The will of the people and why it matters

Part of the responsibility of living in a constitutional republic is an engaged electorate. An engaged electorate, theoretically, ensures that elected officials are accountable to the citizens. It should not be forgotten that government, regardless of its level, is from the ground up, not the other way around.

Recently, however, we’ve seen the will of the people overturned by those in power. On the local level, in the re-naming of The Paseo to Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard, done despite overwhelming and vocal opposition to the name change, advanced by a small parcel of Black Pastors who allegedly collected over “1,000 signatures” in support of the matter. Despite our repeated requests for these documents under the auspices of Missouri’s Sunshine Law, we’ve received no response from anyone connected with the SCLC on the matter.

While we’re on the subject of Missouri’s Sunshine Law, the Dog points out that the Missouri State House recently passed sweeping changes to Missouri’s open records law and stands on the brink of overturning the Clean Missouri legislation that Missouri voters passed by an overwhelming margin in November. Two key elements of that law limited lobbyist gifts to legislators and requiring legislative records to be open to the public have been thrown out of the legislation.

Last week, the Republican led Missouri House last week thumbed its nose at the legislation and basically allowed elected officials to withhold records regarding party strategy and some elements of those correspondences from the public view. Since the measure is related to House rules, it does not require the signature of the Governor or go to the Senate prior to going in to effect.

This news writing canine would like to point out that Missouri’s Sunshine Law already provides protections for private information and House members are fully aware of this but forged ahead with the legislation anyway. The privacy angle is just an excuse for the elected class to determine what’s private and what’s not. Missouri’s House of Representatives has, with last week’s decision, exempted itself from the law despite the fact that Missourians voted in November to strip them of that power and demanded greater transparency in their Government. In short, they didn’t like the way Clean Missouri leveled the playing field so they decided it was OK to change the rules.

Here’s a little heads up for the Republicans leading this charge in the Missouri House. This isn’t the Pirates of the Caribbean movie where Captain Jack Sparrow alleges that laws are merely “guidelines” to be loosely followed. Constitutional amendments are the law. Period. Too many times in recent history said amendments have been overturned, Missouri’s “puppy-mill” legislation comes to this dog’s mind almost immediately as a shining example of lawmaker’s arrogance. Given last week’s action this matter will likely be headed to a courtroom and rightfully so given potential ramifications.

The will of the people matters and hopefully a court decision reversing last week’s House action will send a clear message to Legislators that overturning election results is unwise. This dog has said it before and we’ll say it again. Elections have consequences.

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