Wednesday, January 14, 2009

They're at it again

Missouri's politicians have always -- always -- hated the fact that mere citizens can draft legislation, petition to have that legislation put on the ballot, and campaign to have that legislation passed directly by Missouri's voters whether the politicians like it or not.

They throw tantrums any time the people consider limiting their power in any particular, and their usual strategy when such measures pass anyway (at least in the 20-odd years I've been watching) is to then regally ignore those limitations, with the full support of their buddies on the judicial bench.

Lately, though, they've been getting more bold.

In 2006, then state auditor Claire McCaskill blew the required "impact statement" so that she could keep a measure limiting government's power of eminent domain off the ballot, even though the thousands of required voter signatures to put it on the ballot had been collected and validated. Her punishment? Election to the US Senate.

This year, the politicians have apparently decided to up the ante and go for the throat of democratic self-rule, with bills already filed in the state legislature to increase the number of signatures required (HJR3) and to register and regulate petitioners (HB228 in the House, SB115 in the Senate).

An obvious first step in countering this attack on democracy is contacting your State Representative and your State Senator. Don't use email or site contact forms -- or at least don't use them first. Call the legislator's office, identify the bills, state your opposition to them, and request a response. Then consider following up with an email or contact form message that references the phone conversation.

A good second step is a well-written letter to the editor of your local newspaper(s). The text of the bills is linked above -- read them and consider their implications before writing that letter. I'll see if I can round up some linkable resources to make that research easier. I've received some analysis (written by Ron Calzone of Missouri Citizens for Property Rights) by email, but don't know if it's up on the web anywhere. If you've never written an LTE before, feel free to download my PDF booklet, "Writing the Libertarian Op-Ed." Hope it helps.

If you belong to any organizations with an interest in this matter -- your county Libertarian Party committee, for example -- consider introducing a resolution in opposition to these bills. Don't forget to follow any such resolutions up with a press release!

Update: Can't get through to my reps yet (phone problem), but here's the resolution I intend to propose for passage by the St. Louis County, Missouri Libertarian Central Committee tonight:

Whereas, Article I, Section 1 of the Missouri Constitution states that "all political power is vested in and derived from the people; that all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole;" and

Whereas, Article III, Section 49 of the Missouri Constitution reserves to the people a power to enact or reject laws and constitutional amendments through the process of initiative and referendum; and

Whereas, certain bills have been introduced in Missouri's legislature to make the exercise of this power more difficult through onerous regulations, registration requirements and increases in the number of signatures required to place issues on the ballot;

Be it resolved, that the St. Louis County Libertarian Central Committee calls upon Missouri's legislators to oppose House Joint Resolution 3, House Bill 228 and Senate Bill 115, and to henceforth cease and desist from, or if proposed by others oppose, any and all attempts to abrogate or make less efficacious the power of the people to alter state law through the process of initiative and referendum.

Update: Resolution passed on voice vote, no audible "nays."

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