Volunteers on Thursday turned in almost 347,000 signatures to the Missouri Secretary of State's Office for a petition aimed at increasing government integrity, transparency and accountability.
More than 1,600 volunteers for the Clean Missouri Initiative gathered 346,956 signatures from Missourians who are ready to have their voices heard, said the Rev. Cassandra Gould, senior pastor at Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church in Jefferson City and director of Missouri Faith Voices.
The amount of signatures is more than twice the number required for a proposed amendment to appear on a statewide ballot.
"The time has come to stop big money, powerful lobbyists and powerful gangs," Gould told a bank of media personnel Thursday afternoon.
She said the activities that occur in Jefferson City remind her of the words of the prophet Amos, who said: "For I know your crimes are many and your sins are innumerable. They oppress the righteous, take bribes and deprive the poor of justice at the city gates."
Lobbyists, big donors and political insiders have too much control over state government, she said. The initiative would hold legislators accountable when they fail to act in the public interest.
"The people of Missouri are united to end systemic corruption of our government today," Gould said.
The initiative would establish these changes in the state Constitution:
Change the process and criteria for redrawing state legislative districts during reapportionment.
Change limits on campaign contributions that candidates for state Legislature can accept from individuals or entities.
Establish a limit on gifts that state legislators and their employees can accept from paid lobbyists.
Prohibit state legislators and their employees from serving as paid lobbyists for a period of time.
Prohibit political fundraising by candidates for or members of the state Legislature on state property.
Require legislative records and proceedings to be open to the public.
The signatures came from all 114 counties and the City of St. Louis.
Among speakers was Jeff Jones, a farmer from Callaway County who said he has been discussing agriculture policy with legislative leaders but they have not listened. Legislative leaders take millions of dollars from big agriculture and don't hear his voice, he said.
Clean Missouri would lower campaign contributions, limit contributions to legislative candidates, close big loopholes in the current law used by big donors and stop fundraising at the Capitol, he said.
Elizabeth Davidson, of St. Louis County, said she wants legislators to focus on solutions to everyday Missourians' concerns, such as health care. Instead, she said, they cater to lobbyists who push extreme agendas, some of whom gave more than a million dollars in gifts to legislators last year.
"No matter which party you support, that isn't right," Davidson said.
The initiative would eliminate almost all lobbyists gifts by banning any gift worth more than $5, she said.
John Bohney, of St. Louis, gathered more than 1,600 signatures for the petition. He said the initiative is a chance to increase integrity in government.
"Together, we can take back power from special interests and give it to the people," Bohney said.
Frances Klahr, of Jefferson City, watched the proceedings. She said she's a member of the Sierra Club and has worked on environmental issues in the past.
"There are environmental issues. There are local control issues," Klahr said. "People need to get out and vote and make change for Missouri. They also need to know what the issues are and to know whether to vote for or against them."