Amendment 1 is our chance take power away from special interests, and to increase integrity, transparency and accountability in government.

I got my first taste of state government on a trip from Palmyra to Jefferson City for a 4-H conference with fellow high schoolers from all over state. We visited the Capitol, met a few House and Senate leaders, and had exciting conversations about how the choices made by our legislators could have profound impacts on the families and communities that elected them.

I was hooked.

But when I returned to Jefferson City a few years later, things were not as simple as I’d been told. There are moving speeches some days about the folks back home, but their daily struggles are not what drive the agenda. It’s big donors and powerful lobbyists who run the show. Simply put: our state politics have been corrupted, and the politicians who benefit the most from the current system have made it clear they aren’t going to clean up their mess.

Every year on average, lobbyists give almost $900,000 in gifts to state legislators, their family members, and their staffers. Last year, the reported total was more than $1,000,000. Steak dinners, golf trips, junkets around the country. As a conservative senator wrote recently, “I can legally accept gifts from lobbyists unlimited in number and in value: fine wine, expensive meals, tickets to the World Series — whatever is on offer…. This should frighten you.”

Official meetings are supposed to be open to the public, but there have been government meetings held in private country clubs, and Missouri citizens have even been kicked out of public hearings. The state legislature keeps their own records secret, while expecting everyone from county commissioners to the governor to follow open records laws.

No matter what party you believe, this isn’t right.

The good news is that we can start to things back on track in the Capitol with a constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot this fall. When passed this November, Amendment 1 will:

Eliminate expensive lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly,

Require politicians to wait two years before becoming lobbyists, after the conclusion of their final legislative session,

Lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates,

Stop legislative fundraising on state property,

Require that legislative records be open to the public, and

Ensure neither political party is given an unfair advantage when new legislative maps are drawn after the next census.

These common sense, desperately needed reforms have earned support from reformers and good government fighters across the political spectrum. Former Senator John Danforth, the League of Women Voters, and many other groups have all endorsed the package, which has been put on the ballot with the signatures of more than 346,000 Missourians, from all of our counties.

Amendment 1 is our chance take power away from special interests, and to increase integrity, transparency and accountability in government.

To learn more and join the movement, visit CleanMissouri.org.

Sean Nicholson is from Palmyra and is the Campaign Director for Clean Missouri.