With the court challenges blocked, Missouri voters in just over four weeks will decide the fate of the proposed Clean Missouri amendment to Missouri's Constitution.
"Amendment 1 is our chance to clean up Missouri politics," reads the headline on the main page of the supporters' website, cleanmissouri.org/solution.
Then the supporters wrote: "We're taking a desperately needed legislative reform measure directly to voters to make our state government more transparent, limit the power of big money in our legislature, and ensure we're able to hold legislators accountable when they fail to act in the public interest."
The amendment proposes several changes in legislative operations, including:
- Changing the process used to redraw state House and Senate district boundaries every 10 years, after the federal census is finished.
- Reducing the limits on campaign contributions that candidates for state Legislature can accept from individuals or groups.
- Limiting the gifts that state lawmakers and their employees can accept from paid lobbyists to items that cost $5 or less.
- Prohibiting lawmakers and their employees from serving as paid lobbyists for a two-year period after the lawmaker leaves office.
- Prohibiting political fundraising on state property by candidates for or members of the Legislature.
- Requiring legislative records and proceedings to be open to the public under the Sunshine Law.
State Auditor Nicole Galloway's office wrote the fiscal note that appears on the ballot, based on input from state and local government officials.
It says: "State governmental entities estimate annual operating costs may increase by $189,000. Local governmental entities report no fiscal impact."
In its "fair ballot language" explanation of the proposal, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft's office said the measure "will have no impact on taxes."
When voters go to the polls Nov. 6, they won't see the entire, four-page proposal — they will see only the ballot summary Ashcroft's office prepared.
But what does the proposed amendment itself say?
The proposal, if approved, will amend the Constitution's Article III (which is about the legislative branch), Sections 2, 5, 7 and 19, and it will add three new sections to Article III, to be designated as Sections 3, 20(c), and 20(d).
One of the opponents' biggest complaints is the proposed change in the process for drawing new state House and Senate districts every 10 years, based on the latest federal census.
Under Missouri's Constitution, the Legislature draws new congressional districts but doesn't control its own members' district boundaries — and that doesn't change if the new proposal is passed.
But for the state House and Senate districts, the Constitution currently creates separate committees — appointed by the governor from names submitted by the two largest political parties — to redraw the district boundary lines and gives them specific deadlines and procedures to follow.
Both committees must take the state's new population and divide that number by 163 for the House districts and by 34 for the Senate.
The Constitution says: "Each (House) district shall be composed of contiguous territory as compact as may be."
It says each Senate district must "as nearly as possible, equal that" population target, with an additional mandate that "no county lines shall be crossed except when necessary to add sufficient population to a multi-district county or city to complete only one district which lies partly within such multi-district county or city so as to be as nearly equal as practicable in population."
So, except for metropolitan areas, state Senate districts must include whole counties.
The Clean Missouri proposal would make several changes to the current plan, beginning with the appointment of a "non-partisan state demographer."
The amendment has the state auditor determine "qualifications and expertise relevant to the position" then accept applications from people who believe they meet those qualifications.
After taking applications, the amendment directs the auditor to deliver to the state Senate's majority and minority leaders — but not the House — "a list of at least three applicants with sufficient expertise and qualifications, as determined by the state auditor, to perform the duties of the non-partisan state demographer."
If both agree, that person is appointed.
If not, then each leader can remove some names from the auditor's list, and a random lottery among the remaining names is held to choose the demographer.
Missouri already employs a demographer in the Office of Administration.
Amendment 1 supporters say nothing prevents that person from seeking to be considered for the "non-partisan state demographer" job.
The amendment gives that demographer the task of drawing new district lines — still based on the total population and the current number of House and Senate districts — so that districts are "contiguous."
The amendment also seeks to keep cities within the same district, where possible.
Jefferson City and Columbia still would be too large to be in only one House district, but there were several cases in 2011 where small cities were split.
Open public meetings of legislative proceedings shall be subject to recording by citizens, so long as the proceedings are not materially disrupted.
The amendment would require that the new districts also comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other federal laws, and they are to be "designed in a manner that achieves both partisan fairness and, secondarily, competitiveness."
The amendment says "partisan fairness means that parties shall be able to translate their popular support into legislative representation with approximately equal efficiency."
It says "competitiveness means that parties' legislative representation shall be substantially and similarly responsive to shifts in the electorate's preferences."
And the demographer is required to calculate the "average electoral performance" of the top two political parties in three previous elections, and use that number to determine how the parties can be more competitive in future elections.
The proposal says new legislative districts should be "compact" — but that goal is less important than the competitiveness factor the amendment creates.
The amendment keeps the two commissions that exist in the current Constitution and requires them to review the demographer's proposed maps.
Each commission may adjust the demographer's proposals, as long as those changes meet the new standards created by the amendment.
After holding at least three public hearings, the two commissions approve the final maps — with at least 70 percent approval required on each commission — and submits the final maps to the secretary of state.
As in the current Constitution, the reapportioned maps may not be challenged by referendum.
'Revolving door ban'
People seeking ethics reform in state government often have complained a lawmaker can leave the Legislature and return quickly as a lobbyist, representing special interests to his or her recent colleagues.
The Clean Missouri amendment would change that.
If passed, the amendment would prohibit any lawmaker or other General Assembly employee from becoming a paid lobbyist for two years.
One of the complaints about the current law is that lobbyists can give lawmakers a meal, a trip or any number of gifts in order to win the lawmakers' support for proposed legislation.
If voters approved the amendment, those gifts would be limited to $5 or less, "per occurrence."
The limits don't apply to family members "within the fourth degree by blood or marriage."
The Missouri Ethics Commission lists first-degree relatives as parents or children; second degree as grandparents, siblings or grandchildren; third-degree relatives as great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, and great-grandchildren; and fourth-degree relatives as great-great-grandparents, great-aunts and uncles, first cousins, great-nieces or nephews, and great-great-grandchildren.
The proposed amendment would prohibit the Legislature from "authorizing unlimited campaign contributions to candidates for the General Assembly."
The proposal limits contributions to $2,500 to a state Senate candidate and to $2,000 for a House candidate — and includes donations from political action committees in those totals, where they have not been limited in the past.
Voters in 2016 approved some campaign limits, but the amendment would reduce those limits by $100 for a state Senate candidate and by $500 for a House candidate.
The new amendment, if passed, would prohibit "fundraising activities or political fundraising events by any member of or candidate for the general assembly in or on any premises, property or building owned, leased or controlled by the state of Missouri or any agency or division thereof."
While the ban obviously would include events at the Capitol while the Legislature is in session, it also would apply to an event someone might plan for Rock Bridge or Ha Ha Tonka state parks or at the Governor's Gardens, for example.
The amendment says any "purposeful violation" of the ban would be "punishable by imprisonment for up to one year or a fine of up to one thousand dollars or both, plus an amount equal to three times the illegal contributions" that were received at the event.
The proposed amendment gives the Missouri Ethics Commission the power "to enforce this section as provided by law."
Lawmakers and openness
After some state Senate committees prohibited people from recording or taking pictures of their meetings, the courts ruled that Missouri's Constitution gives lawmakers the power to make their own rules — even if they've passed a law covering other government agencies and state and local government entities.
The Clean Missouri amendment would, if passed, require lawmakers' records and proceedings, including their committee work, to be "subject to generally applicable law governing public access to public meetings (and records), including the Sunshine Law."
The amendment specifically includes a requirement that "open public meetings of legislative proceedings (are) subject to recording by citizens, so long as the proceedings are not materially disrupted."
That already is the legal requirement for other government agencies, like city councils, county commissions and school boards.
Getting the proposal on ballot
The Clean Missouri proposal reached the ballot after supporters circulated initiative petitions and submitted those petitions with more than 340,000 signatures.
Ashcroft certified the issue for the Nov. 6 ballot on Aug. 2.
One of two lawsuits challenging the proposal was filed that same day, and the second suit was filed near the end of the 10-day time period.
Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green heard the two cases together and, on Sept. 13, ordered the amendment be removed from the ballot.
He agreed with the lawsuits that the proposal violated the Missouri Constitution's requirement that proposed changes involve only one subject, while the Clean Missouri plan related "to at least two different and extremely broad purposes."
But the appeals court in Kansas City on Sept. 21 overturned Green's decision, saying: "We conclude that the Petition's multiple provisions all relate to a single central purpose: regulating the legislature to limit the influence of partisan or other special interests."
The state Supreme Court declined to take the case.
"Missourians must now decide whether we should allow out-of-state activists to rewrite our constitution, meddle with the balance of power in our legislature and open the door to higher taxes and more regulation," Dan Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in a news release after the Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal. "We will work to unmask this effort and educate voters about its true intent. Amendment 1 isn't designed to clean Missouri — it will fleece us."
The Missouri Republican Party also voiced its opposition.
"Behind the sleek marketing and innocent name of Clean Missouri is an effort to slice up Missouri's legislative districts from rural to urban areas to satisfy a ridiculous fairness rule, which would certainly benefit Democrats," Missouri Republican Party spokesman Chris Nuelle said in a news release.
But the Clean Missouri group said in a news release last week: "A growing number of Republicans, Democrats, independents, and editorial boards across the state have publicly endorsed the full package of desperately needed reforms in the Clean Missouri initiative."