Originally posted in the Missourian on April 4, 2019.
A House committee debated three resolutions Tuesday that would repeal part — or all — of the Clean Missouri.
Critics said lawmakers should give the recently approved constitutional amendment a chance and questioned whether they were showing distrust in the will of the people.
Amendment 1, the Clean Missouri initiative passed by voters in November, was promoted as a way to strengthen transparency within Missouri government. The amendment includes rules on a “cooling off” period between when lawmaker can leave the General Assembly and become a lobbyist, restricts lobbyist expenditures to $5 or less and employs a nonpartisan demographer for redistricting to replace a previous bipartisan committee, among other measures.
House Joint Resolution 46 would strengthen certain elements — extending the lobbying cooling off period and banning all gifts from lobbyists — but it would eliminate the state demographer’s involvement in redistricting and reinstate what its sponsor described as a bipartisan process.
HJR 47 creates a list of priorities for redistricting. The bill makes equal population, compactness and contiguity the top priorities when creating new districts. In contrast, Amendment 1 also prioritized partisan fairness and competitiveness.
Multiple members of the General Laws Committee questioned the intentions behind the resolutions and said they created a sense that lawmakers know better than their constituents.
“I would say that those of us that represent districts that are 50-50ish, we’re not scared of running in a district put together by a demographer,” said Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-Jefferson City. “So I’m trying to understand why there’s such fear from those that are trying to undo the will of the voters to run in truly competitive districts?”
HJR 47’s sponsor, Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield, said he wanted to give voters more choice about Clean Missouri.
“What I can tell you is the voters were faced with a binary choice in the previous election.” Trent said.
Both HJR 46 and 47 would make voters decide on multiple aspects of transparency at once, a concern many had about Amendment 1 in the first place. This issue was contentious enough that lawmakers went to the Cole County Circuit Court, where it was ruled unconstitutional. The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals reversed the decision and ruled the ballot initiative was constitutional.
The committee also discussed HJR 57, which would repeal Clean Missouri completely.
Rep. Jeff Pogue, R-Salem, said he wanted people to consider some of the “unintended consequences” of Clean Missouri. He did not elaborate.
Wes Korfe, on behalf of the Sierra Club in St. Louis, opposed all three resolutions. He said he has knocked on doors, collected signatures supporting Amendment 1 and spoke with people in the community who “resoundingly” do not want legislators drawing their own districts.
“So far none of these (resolutions) being heard in this hearing or today address that concern, and that’s a problem because no matter how strong your code of ethics there’s always going to be an incentive to draw districts that favor yourselves,” Korfe said.
Clark Brown, with the Service Employees International Union, also opposes the resolutions.
“(SEIU) thinks this legislation is unnecessary. We think it’s overriding and not listening to voters. Frankly, this is a position to say, ‘We know better than what voters made a decision on,’” Brown said.
Brown says the previous districting process had been “wild.”
“Mostly because we see your maps on the walls — this is crazy. I see salamander shaped districts, and this system is not right.”
Nimrod Chapel president of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP, said lawmakers shouldn’t “undo the will of the people.”
“The people read it. Okay? They picked what they wanted, and they voted for it,” he said.
Rather than relying on Clean Missouri, Pogue advocated for lawmakers to be transparent about their donors.
“I heard a commentator say ‘maybe politicians should be like NASCAR drivers, you know, they have all their sponsors on their sleeve,’” Pogue said.
All three proposals would require voter approval before taking effect.
Jacob Cavaiani of KOMU contributed to this report.
Supervising editor is Mark Horvit, email@example.com.