League of Women Voters puts support behind legislative reform ballot issue

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Missouri voters will be deciding a number of issues on the ballot this November including Amendment 1, a sweeping legislative reform measure that on Tuesday got the backing of the League of Women Voters.

The goal of Amendment 1 is to increase fairness, integrity, accountability, and transparency in the Missouri's General Assembly.

And it has bi-partisan support, including that of the League of Women Voters.

"The league is nonpartisan as you may know," announced Ann Elwell, the League's Communication Chair at the start of their press conference in the rotunda of the Greene County courthouse. "We never support or endorse candidates or parties."

Yet on this issue the League is throwing its statewide support in favor of Amendment 1 because "lobbyists, big donors, and small groups of insiders continue to have too much control and influence in state government," said Joan Gentry, a League Board Member.

Two of the five Amendment 1 initiatives relate to lobbyists. One eliminates any gifts from lobbyists to legislators over five dollars. And the other prohibits legislators from becoming lobbyists until two years after their term expires.

"Since 2014 politicians in the Missouri General Assembly have taken over $12 million in gifts from lobbyists who have business before the legislature," explained Kelly Wood, a past League President. "These gifts include liquor, sports events, concerts, international travel and expensive dinners."

Amendment 1 would also limit campaign contributions for state legislative candidates, require all legislative records to be open to the public and have a nonpartisan expert draw up the district maps so that one political party doesn't gain an advantage just because of the way the districts are drawn up. The new mapping would be done with statistical analysis.

"There will be provisions to make sure that the result is statistically correct," Elwell said. " And the party affiliation will not be a part of that."

And at a time when our political world is more divisive than ever, the league hopes Amendment 1 will abate some of that cynicism.

"We feel like this amendment really cleans up politics in Missouri," Wood said. "Money is power, and we are really more concerned with the voters having the power to decide the issues rather than the people behind closed doors."