By Claire in News Posted October 15, 2018
Originally in the St. Louis American on October 11, 2018
The November 6 ballot in Missouri has a number of exciting statewide initiatives that should lure progressive voters to the polls – if saving a Democratic U.S. Senate seat (held by Claire McCaskill) and keeping an amazingly diligent and competent Democratic state auditor (Nicole Galloway) on the job aren’t enough. We previously endorsed ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage (Yes on Proposition B) and to prudently legalize and regulate medical marijuana (Yes on Amendment 2 as the best of three proposals, Yes on Proposition C as a back-up, and no on Amendment 3, which would install the highest medical marijuana tax in the nation and create a private government body to administer the revenues). We also endorse an ambitious initiative to improve many problematic aspects of Missouri politics, Amendment 1.
Here are the facts on what Amendment 1 will do to clean up state politics, according to St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura O. Jones (who also is a former assistant minority floor leader in the Missouri Legislature): “stop big money in the Legislature by lowering campaign contribution limits; require state government to be more transparent and stop any legislative fundraising on state property; eliminate fancy lobbyist gifts; stop the revolving door of legislators becoming lobbyists with a two-year waiting period; require fair state legislative maps to protect minorities’ political power and to ensure neither party is given an unfair advantage when new maps are drawn after the census.”
As Jones noted in her op-ed last week, Amendment 1 has been endorsed by the NAACP, Organization for Black Struggle (OBS), Rev. Starsky Wilson and Deaconess Foundation, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Metropolitan Congregations United, Rev. Dr. Cassandra Gould and Missouri Faith Voices, Rasheen Aldridge, Missouri Jobs with Justice and the League of Women Voters. “Amendment 1 incorporates the Voting Rights Act into the Missouri Constitution so that marginalized constituents, like African Americans, will be fairly represented in the political process,” said Jamala Rogers, executive director and a founding member of OBS.
Nimrod (Rod) Chapel Jr., president of the NAACP Missouri State Conference and an early proponent of Amendment 1, noted that opponents of Amendment 1 “are spewing lies to protect the broken status quo, because they know they can’t win on the merits.” Among other claims, those trying to defeat the initiative have tried to appeal to black voters – and, especially, elected officials – by saying a redistricting that made more legislative districts competitive would also make it harder for black candidates to get elected. While Chapel, Rogers, Jones and ourselves all dispute that claim, we consider it absolutely indisputable that a redistricting process that eliminated the Republican super-majority in the Legislature would be good for all but the wealthiest and most conservative of Missourians. Certainly, it would be good for African Americans and Missouri’s largest urban areas, especially St. Louis, which drive the state’s economy while being starved of a fair share of funding by out-state Republican legislators who, selfishly and shortsightedly control budget priorities.
“We’ve been kicked out of public hearings,” Treasurer Jones wrote. “Government meetings have been held in back rooms of country clubs. The Legislature keeps its records secret, yet expects others to follow open government laws. It’s time for Amendment 1 to bring it all into the open for the people to see.” We agree. We strongly endorse a vote of YES ON AMENDMENT 1.