GOP bill to end majority rule voting dies after record-breaking 50-hour Democratic Senate filibuster

Assistant Editor

A Republican-backed bill to make it harder to amend the constitution through the initiative petition process – thus ending majority rule voting in Missouri – has died after a record-breaking 50-hour Democratic Senate filibuster that made national news.

Currently, ballot referendums generated by citizen-led initiative petitions need only a simple majority to pass. SJR74 would have required the approval of a majority of voters statewide and a majority of voters in five of the state’s eight congressional districts to pass.

The disagreement that triggered the filibuster was about “ballot candy,” items added to the bill meant to trick voters into supporting the measure. Those items included a requirement that those who vote in Missouri elections be U.S. citizens and a clause that foreign governments cannot fund ballot initiative efforts. Both items are already required under Missouri law.

 “We are thrilled to see the preservation of the initiative petition process and the protection of the precedent of one person, one vote,” said Missouri AFL-CIO Communications Director Stephen Webber. “We are proud of our Democratic senators in their effort to stand up to Republicans and defend direct democracy.”

Prior to the filibuster, Republican senators vowed to use “any means necessary” to pass the bill, including breaking a Democratic filibuster and forcing a vote, a rare move that typically results in a quick end to the legislative session. Republicans were moving with urgency to the legislation this session to hamstring a reproductive rights referendum that will be on the ballot this fall.

However, during the filibuster, the bill’s sponsor, Mary Elizabeth Coleman, moved to send the measure back to a House committee for conference after realizing she didn’t have enough support to force a vote.

Rather than discussing the bill, the House voted to send it back to the Senate with the ballot candy intact. The Senate then adjourned for the session without taking any additional action on the measure.

“The House had the opportunity to remove the ballot candy and send it to the voters, and they chose not to do anything with the bill,” Webber added.

This was the second time Senate Democrats blocked movement on the bill this session. The Senate approved SJR74 in February after a 21-hour Democratic filibuster and a compromise to strip the bill of all “ballot candy.” The House later approved the measure after reloading the bill with the same ballot candy the Senate had removed.

“We staged the 50-hour filibuster to take a stand against Republicans trying to take away Missourian’s one person, one vote by deceiving voters with ballot candy,” said Senator Doug Beck, (D-Affton), a member of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562. “I couldn’t be prouder of our Missouri Senate Democratic caucus, and I want to thank everyone who offered your encouragement and words of support during this time.”

Missouri Jobs with Justice (MOJWJ), a statewide coalition of faith, labor, community groups, and leaders fighting for racial, social, and economic justice, called the turn of events a significant victory for majority rule and the citizen-led initiative petition process.

“This victory belongs to the people of Missouri,” said Caitlyn Adams, executive director of Missouri Jobs with Justice Voter Action. “With more than 1,200 democracy defenders standing strong, we outnumbered our opponents 75 to 1, sending a powerful message that grassroots activism can overcome even the most formidable challenges.”

The coalition’s efforts to protect direct democracy were unprecedented this session with over 200 people participating in a coalition-wide lobby day, nearly 1,200 individuals testifying against over 20 bills designed to undermine direct democracy and thousands of emails and calls flooding legislators’ offices.

“The power of the people prevailed,” Adams said. “Our right to direct democracy survived this session because of the tireless efforts of everyday Missourians who refused to let special interests dictate our state’s future.”


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