Our Opinion: Consequences of revising voter-approved laws
Saturday, March 12, 2011
For the moment, let’s leave the puppies out of the puppy mill debate and focus instead on governance — specifically, who has what authority.
The Missouri Senate this week, on a 20-14 vote, approved substantial revisions to Proposition B.
Voters statewide in November approved the law placing additional restrictions on licensed dog breeders.
Proposition B supporters decried the Senate action as a metaphoric slap in the face to voters.
The metaphor is arguable; the lawmakers’ authority is not.
Voters approved a law — not a constitutional amendment — and lawmakers are empowered not only to make, but to change and repeal laws.
Proposition B supporters may challenge the wisdom of doing so, but not the authority to do so.
Looking long term, we fear a greater consequence of legislative tampering with voter-approved laws will be a proliferation of proposed constitutional amendments.
Unlike laws, constitutional amendments must be approved by Missouri voters and may be altered or repealed only by a subsequent vote — or by a court ruling that the amendment itself is unconstitutional.
Essentially, they are immune from legislative fiat.
Therefore, when a grass-roots effort — or, as more recently, a wealthy individual or group — initiates a petition for a change of governance, the incentive will be to enact a constitutional amendment instead of a law.
Such an incentive is discouraging.
A constitution, as we have said before, is a framework for governing, not a policy manual.
Our copy of both constitutions — published by the Missouri secretary of state’s office — shows the U.S. Constitution at 18 pages while the Missouri Constitution spans 199 pages.
Why does it take 10 times as much language to govern our state than the entire nation?
And how many more provisions will be added if Missourians no longer trust lawmakers to respect their vote?