With the quick stroke of a pen, a circuit court judge in St. Louis has singlehandedly silenced more than 22,000 city residents, who had sought to bring a ballot initiative to end tax breaks to fossil fuel companies to a citywide vote in April.
Last summer, volunteers with the Take Back St. Louis coalition gathered over 22,000 signatures to put onto the ballot a measure that would amend the city’s charter to include a “Sustainable Energy Policy” and end taxpayer-funded support of fossil fuel companies.
According to Take Back St. Louis, the “proposed charter amendment would end public financial incentives, such as tax abatements, to fossil fuel mining companies and those doing $1 million of business with them per year, and requires the city to create a sustainable energy plan for renewable energy and sustainability initiatives on city-owned vacant land.”
On Tuesday, Judge Robert Dierker sided with Peabody Energy (in a decision you can read here) to grant a temporary restraining order that would, in essence, keep the initiative off the April 8th ballot.
First declaring the initiative “facially unconstitutional,” Judge Dierker proceeded to cite the Citizens United decision in explaining why the policy would represent a “patent denial of equal protection” to fossil fuel energy companies. Specifically, Judge Dierker wrote:
business entities (which, after all, are a species of associations of citizens coming together in the exercise of economic freedom) are entitled to constitutional protection as citizens and may not arbitrarily be denied basic legal rights. See Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm., 558 U.S. 310 (2010).
It does not matter what the company is. Giving any of them the same rights as citizens results in twisted decisions like this. By this logic, no city can regulate any business because to do so would deny basic legal rights to the companies.
I guess since the companies cannot vote, it violates their rights to regulate them. So I guess the next step is to extend voting rights to companies.