House sends SJR74 to end majority rule back to the Senate reloaded with ‘ballot candy’

Jefferson City – The Republican-controlled Missouri House has approved its version of SJR74 to eliminate the majority rule that has defined Missouri’s citizen initiative process for more than a century and sent it back to the Senate for a final vote.

SJR74 is a bill designed to make it harder – if not impossible – to amend the state constitution through the citizen-led initiative petition process. The House version reinstated the “ballot candy” Senate Democrats successfully filibustered to remove in the Senate’s version of the bill earlier this year.

“If this bill gets approved in the Senate, it will be up to voters to decide the issue,” said Missouri AFL-CIO President Jake Hummel. “And we’ll be working to ensure the principle of one person, one vote is upheld and the initiative petition process continues to serve the citizens of Missouri as it has for the past 100 years.”

In Missouri, the citizen initiative process has been a key tool in proactive wins, including increasing the minimum wage and expanding Medicaid

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

The Senate approved SJR74 in February after a 21-hour Democratic filibuster and a compromise to strip the bill of “ballot candy” – items meant to trick voters into approving the measure, including 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 of these items are already required  under Missouri law.

The House approved version of SJR74 adds that language back in. It is also included in the House’s own version of the measure – HJR86.

“The ballot candy is designed to hide the true impact of the measure and gain support from voters who don’t know that several items in the ballot summary are already required by law,” said Marilyn McLeod, president of the League of Women Voters of Missouri. “The initiative process is an important part of democracy in Missouri and the suggested changes would squelch the voice of the people, overturning the sacred principle of ‘one person, one vote’.”

If either bill is approved by the Senate, Governor Mike Parson is expected to sign it and put it on the Aug. 6 ballot asking voters to vote away their rights. The proposed legislation will only become law if it passes by the standards currently in place. If approved by voters, the changes would take effect 30 days later.

Republicans are moving with urgency to pass some form legislation limiting the initiative petition process this year to hamstring a reproductive rights initiative currently collecting signatures to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall.

“This proposal violates the principle of majority rule and would make it almost impossible for a citizen initiative petition to pass,” said McLeod, adding it “would ask voters to squelch the voice of the people.”

The Missouri legislative session ends May 17.

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