But this has upset some politicians and special interests. They have had enough of democracy.
After being on the losing side of several recent initiatives, they have decided it is time to change our constitution. They are proposing numerous bills that would make qualifying and passing citizen initiative petitions much more difficult, if not impossible.
And you know why? They want to preserve their power, while taking ours.
WHY SILENCE OUR VOICES?
Want to know what laws they will pass as soon as our voice is silenced? It isn’t hard to guess.
Just look at their bills. The anti-worker phony “right-to-work,” paycheck deception, cuts to the minimum wage, repeal of Medicaid expansion. All issues supported by, and supportive of, Missouri’s working families, issues that were passed by the initiative petition process. But also, other people-oriented, positive things that angered some politicians and corporate special interests. So, they are fighting back.
If Missourians wanted to change our right to direct democracy, guess what? We could do it ourselves. We could file a petition to change the petitions process to something we wanted. But while politicians have filed 20 bills to do so, no citizen has filed an initiative petition to change the current process. Not one. Why is that? Because Missouri voters overwhelmingly oppose the changes the politicians are trying to make to our initiative petition process, changes that favor THEM, not US.
INITIATIVE PETITIONS EQUAL ACCOUNTABILITY
Missouri’s ballot initiative process has been and must continue to be a key component of Missouri’s democracy. We all know that conducting an initiative petition process isn’t easy, and we don’t do them for fun. We do them to solve real problems for real people because our legislators have failed to do so!
We do them to hold our legislature accountable. It is what maintains the balance between the people and the politicians.
I encourage everyone to email the Senator and tell them to leave our initiative petition process alone. It ain’t broke and we certainly don’t need them “fixing” it.