Anyone who turns on the TV is well aware there’s an election on Tuesday, Nov. 3. We’re inundated with ads and, by now, I’m sure most of us have made up our minds about the various races. There may still be some confusion about the constitutional questions on the ballot, though. Missouri voters will have two opportunities to amend our state’s constitution.
Amendment 1 simply asks voters whether all statewide office holders should be limited to serving no more than two four-year terms. The constitution already limits the governor and state treasurer to two terms. Amendment 1 imposes the same limits on the lieutenant governor, attorney general, state auditor and secretary of state. If you favor term limits for statewide offices, vote yes. If you oppose term limits for these officials, vote no.
Amendment 3 gives voters the opportunity to reconsider changes to Missouri’s Constitution that were approved two years ago, but not yet put into practice. You may recall the campaign for the so-called Clean Missouri amendment in 2018. There were lots of slick television ads and fancy yard signs telling us the amendment would eliminate “gerrymandering” and clean up Missouri’s politics. In my opinion, the voters were sold a redistricting plan that I believe actually reduces representation for rural and small town residents, while shifting the balance of power to the cities. From where I stand, the out-of-state people who funded Clean Missouri cleverly added popular ethics reforms – including campaign contribution limits and caps on lobbyist gifts – so voters wouldn’t focus on redistricting. The ethics provisions of Clean Missouri were supported by people of all political views, but I believe they distracted voters from the true purpose of the proposal. The gambit worked, and voters approved sweeping constitutional changes, I believe, without truly realizing the ramifications.
This year, voters will take another look at redistricting. Amendment 3 presents what I believe to be a better method of determining how Missouri citizens are grouped into legislative districts:
—Amendment 3 gives responsibility for drawing legislative districts to bipartisan citizen commissions, with equal input from members of both major political parties. Under Clean Missouri, an unelected bureaucrat draws the legislative maps.
—Amendment 3 requires legislative districts to be compact and contiguous, ensuring citizens will be represented by members of their own communities. The Clean Missouri plan envisions sprawling and irregular-shaped districts drawn to achieve an arbitrary goal of “partisan fairness” — this is the very definition of the gerrymandering the original sponsors claimed they were trying to prevent.
In my opinion, the Clean Missouri campaign of 2018 foisted an untested method of drawing legislative districts on Missouri voters. Amendment 3 restores familiar and proven methods of redistricting. I believe the revisions contained in Amendment 3 will ensure local representation, especially for rural and small town residents. Furthermore, Amendment 3 actually strengthens the good parts of the Clean Missouri amendment. Lobbyists gifts will be outlawed completely, and allowable contributions to Senate campaigns are reduced even further. None of the ethics reforms voters approved in 2018 will be undone.
I encourage everyone to vote on Nov. 3. I trust you’ll make the right choices as you cast your ballot for the various candidates for local, state and national offices. When it comes time to weigh in on the constitutional questions, I hope you’ll join me in voting YES on Amendment 3.
Getting the Job Done on Unemployment
The Missouri Division of Employment Security experienced record-setting applications for unemployment benefits due to the economic disruptions from COVID-19. Weekly claims for jobless benefits peaked at 440,271 in April. The division fielded more than 140,000 calls from unemployed workers on April 13, compared to the previous daily average of about 10,000.
Initially overwhelmed by the sudden influx of unemployment claims, the division rose to the challenge, adopting new procedures such as call scheduling and a virtual assistant. Division employees logged more than 34,000 hours of overtime and employees from other state agencies were brought in as reinforcements. Since the pandemic first struck, more than 535,000 Missourians have received more than $4.6 billion in unemployment benefits. As a result of this effort, the Division of Employment Security has received two national awards for Excellence in Benefits Payments and Excellence in Integrity. Congratulations to all who stepped up during this difficult time.
As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at 573-751-4302. You may also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.