JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A coalition seeking to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would ban most lobbyists gifts to lawmakers turned in nearly double the necessary signatures.
Clean Missouri submitted 346,956 signatures to Missouri’s Secretary of State’s office on May 3, 2018. The ballot initiative would also subject the General Assembly to Missouri’s open records laws, increase the wait time for an elected official to become a lobbyist, and change how legislative districts are drawn.
“Lobbyists and a small group of big donors have too much control over Missouri state government,” said Rev. Cassandra Gould of Jefferson City. “But it doesn’t have to be this way. We’re going to make our state government more transparent, limit the power of big money in our legislature, and make sure we can hold legislators accountable when they fail to act in the public’s interest.”
The proposed constitutional amendment is touted as increasing integrity, transparency and accountability in the Missouri General Assembly.
The initiative would limit gifts to the Missouri General Assembly to a value of $5, require politicians to wait two years before becoming lobbyists, and require that legislative records be open to the public. Campaign contributions would be limited to $2,500 for Senators and $2,000 for Representative — the current limit is $2,600.
“We’re not waiting on the politicians and lobbyists to fix themselves,” said Jeff Jones, a fifth-generation farmer in Callaway County. “We can all see how big money drives the agenda in Jefferson City, and we’ve had enough.”
More than 1,600 volunteers worked to gather the necessary signatures for the measure to be on the Nov. 6, 2018 ballot. 48 percent of the signatures gathered came from grassroots efforts while Field Works, a paid firm, helped collect the rest.
The initiative has encountered pushback in recent weeks over the way districts would be drawn. In an opinion-editorial Rep. Hannah Kelly wrote, “Clean Missouri would give the state auditor, the only statewide Democratic officeholder in Jefferson City, the power to appoint an unelected demographer to redraw Missouri’s Legislative Districts in the name of bipartisanship.”
The campaign director for Clean Missouri countered the claims and explained how the process is laid out in the initiative petition.
“There have been a number of misleading characterization of how the state demographer would be appointed,” said Sean Soendker Nicholson, campaign director for Clean Missouri. “It’s actually a multi-step process that involves leaders of both parties in an effort to get the most qualified, nonpartisan person possible.”
Folks would apply to the state auditor to be the demographer and then auditor would submit a list of at least three names to the Senate. If the Senate majority and minority leader agreed on a person, the process would end there. If the majority and minority leader disagreed, they would each be able to take names off the list before the demographer would be picked in a lottery system.
The signatures now need to be verified and the petition will be on the SOS webpage for public comment.
Alisha Shurr was a reporter for The Missouri Times and The Missouri Times Magazine. She joined The Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University.