Group: Proposed constitutional amendment to be on November ballot

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KANSAS CITY - A group responsible for ballot petition advocating major reform in Jefferson City said they are almost positive the petition will end up on the November ballot.

According to Benjamin Singer, a spokesman for Clean Missouri, the proposed constructional amendment targeting lobbyists, campaign finance and open records tallied more than 350,000 signatures, surpassing the required amount.

"We counted every signature, we checked every signature to ensure that we had more than enough valid registered voters to sign the Clean Missouri petition. So we know it will be on the ballot this fall," he said.

The Clean Missouri initiative has six main goals: eliminating lobbyist gifts in the general assembly, requiring state legislative records be open to the public, caps on campaign donations, requiring legislators to wait two years before becoming lobbyists and making sure the redistricting process favors no party.

The most talked about element is the redistricting, a process that happens every 10 years after the national census. Under the current system, lines are drawn by a governor-appointed bipartisan committee. But Singer said it's process with too many flaws. 

"There's a lot of backroom dealing, unclear who the process is really for. We want a system that has more fairness, more competitiveness so that our politicians are really concerned about the voices of the people back home," Singer said.

Dr. Maren Bell Jones is running to be the Democratic candidate for House District 44. Having helped gather signatures for the Clean Missouri initiative, she agrees the current system is in need of reform.

"The fact that it's re-done every 10 years with the census, it makes sense, but for in terms of citizen participation in politics, even people who are relatively involved in politics locally often have no idea which district they're at," she said.

According to Clean Missouri, lines would be re-drawn in large part by a "non-partisan state demographer", responsible for maximizing fairness and competitiveness. Singer said the new process would also bring a much greater level of independence and transparency.

"There's a requirement to hold public hearings, and most importantly there's the requirement that maps are drawn using clear and transparent criteria to ensure that no party is given an unfair advantage when new maps are drawn," he said.  

Bell Jones said under the current system, the Republican super majority both the house and the senate would allow them an advantage when it comes time for districts to be redrawn, a problem in a number of ways.

"When it's such as us vs. them mentality, that doesn't exactly foster any kind of camaraderie where you can have bipartisan bills come up because it's such a tight competition where one group for whatever reason depending on the geographic area is excluded," she said.

Bell Jones said a lack of bipartisan cooperation hurts everybody.

"If we want government to work effectively and efficiently we have to have bipartisan cooperation and when it's drawn unfairly I believe it makes people more likely to be in a tribal kind of system and they don't want to work together," she said.

KOMU 8 reached out to the Missouri Republican party but has not received a response.

To find out more about the Clean Missouri initiative, visit their website. You can read the full text of the proposed amendment here.