BY TIM ROWDEN
Jefferson City – The Clean Missouri and Raise Up Missouri coalitions turned in signatures last week to improve transparency and accountability in state government and raise the state’s minimum wage.
The signatures for both measures must now be counted and verified by local election authorities If a sufficient number are certified, the initiatives will be placed the Nov. 6, 2018 ballot.
Clean Missouri submitted 346,956 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office more than enough to qualify the initiative petition to wrest power in the State Capitol away from special interests, and increase integrity, transparency and accountability in government on the November 2018 ballot.
Clean Missouri volunteers collected signatures from all 114 Missouri counties and the City of St. Louis.
“We’ve submitted enough signatures – and then some – to be on the November ballot,” Clean Missouri Campaign Manager Sean Soendker Nicholson said. “But our work isn’t done. Taking on a broken system that rewards entrenched special interests isn’t going to be easy.”
If approved by voters, the Clean Missouri constitutional amendment will:
• Lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates.
• Eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly.
• Require politicians to wait two years before becoming lobbyists.
• Require that legislative records be open to the public.
• Ensure that neither political party is given an unfair advantage when new maps are drawn after the next census, by asking a nonpartisan expert to draw fair legislative district maps, which would then be reviewed by a citizen commission for fairness and competitiveness.
“Year after year, political appointees draw district lines to help re-elect party insiders, even if they haven’t represented the best interests of their constituents,”said John Saxton of St. Louis, a former member of the St. Louis City Republican Central Committee. “Voters should be picking politicians, but it’s upside down right now: political insiders are picking their voters. This amendment will require that maps be crafted with clear, transparent criteria to ensure fair and competitive districts, and that a nonpartisan expert is part of the process. That’s a big reason I gathered signatures for Clean Missouri.”
GET BIG MONEY OUT OF STATE POLITICS
“When we get big money out of state politics, we force candidates to earn our votes, debate the issues, and represent us — their constituents,” explained Khadijah Wilson of St. Louis. “Too often, the only people running for political office are the rich or well connected, or people who cave to special interests once they are elected. This amendment levels the playing field, making it easier for citizens to run for office. That is good for Missouri’s democracy, and we need more regular people looking out for us.”
Lobbyists and big donors have too much control over Missouri state government, organizers said. Last year, lobbyists reported giving more than $1 million in gifts to legislators of both parties, and almost $900,000 a year on average.
“We’re not waiting on the politicians and lobbyists to fix themselves,” said Jeff Jones, a fourth-generation farmer in Callaway County. “We can all see how big money drives the agenda in Jefferson City, and we’ve had enough.”
To find out how you can help increase integrity, transparency, and accountability in government, visit cleanmissouri.org/volunteer.
RAISE UP MISSOURI
Raise Up Missouri’s initiative would raise the current minimum wage from $7.85 to $8.60 in 2019 and then increase it by 85 cents every year until it reaches $12 an hour in 2023.
“Right now people across the state are working full-time and are struggling to provide for their families, and they’re living in poverty,” said Carl Walz, campaign manager for Raise Up Missouri. “For years, the cost of basic necessities have continued to go up. The wages have not kept up.”
To put the initiative on the November ballot, Raise Up Missouri gathered over 120,000 signatures. At least 100,000 signatures of registered voters must be certified in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts to place the measure on the ballot.
Missouri Business for a Fair Minimum Wage publicly announced its support for the initiative at a press conference last week in Jefferson City.
Over 200 business owners and executives have signed Missouri Business for a Fair Minimum Wage’s online statement in support of gradually increasing the state’s minimum wage.
Lew Prince, co-founder and former CEO of Vintage Vinyl in University City, treasurer of Raise Up Missouri and a manager for Missouri Business for Fair Minimum Wage, said the current minimum wage is too low.
“No one that works full-time should have to live in poverty or have to struggle to take care of a family,” Prince said. “No one who works full-time should have to choose between food and medicine.”
Prince said raising the minimum wage would affect over 670,000 workers in Missouri, dramatically increasing consumer buying power.
Raising the minimum wage, he said, would create economic growth and jobs, reduce government spending and save taxpayers money.
According to a recent study from the Labor Center at the University of California Berkeley, poverty wages for working families in Missouri alone cost federal taxpayers more than $2.4 billion annually and taxpayers more than $335 million each year.