Senate expected to take up bill to end majority rule voting this week

Assistant Editor

Jefferson City – With the state budget out of the way, the Senate is expected to reconsider a bill this week to make it harder to amend the state constitution through the citizen-led initiative petition process, thus ending majority rule voting in Missouri.

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 the state’s eight congressional districts to pass.

The Senate approved SJR74 in February after a 21-hour Democratic filibuster and a compromise to strip the bill of all “ballot candy,” items meant to trick voters into approving the measure. The House later approved the measure and reloaded the bill with the same ballot candy the Senate removed.

“I think this bill sets the Senate up for implosion, and it’s not going to end well,” said Jake Hummel, Missouri AFL-CIO president. “If the measure does pass, then voters will have to decide the issue, and we will be ready to ensure the principle of one person, one vote is upheld and the initiative petition process continues.”

Republican legislators have been trying since day one of this session to get a bill approved to make it harder to amend the state constitution by using the initiative petition process.

Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, (D-Independence), told the Missouri Independent last week that Democrats are ready to sit down and let the initiative petition bill pass and be placed on the August ballot if Republicans remove the “ballot candy.”

“They know if they have a straight-up fight over this issue, they lose,” Rizzo said in the article. “Which is why they have to contort themselves into all these different shapes and sizes in order to fool people into voting for something that will take rights away from them.”

The two “ballot candy” items include 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.

If the bill is approved by the Senate, Governor Mike Parson is expected to sign it and put it on the Aug. 6 ballot. 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 referendum that will be on the ballot this fall.

Sen. Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville) told the Missouri Independent that Republicans are ready to use “any means necessary” to pass the initiative petition bill. That includes Republicans breaking a Democratic filibuster and forcing a vote, a rare move that typically results in a quick end to the legislative session.

The Senate has five days to consider the bill before the Missouri legislative session ends on May 17.

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