The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

February 6, 2014

Other Views: Inane path

Efforts to change the Missouri Constitution — through initiative petitions and legislation — are growing exponentially.

Secretary of State Jason Kander’s website lists more than 50 initiative petitions for constitutional amendments approved for circulation in Missouri.

In some cases, multiple petitions deal with a single topic. For example, three petitions deal with early voting, four relate to eminent domain and more than 20 with marijuana production, sale and distribution.

Efforts to change the constitution, however, are coming not only from interest groups; state lawmakers are also using the legislative process to put constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Already, two proposed constitutional amendments initiated by lawmakers are scheduled to appear on the Nov. 4 ballot. One would establish a constitutional right to farm; another would allow relevant evidence of past crimes to be used as evidence in cases of sex crimes involving children under age 18.

A recent story detailed proposed legislation to elevate hunting and fishing to a constitutional right.

We have argued repeatedly that a constitution is a framework for government, not a document to be altered in cavalier or willy-nilly fashion.

In one of the few areas where Missouri can take a lesson from the federal government, the U.S. Constitution — including its 27 amendments — spans 16 pages in a volume issued by the secretary of state. In the same volume, the Missouri Constitution, which amends provisions within the document, spans 125 pages.

Missouri lawmakers have no one to blame but themselves for the explosion of constitutional amendments.

Readers may recall Proposition B, an animal welfare law approved by voters but changed drastically by lawmakers before it became effective.

Therein lies a critical difference between state legislation and the state constitution. The legislature has the power to make, repeal and alter laws; a vote of the people is required to change the constitution.

Consequently, legislators, interest groups and the people know the way to prevent legislative tampering is to enshrine action in the constitution.

The irony is that every constitutional alteration weakens the legislative process.

Continuing on this path increasingly will transfer power from elected representatives to the people. Although this may seem like an improvement, consider the drawbacks: increased frequency of elections; repeated barrages of well-financed campaigns to sway voters; and decisions made by a minority of voters if historically low turnout persists.

If we continue on this inane path of continually amending the constitution, representative government eventually will become superfluous.

— The Jefferson City News Tribune

1
Text Only
Opinion
Local News
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Poll

Have you ever served as a volunteer for your state's conservation department?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Facebook
NDN Video
Raw: Families Travel to Taiwan Plane Crash Site Arizona Execution Takes Almost Two Hours Gen. Odierno Discusses Ukraine, NATO at Forum Gaza Fighting Rages Amid Cease-Fire Efforts Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-lift Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast
Sports