League Of Women Voters, NAACP rally behind Amendment 1

Paul Thompson
Northeast News

Thanks to an initiative petition that garnered roughly 340,000 signatures throughout the state, Missouri voters will have the opportunity to approve sweeping ethics reform when they cast their general election ballots on Tuesday, November 6.

Representatives from the League of Women Voters (LWV) and the Kansas City chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) gathered in front of the southern steps of Kansas City, Missouri City Hall on Wednesday, August 15 to support the legislation, known as Amendment 1.

Rev. Rodney E. Williams, President of the Kansas City, Missouri chapter of the NAACP, decried the threats to three pillars of democracy – economic justice, voting rights, and educational equality – that necessitates the voter approval of Amendment 1. In Missouri, Williams argued, big money controls too many of the state’s policy directives.

“We have a legislative body that pays more attention to the lobbyists, the big donors, the small groups of political insiders, than they do to the citizens who voted them in office,” Williams said.

Amendment 1 aims primarily to dull the effectiveness of donor and lobbying spending in Missouri politics. To that end, the legislation consists of five major reforms: 1) banning all gifts worth more than five dollars; 2) instituting a two-year moratorium on lobbying for politicians following their final legislative session; 3) lowering campaign contribution limits to $2,500 for Senate candidates and $2,000 for House candidates, while also closing contribution loopholes; 4) requiring legislative records to be held to the same Sunshine Law transparency rules as other public entities; and 5) directing the state to hire a nonpartisan expert to draw fair legislative district maps after the next census.

According to Williams, the legislation is a bid to give the people of Missouri their voices back.

“We are here for that which is right, against that which is wrong,” Williams said.

Following the press conference, the Northeast News reached out to District 19 State Representative Ingrid Burnett, who offered her endorsement of Amendment 1. Still, Burnett lamented the fact that the Legislature hasn’t been able to enact ethics reform on its own.

“It kind of troubles me that we have to go to that length in order to get clean government,” Burnett said. “I like all of the ideas that are in there, I just wish we could have passed that as a legislative body.”

In part because of her own uneasiness with the Legislature’s inability to pass its own ethics reform, Burnett stands strongly in support of the initiative petition process utilized by Missouri voters to get Amendment 1 on the November ballot.

“That’s a good failsafe for our government,” Burnett said. “The fact that we have to continue to use it should be a warning to voters about who we are electing.”

Burnett added that the majority of Amendment 1, but especially campaign contribution limits, are key measures for Missouri to implement. She pointed to the rejection of Right-to-Work legislation during the August primary election as evidence that Republicans in the Legislature are not in lockstep with the voters who elected them into office. The Right-to-Work legislation (Prop A on the August ballot) was rejected by 67% of Missouri voters.

“Several different Republicans got up and said, we don’t need to put this before the people; they voted for it when they voted for us,” Burnett recalled.

While Burnett concedes that she’s occasionally accepted gifts in excess of $5, she says that she doesn’t mind the strict limit because she doesn’t receive much from lobbyists in the first place.

“I’m okay with $5, as long as everybody is playing by the same rules,” Burnett said.

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