Our Opinion: Amend the Constitution only when necessary
Monday, March 18, 2013
A proposed one-cent, 10-year sales tax for transportation has a major flaw.
The flaw has nothing to do with substance; it has everything to do with form.
Before leaving last week for spring break, the Senate passed and sent to the House a bill that would put the measure before voters next year as a constitutional amendment.
Therein lies the problem. Why are we proposing to change Missouri’s Constitution to alter tax policy?
Constitutions are designed to provide a framework for governing. They are not meant to serve as bulletin boards where legislation, executive orders or department regulations are tacked on as constitutionally protected acts of government.
Among supporters of the tax proposal is Sen. Mike Kehoe, who represents Jefferson City.
We wondered if an existing constitutional provision required that the tax be submitted to voters not as a law, but as a constitutional amendment?
We inquired of his office and were told the amendment is being sought so the Legislature will not be able to alter or rescind the tax.
Although constitutional amendments require a vote of the people, voter-approved laws can be changed by lawmakers. A recent example was Proposition B, an animal welfare law passed by voters and later amended by lawmakers.
We understand the reasoning, but we cannot condone it.
The U.S. Constitution, which governs our entire nation, is a fraction of the length of the Missouri Constitution, which is amended. Rarely does a statewide election not contain a constitutional amendment on the ballot.
We encourage state officials to consider not only the issues, but the proper place for those issues within the structure of government.
The constitution, legislation, executive orders and department regulations have differing applications in the process of governing.
Actions of government must be placed where they belong.