Guest Commentary

The General Assembly must respect Missourians’ vote to clean up politics

Bob Johnson and Gwen Grant
Bob Johnson and Gwen Grant

On Nov. 6, a huge majority of Missourians supported Amendment 1, Clean Missouri, to bring needed ethics reform to state government.

Republicans, Democrats and independent voters — white, black and brown — came together. We took power away from special interests and gave it to the people. Amendment 1 won more votes than any candidate, including over 70 percent of counties that voted for President Donald Trump in 2016.

Amendment 1 is a first step to focus on what the people want instead of letting powerful lobbyists, big money and extreme partisanship drive the agenda in Jefferson City. Missourians supported Amendment 1 for more transparency, fairness and competitiveness. These are the new rules our leaders must follow.

But now a few powerful lobbyists and politicians are plotting to undermine the will of the people. They say they might use lawsuits or deceitful legislative action to gut these desperately needed reforms however they can.

Let’s be clear: The General Assembly should respect the vote of the people of Missouri.

Bipartisan leaders supported Amendment 1 to reform Missouri’s broken redistricting system. In the past, maps have been driven by partisan insiders, leading to extremism. Amendment 1 requires an independent demographic expert to follow clear criteria. Maps will be reviewed by a citizen commission, and all data must be transparent. Red, blue and purple states — such as Utah, Michigan and Colorado — made similar updates to their laws on Election Day by requiring more independence, transparency, fairness and competitiveness to put voters ahead of partisan games.

We’ve advocated for fair redistricting for years before supporting the Clean Missouri campaign. Former Sen. John Danforth supported Amendment 1 after endorsing similar policy nationally. He and other Republican U.S. senators and governors filed a brief last year with the U.S. Supreme Court for the same principles contained in Amendment 1.

Danforth said, “Amendment 1 will ensure fair and competitive elections so elected officials cannot take their voters for granted and must earn their support.”

Civil rights leaders also united for Amendment 1. The Urban League of Greater Kansas City, the NAACP, Missouri Jobs with Justice, MORE2, the Rev. Rodney Williams and others supported Amendment 1 to make Missouri a national leader in protecting the voting power of minority communities. Both Democrats and Republicans have used minorities for political gain, so Amendment 1 guarantees minority communities the ability to elect representatives of their choice.

Beyond redistricting, Amendment 1 was a big step to give a greater voice in Jefferson City to the voters, rather than just to lobbyists and big money.

Legislators can no longer take the nearly $900,000 in expensive lobbyist gifts each year that they now average. Amendment 1 bans those attempts to influence lawmakers by imposing a $5 limit.

Legislators can no longer become lobbyists shortly after leaving office, where they curried favor with special interests who offered them jobs. Amendment 1 stops lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for two years after leaving office.

Legislators can no longer kick citizens and reporters out of committee hearings for recording debates and votes on their cameras. Amendment 1 requires the General Assembly to follow the same open records law that they write and impose on other public entities.

And no longer can legislators raise money on state property or accept unlimited donations that special interests funnel through unlimited PACs. Clean Missouri helps stop big money in our state legislature.

Government of, by, and for the people means passing reforms to guarantee that vision — and then respecting the will of the people who voted for those reforms.

So call your legislators at the Missouri Capitol switchboard at (573) 751-2000 and tell them to listen to the vote of the people speaking strongly in favor of Clean Missouri.

Let’s move forward, not back, to clean up Missouri politics.

Republican Bob Johnson served in the Missouri House and Senate and now serves on the Lee’s Summit City Council. Gwen Grant is the President and CEO of the Urban League of Kansas City.