Mo. ballot measure aimed at initiative petitions

By CHRIS BLANK

Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A proposed Missouri ballot measure that would make it more difficult for lawmakers to overhaul voter-approved initiatives is needed to help protect the will of voters, supporters said Tuesday.

Under the proposed constitutional amendment, a three-quarters majority vote would be needed for the Legislature to amend or repeal voter-approved laws unless the changes are referred to the ballot for a vote or the initial ballot measure allowed lawmakers to make changes by a majority vote.

Supporters of the measure said changing what voters have enacted should require bipartisan consensus from throughout the state.

Democratic Rep. Scott Sifton is spokesman for Your Vote Counts!, the group pushing the ballot measure, and said there needs to be a high bar for lawmakers to make changes when their constituents already have voted.

“It should take more than a simple legislative majority to overturn the vote of millions of Missourians,” said Sifton, who during this past legislative session proposed a similar constitutional amendment.

The new ballot measure comes after lawmakers considered changes to several voter-backed laws. One of the most notable was changes to a 2010 measure dealing with Missouri’s regulation of dog breeders. Lawmakers this year approved a bill that eliminated sections of the voter-approved law and a second measure that implemented a deal struck by Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration that was supported by several state-based agriculture and animal welfare groups.

In recent years, lawmakers also have considered changes to the state’s minimum wage after a 2006 initiative petition allowed it to rise above the federal level based on inflationary adjustments. The Legislature in 2009 reversed a school-funding method from a 2008 casino-tax measure after lawmakers said the law needed to be fixed so that all public schools could benefit from the additional revenue.

And in 2003, lawmakers overrode a gubernatorial veto and passed a measure allowing people to get permits to carry concealed guns. Voters in 1999 rejected a concealed weapons measure largely because of opposition in urban areas.

Sponsors of the new proposed ballot measure claim support from several groups including the National Taxpayers Union and Citizens in Charge, which supports initiative petition rights. Other supporters are the Humane Society of the United State and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which were among those backing the previous dog-breeding ballot measure.

Barbara Schmitz, the Missouri state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said the discussion about the dog breeding measure, called Proposition B, highlighted a need for changes.

“We think that the outcome and what happened with Proposition B is a very clear indicator that things are a little bit out of balance here in Missouri,” Schmitz said. “It’s important for the governor and the Legislature to respect the will of the voters.”

The proposed constitutional amendment dealing with initiative petitions would appear on the 2012 ballot if sufficient signatures are gathered. To get a constitutional amendment on the ballot, supporters must collect signatures from two-thirds of the state’s congressional districts equaling at least 8 percent of the votes cast in the 2008 gubernatorial election. That amounts to between about 146,000 and 160,000 signatures depending upon which congressional districts are targeted.

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