It appears another ballot measure currently set for the November election could put labor unions and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry on opposite sides of the fence.
The chamber was among groups opposing the labor-backed challenge to a right-to-work measure approved by the Missouri General Assembly in 2017. Labor officials and others circulated petitions to challenge it, and Missouri voters in August resoundingly rejected the proposed law.
Labor unions were among groups involved in another petition drive to propose Clean Missouri, a wide-ranging ethics reform measure that would limit campaign contributions and lobbyist gifts, require legislative records be open to the public and change the way legislative districts are drawn.
Identified as Amendment 1, the proposed constitutional amendment currently is set for a November vote, but the chamber this week filed a lawsuit seeking to block its consideration.
The lawsuit, filed by Dan Mehan, chamber president and CEO, raises the same issues as another challenge filed the day after the measure was certified for the November ballot.
Both contend the proposal violates constitutional provisions limiting the number of subjects that can be included in a ballot question.
In a release announcing the lawsuit, Mehan said the proposal “is an attempt by billionaire activist George Soros to tinker with Missouri's Constitution and redraw the lines that define how Missouri is divided into state House and Senate districts.”
He said approval of the measure could lead to a shift in priorities in the Missouri General Assembly and reverse long-running efforts to make the state more business friendly.
Supporters submitted petitions signed by more than 340,000 residents seeking a vote on the measure, which has been endorsed by a number of groups and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Officers of the Missouri League of Women Voters this week held news conferences in several Missouri cities to announce their backing.
Kate Boswell, president, called the measure “a chance to increase fairness, integrity and transparency in government.
“Year after year, politicians are re-elected with big money, in districts drawn by politicians and party insiders,” she said in a statement. “Amendment 1 limits the influence of special interests in the Legislature and ensures no party is given an unfair advantage when redistricting occurs after the next census. Amendment 1 establishes clear, transparent criteria to ensure fair and competitive maps, which are reviewed by a citizens' commission.”
The group also cites other backers, including former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, a Republican who was among early supporters.
Danforth said the plan will increase integrity, transparency and accountability in state government and “will ensure fair and competitive elections so elected officials cannot take their voters for granted and must earn their support.”
If approved by voters, the amendment would mandate that legislative records be open to the public, require politicians to wait two years before becoming lobbyists and eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts — except those under $5 — to the General Assembly.
It would lower campaign contribution limits to $2,500 for Senate candidates and $2,000 for those running for House seats, and stop legislative fundraising on state property.
It would also create a new process for redistricting that organizers said would ensure neither political party is given an unfair advantage and protect minority communities against vote dilution by calling for an independent state demographer, rather than political committees, to create district maps.
Missouri lawmakers have debated ethics reforms in several sessions in recent years. In 2016, they passed measures setting a six-month limit on lawmakers becoming lobbyists and barring lawmakers from serving as paid consultants, but proposals to ban lobbyist gifts were not approved.
Susan Redden is a former reporter for The Joplin Globe.