Missouri voters could be forgiven for needing a clothespin while voting on the myriad of statewide ballot issues in last Tuesday's general election.
Do you think the working poor need a higher wage? Sure. But what about a 50 percent increase to $12 an hour, with an exemption conveniently built in for government employers?
At candidate forums this fall, few Democrats or Republicans spoke against limiting lobbyist gifts and their potentially corrupting influence on state lawmakers. But the proposed constitutional amendment gives an unelected state demographer the clout to redraw election districts into shapes that would give a Freudian psychologist something to ponder.
Medical marijuana? Of course you don't want grandma to get nauseous from chemotherapy, so you weigh that with the complexities of three competing measures to legalize cannabis for medical purposes.
In case you're wondering, the clothespin is to pinch your nose while filling in the oval for "yes" during Tuesday's election. Plenty of Missourians were all in, but surely other support came from those who liked certain aspects of this or that but needed the nasal blockage because, let's face it, each proposal stinks a little.
Missouri's lawmakers are to blame for this.
For all the campaign ads attacking Democrats and their "California" values, Missouri's Republican-controlled legislature did its best to give us an election ballot resembling something you'd see in the Golden State.
California had 11 voter initiatives on its ballot, covering issues as diverse as hospital bonds, daylight saving time, rent controls and standards for confined farm animals.
In Missouri, we're not that wacky yet. Our seven ballot measures included three on medical marijuana and single issues on ethics reform, the minimum wage, a gasoline tax and bingo regulations.
The problem with handling so many measures outside the legislative process is that voters are left with a take-it-or-leave-it approach that gets harder to accept when you see the fine print. The other problem is that interest groups use them not to adopt good public policy but to generate wedge issues that drive voters to the polls on behalf of a particular party.
So reasonable people had to decide whether a major change in legislative redistricting was worth the price of limits on other ethics reform. When a Northwest Missouri lawmaker failed to gain approval for a reasonable step toward medical marijuana, voters were presented a complex array of options that were considerably broader in scope.
Even the gas tax drew criticism for having Highway Patrol funding tucked into the ballot language, although the state's Hancock Amendment made it necessary to take this tax hike to the voters.
For the rest, many of these issues were crying out for the kinds of things legislators are supposed to do: engage in debate and find a compromise.
Copyright St. Joseph News-Press. Distributed by the Associated Press.