Legislative Column for Oct. 15, 2020

Tuesday, Nov. 3, is Election Day and Missourians will head to the polls. I suspect most of us have already decided on the major candidates, but many voters are still considering the constitutional questions on the ballot. With that in mind, I’d like to share my thoughts on the two amendments before voters in November.

Amendment 1 imposes term limits on the office of lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and state auditor. If this amendment passes, people elected to these offices will only be allowed to serve two four-year terms. Currently, Missouri’s Constitution imposes a two-term limit on the governor and state treasurer only. Any other statewide officeholder can remain in office as long as the people continue to reelect them.

Personally, I am opposed to placing strict term limits on these additional statewide offices. My belief is the ultimate term limit is the ballot box. Voters have the opportunity to end an officeholder’s service every time an election comes around. In truth, it’s unusual to see statewide officials serving for more than eight years in the same office. When it happens, it’s a sign the people trust the individual and are happy with their performance. I see no good reason to deny the people of Missouri the option of retaining a public servant who is doing a good job. For this reason, I will vote “no” on Amendment 1.

Amendment 3 is a far more complicated proposal. Although this amendment includes what I consider to be relatively minor changes to ethics rules, it primarily deals with legislative redistricting. I understand that most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about legislative districts, but they are important. Put simply, I believe the way districts are drawn determines whether you have the opportunity to send somebody to Jefferson City who lives near you and appreciates the concerns of your community. The level of local representation you enjoy is largely dependent on the legislative map.

On Nov. 3, voters will be asked to reconsider a choice they made two years ago when they approved the so-called “Clean Missouri” amendment, a previous constitutional question relating to legislative districts and ethics reform. Voters are being given this choice because a majority of the Legislature, myself included, believe many of the provisions of the Clean Missouri law are harmful to Missouri.

Although it was largely sold as an ethics reform measure, in my opinion, the Clean Missouri amendment of 2018 was actually an attempt to upset the balance of representation in Missouri. I believe some well-funded people from outside the state of Missouri wanted to increase the power of big-city politicians at the expense of rural and suburban residents.

Under the provisions enacted two years ago, legislative maps will be drawn by an unelected state demographer. Gone are the bipartisan citizen commissions that have drawn legislative maps for as long as anyone can remember. Instead of compact districts that follow county lines and natural geographic boundaries, the new law requires legislative maps that ensure “partisan fairness” and “competiveness.” That means every district must contain roughly equal numbers of voters from both of the two major political parties. Election results demonstrate voters are not evenly distributed throughout Missouri. Some areas lean one direction, politically, while other areas tend to lean another way.

In my opinion, it is impossible to achieve “partisan fairness” in rural Missouri. Doing so, I believe, will require weirdly shaped legislative districts that do not reflect reality, and actually decrease local representation. I worry the voices of rural and small town Missourians will be diminished at the State Capitol if the provisions of Clean Missouri are allowed to stand, and now-cohesive legislative districts are carved up with their residents reassigned to districts anchored in other areas of the state.

I believe the 2018 Clean Missouri plan is unworkable and needs to be overturned. I will be voting “yes” on Amendment 3, and I encourage anyone who asks to do the same.

Finally, I’d like to call your attention to one other item on your November ballot. You will have an opportunity to decide whether a Missouri Supreme Court judge retains her seat. At a time when the nation focuses its attention on a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s good to remember that Missourians have a direct say in the judiciary of our state. In Missouri, the governor selects members of the state’s highest court from a list of names presented by a nonpartisan judicial commission. It’s up to voters to decide whether those individuals can continue to serve once their term expires. Honestly, I rarely have reason to want a judge removed, but I appreciate the opportunity to express my continued support. The ability to retain or remove judges is one more example of how our Constitution creates a government that serves the will of the people.

I hope all Missourians take their voting responsibility seriously. It’s a precious liberty that is unavailable to many people around the world. On Nov. 3, you’ll have the opportunity to weigh in on several important issues. I encourage you to learn about the issues, make informed decisions and cast your vote on Election Day.

It is my great honor to represent the citizens of the 33rd Senatorial District. Although the Legislature has adjourned for 2020, I remain your senator throughout the year. If there’s anything that I can do to assist you, please feel free to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.

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Author: Editor
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