Coalition Report

By Heather Navarro,
Executive Director
Coalition for the Environment

Is There a Democracy if There Are No People?

The General Assembly finished their legislative session last month while their constituents hunkered down at home due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Our democracy hinges on the ability of the public to participate meaningfully. While there were important measures for the legislature to address during this time of crisis, they took the opportunity, while everyone else was stuck at home, to push forward legislation that groups like Missouri Coalition for the Environment would have mobilized against if we weren’t trying to keep staff safe and coping with the effects of the virus. At the time of this writing, the session is not quite over yet so while I cannot weight in all of the finally passed bills, I think the process by which they moved should be of great concern to every Missourian. 

Whether you care about the quality of our air and water, renewable energy and climate change, or parks and urban farms, the fate of all of these depends on the policies that drive our government and economy. When people are left out of the process, lobbyists hired by private for-profit corporations run the show. The process is already weighted against the general public. Hearings on legislation are often announced without enough notice for people to get off work or make arrangements to be there. In our current situation, hearings moved forward regardless of the fact that people were being advised to stay at home at the same time. 

If the General Assembly had limited their debate to important measures to acquire medical equipment, distribute food, or support unemployed families we would all be grateful for their dedicated public service. Instead, the majority took the opportunity to roll back the voters’ mandate for nonpartisan redistricting and argue over the expansion of clean energy through the Grain Belt Express. 

It is in times like this that we must be extra vigilant, because while many operations are slowing down and reducing the pollution in the air and water, many will take advantage of the fact that people are distracted. They will manipulate these circumstances to bypass important protocols. We must move swiftly to flatten the curve of exposure to COVID-19, but we must also ensure the integrity of the democratic foundation holding up our entire system of accountability. 

With the session over, it’s important that everyone review their legislators’ voting records and see if they took advantage of the current pandemic to advance private, corporate interests or if they acted to uphold the will of the people and our democratic principles. 

If you are aware of an environmental threat please use our new online reporting form to seek resources and support, www.moenvironment.org/mopollutionwatch. We are working to increase awareness of risks and threats as they emerge and we need everyone to keep an eye out. It’s how we will help each other through this crisis together.

Learn more and take action at our website: www.moenviron.org.