Missouri Republicans Aim to Change Initiative Petition Process

Missouri Republicans introduce a bill to change the state's initiative petition process, requiring constitutional amendments to pass with a simple majority statewide and in at least five congressional districts. The bill has sparked a heated debate between Republicans and Democrats, with Democrats planning to filibuster and Republicans considering a procedural move to force a vote.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Missouri Republicans Aim to Change Initiative Petition Process

Missouri Republicans Aim to Change Initiative Petition Process

Missouri Republicans are set to introduce a bill on May 13, 2024, that would change the state's initiative petition process, requiring constitutional amendments to pass by a simple majority statewide and a majority in at least five of the state's eight congressional districts. The bill, known as Senate Joint Resolution 74, passed the House 104-48 on April 25 and will be brought up for debate in the Senate on Monday.

Why this matters: The proposed changes to the initiative petition process could have far-reaching implications for the balance of power between voters and lawmakers in Missouri, potentially limiting the ability of citizens to shape the state's constitution. If successful, this bill could serve as a model for similar efforts in other states, altering the landscape of direct democracy across the country.

The proposed change, called initiative petition reform by Republicans, would place a proposal on the ballot asking voters to change the approval process for constitutional amendments. Republicans argue that the change is necessary to prevent groups from enshrining abortion in the state constitution, citing the submission of over 380,000 signatures to place an abortion amendment on the November ballot.

Democrats have criticized the language of the bill, calling it "ballot candy" and accusing Republicans of trying to deceive voters. "It's going to be incredibly difficult to undo the damage that they would do to the initiative petition process if they were able to put ballot candy on there to seed voters, put it into the Constitution, raise the threshold – that's hard to undo," said Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence.

Senate Democrats plan to filibuster the bill, with Rizzo stating that there is no room for compromise. However, Republicans may use a rare procedural move, called a motion for the previous question (or PQ), to force a vote on the bill. "We have assurance from the floor leader that we will stay on IP until either the PQ is used, we finish without a PQ or the session ends, one of those three options," said Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester.

The bill's sponsor, Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, initially stated that she did not plan to use the procedural move, but it remains an option. "We intend to bring it back up on Monday at noon," said Senate Majority Floor Leader Cindy O'Laughlin, R-Shelbina.

The proposed changes to the initiative petition process in Missouri have sparked a heated debate between Republicans and Democrats. While Republicans argue that the current simple majority requirement makes it too easy for groups to amend the constitution, Democrats claim the bill is an attempt to limit voter power and deceive voters. The outcome of this legislative battle could have significant implications for future ballot measures in the state.