"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Cleaning Up Clean Missouri

May 14th, 2020 by editor · No Comments

If you recall in 2018, on the ballot there was an amendment to the Missouri Constitution known as Amendment 1 or “Clean Missouri”.  As per the Clean Missouri organization’s website the text was:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:
• change process and criteria for redrawing state legislative districts during reapportionment;
• change limits on campaign contributions that candidates for state legislature can accept from individuals or entities;
• establish a limit on gifts that state legislators, and their employees, can accept from paid lobbyists;
• prohibit state legislators, and their employees, from serving as paid lobbyists for a period of time;
• prohibit political fundraising by candidates for or members of the state legislature on State property; and
• require legislative records and proceedings to be open to the public?
State governmental entities estimate annual operating costs may increase by $189,000. Local governmental entities expect no fiscal impact.

There is a lot in this amendment.  In fact it even went before the courts because there were arguments there were too many disparate topics in one amendment.  The State Supreme court didn’t find that a problem.

Most would have little to no problem with the prohibition of political fundraising by candidates or members of the state legislature on State property.  The changes mandated with the changing of limits on campaign contributions, gifts and the waiting period of lobbying was not significantly different then existing legislation.

While on the surface it sounds good that legislative records and proceedings were to be open to the public, what most people don’t realize is that means if you contact your state legislature because you need help, and that assistance is not necessarily what you want your friends and neighbors to know,…..well too bad….it is now open and available to the public. This has concerned some lawmakers:

Some lawmakers have made statements that constituents personal information communicated to them will become public record.  Rademan Miller says further clarification of the “Sunshine Law” will determine if such a contention is true. “I think it’s a gray area with the plain reading of the sunshine law,” Rademan Miller said. “There are exemptions there, but there’s definitely not like a blanket provision that provides an exemption for all constituent correspondence.

The most controversial section is the redrawing of legislative districts.  Before amendment 1 became law:

Under the previous system, commissions appointed by party committees and the governor drew the new districts. Republicans and Democrats got an equal number of seats on the commissions, which were typically made up of lobbyists, political consultants and elected officials. If the commissions failed to approve new maps, the state Supreme Court appointed six appellate judges to draw new lines.

Now with amendment 1:

Clean Missouri requires a new nonpartisan state demographer to draft maps for state House and Senate districts, with a goal of “partisan fairness” and “competitiveness” as determined by statistical measurements using the results of previous elections. Districts also must be contiguous and limit splits among counties and cities. The maps will be submitted to existing bipartisan commissions for approval.

Key differences being a nonpartisan state demographer (appointed by the State Auditor) with a goal of “partisan fairness”.  So the expectation is a partisan person will find someone nonpartisan that will create nonpartisan districts?  Sounds like a recipe for disaster to us.  Apparently there are folks on both sides of the aisle that agree.

“I fear — and I not only fear, I believe — that it’s likely this is going to disenfranchise African-American voters in St. Louis and Kansas City,” said Sen. Bob Onder, a Republican from St. Charles County.

“There are definitely concerns in the caucus that the way it was written could create long, spaghetti string districts and dilute the black vote at a time when we have historic black representation in the House,” said Rep. Steve Roberts, a St. Louis Democrat and chairman of the Black Caucus.

We are in the final week of a crazy pandemic impacted legislative session and there is a fight in Jefferson City to put forth an adjusted amendment before the people.  Rep Dean Plocher (R-Des Peres) sponsored a measure to address the legislative redistricting process.  He has some bi-partisan support from an unusual place.

“Missourians should have a choice,” Plocher said. “Communities must be kept together.”

The proposal, which previously had been approved in the Senate, was endorsed by the House on a 98-58 vote.

Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, joined Republicans in voting for the measure, saying she is concerned Clean Missouri would make it harder for African Americans to win seats in the Legislature. “I am unwilling to forego black political power,” Chappelle-Nadal said. “We’re talking about the representation of our communities.”

The senate bill is SJR38 and the house bill is HJR48. What happens next will be interesting.

Related:

Video: MOGOP’s Sam Cooper Says “Clean Missouri” Is A Dirty Deal

 

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