Sen. Ed Emery’s Legislative Report for Oct. 19, 2020

Why I Support “Yes” on Amendment 3: Stronger Ethics Laws, Citizen-Drawn Legislative Districts

“Follow the Money.”  ̶  Attributed first to Henry Peterson, U.S. Assistant Attorney General, 1974

Amendment 3 has been placed on the Nov. 3 ballot by the Missouri General Assembly as an alternative to the so-called “Clean Missouri” constitutional amendment passed in 2018. If approved by voters, Amendment 3 would completely ban lobbyist gifts to legislators, lower campaign contribution limits and place Missouri citizens in charge of drawing state legislative districts. Many constituents have asked my opinion of Amendment 3, and I will attempt to justify that opinion below.

“Clean Missouri” was a constitutional amendment that created an untested, completely unprecedented redistricting process in Missouri. According to the Missouri Ethics Commission, 90% of Clean Missouri’s contributions came from outside Missouri; with hundreds of thousands of dollars funneled through secretive groups whose intent, I believe, was to deceive Missourians. In my opinion, these well-funded backers of Clean Missouri played a bait-and-switch with Missouri voters, using promises of ethics reforms and nonpartisan professionals, but delivering something entirely different.

Bipartisan, citizen-led commissions led Missouri’s previous redistricting process. Groups of ordinary Missourians drew legislative districts that had to be compact, contiguous and follow commonsense boundaries like city limits, county lines, major roads and natural features like rivers. Furthermore, this process gave the public at-large an opportunity to offer input and scrutinize the commissions’ work (both during the process and afterwards in the courts). I believe this process was fair and delivered districts that maintained the unique voices of individual communities — especially rural and majority-minority communities.

“Clean Missouri” tossed out Missouri’s citizen-led redistricting process and placed redistricting in the hands of an unelected state demographer. While proponents promised a nonpartisan, professional demographer would draw fair and competitive districts, Clean Missouri’s vague language offers little to ensure this takes place. It lists no job qualifications for the demographer, does not explain to whom that individual is accountable and does not specify the demographer’s salary. And those are just three of the unanswered questions.

“Clean Missouri” switched the criteria for drawing legislative districts from “compact” and “contiguous” to “fair” and “competitive.” For Missouri voters, that means instead of honoring municipal and natural boundaries, communities across the state could be sliced up into districts that potentially dilute and diminish individual communities’ voices. Districts drawn under this process would possibly snake in and out of large urban centers, through the suburbs, and into rural Missouri. In my opinion, this is insulting, it’s ridiculous and it’s unprecedented gerrymandering, plain and simple.

I enthusiastically joined other Missouri legislators in passing an alternative to Clean Missouri: Amendment 3. Amendment 3 bans lobbyist gifts completely and reduces Senate campaign contributions by an additional $100. Most importantly, in my opinion, Amendment 3 restores competency and integrity to the redistricting process, replacing the unelected demographer with bipartisan, citizen-led commissions. Under Amendment 3, districts drawn by those commissions will be compact, contiguous and, I believe, more sensitive to partisan competitiveness while protecting minorities and distinct community voices. From where I stand, a “YES” vote on Amendment 3 will simplify and strengthen ethics laws and – most importantly – will deliver a cleaner, carefully vetted redistricting process that all Missourians can scrutinize and trust.

Thank you for reading this legislative report. You can contact my office at (573) 751-2108 if you have any questions. Thank you and we welcome your prayers for the proper application of state government.