Some time ago I wrote a post about the colossal arrogance of the Tea Party and other members of the 27 percenters who insist on usurping the label “We the People” and employing it in almost every other sentence to express their minority demands. Missouri’s GOP-dominated legislature shares that We-the-Teople arrogance. They too seem to have an outsized conception of their importance, specifically as it pertains to the will of the rest of the people in the state. I am referring, of course to their willingness to use the power that we have vested in them to undercut popularly passed ballot propositions.
Exhibit one: the hearings that began yesterday to repeal or amend out of existence Proposition B, the puppy mill bill that passed with a 51.6% majority. Opponents of this measure had ample time to make their case and failed. Cue Missouri legislators to ride to the rescue of the Puppy Millers and the deluded farmers who were led to believe that humane treatment of dogs is the first step on the slippery slope towards enforced vegetarianism.
Just as egregious a show of contempt for the will of the people was perpetrated earlier this week when the State Legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) voted to gut an important component of Proposition C, the Missouri Renewable Electricity Standard that was passed in 2008 with a 66% majority. The proposition mandated that 15% of the energy provided by state utilities come from renewable energy sources.
A PUC implementation that JCAR is attempting to circumvent provides that those clean energy sources be located within or near Missouri and was intended to spur growth of clean energy businesses within the state along with the concomitant green jobs. God forbid that the Missouri GOP show any concern for innovation and a new source of jobs; we all know that utilities and their profits come before people, right?
There are precedents for this disregard of the public will. You surely remember when Missourians said “No, thank you” to concealed carry gun laws in 1999. Since rejection doesn’t sit well with the NRA and its pet Missouri legislators, the General Assembly overruled the proposition and in 2003 passed a concealed carry law.
Opponents of these measures all seem to think that overriding the will of the people of the state is just jim-dandy because the majority they are disregarding is mostly urban and evidently not aware of some deeper truths known only to those in the boonies. If you look online, you will find innumerable newspaper articles where lawmakers justify reversing the will of the majority because rural areas voted overwhelmingly for mistreatment of dogs, a wild west gun culture, or are worried about the possibility that energy prices might go up (which they most certainly will no matter what happens with Proposition C rules and regulations). For example, this quote from KPSR’s coverage of the Proposition B repeal effort is typical:
… the majority of those passing votes came from a minority of counties. While most lawmakers who spoke, even Stouffer, aren’t dead-set on eliminating Prop B, they say the will of the people in rural Missouri is proof enough it, at the very least, needs tweaking.
Somehow, I bet that if I were in a position to do the research, I’d find that many members of the rural minority that failed to prevail in the case of Proposition B correspond to the 16% of Missourians who voted for that other Prop C and against the health care mandate last April. In April the minority prevailed because few Missourians, only 23%, turned out to vote.* Fair enough. But what I want to know is why this particular minority matters more than the rest of us when they don’t prevail? They matters so much that, on the basis of the April Prop. C vote, lawmakers are trying to force the Attorney General of the State, Chris Koster, to join a frivolous and potentially expensive suit against the Affordable Care Act
Never mind that the pros and cons of all these potential laws were fully debated before the vote and that the people of the state had plenty of information and time to make up their minds. What this blatant disregard for the democratic process says to me is that those of us in St. Louis and Kansas City are second class citizens. There’s got to be some reason why these rural lawmakers feel free to explicitly spit in the faces of voters. There must be some way to demand respect for the principles of democracy in this state.
* “only 23%” added.