The Missouri Secretary of State's Office announced it had received a referendum petition Monday, asking voters to decide the fate of a law the Legislature passed this session.
The referendum process is sometimes called a veto referendum, and has been relatively rare until recent years, a Secretary of State spokesperson said.
The process to pass a referendum is much the same in Missouri as an initiative petition, according to the Secretary of State. Except, that instead of creating a new law, it is intended to overturn a newly passed law.
Jeremy Cady, representing Americans for Prosperity, submitted the petition, which would overturn Senate Bill 262, and is now open for public comment.
SB 262 enacts an additional 12.5 cents tax on motor fuels, beginning with 2.5 cents in October, and increasing by 2.5 cents each fiscal year until it reaches 12.5 cents on July 1, 2025.
Exemptions and refunds may be claimed by taxpayers if the taxpayer can prove their gas tax has been paid and no refund has previously been issued.
Anti-tax group hopes to send gas tax hike to votersRead more
Missourians may offer thoughts about the referendum online, by mail or by phone. The comment period is open for about the next two weeks. (It's a 15-day comment period.)
Comment forms may be found on the Secretary of State's website at www.sos.mo.gov/CMSImages/Elections/Petitions//publiccommentform.pdf.
They may be mailed to Elections Division, State Information Center, 600 W. Main St., Jefferson City, MO, 65101.
Online comments may be submitted at www.sos.mo.gov/referendumcomment.
You may also submit a comment by calling 800-669-8683.
How rare is the referendum petition?
"Relatively," the Secretary of State spokesperson said.
Missouri is one of 23 states with a veto referendum process.
Referendum petitions and initiative petitions were not included in the state constitution until 1907, after a decade-long struggle.
Since then, Missouri has had 26 veto referendums that reached ballots (14 in 1922), according to Ballotpedia. Of those, voters repealed 25 laws. They upheld one law.
The referendum has been a little more common of late, according to the spokesperson, and the challenges have involved laws that sparked passionate responses in people.
In 2018, voters passed Proposition A and overturned the Right to Work law Republican lawmakers passed in 2017 and then-Gov. Eric Greitens signed into law.
In 2019, after lawmakers passed House Bill 126, the "Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act," prohibiting abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft received two referendums challenging the new law. Ashcroft rejected them, he said, because the new law contained an emergency clause. A month later, the Western District Court of Appeals overturned Ashcroft's rejection.
He approved the American Civil Liberties Union's referendum in August, but the deadline for turning in signatures for the referendum was Aug. 28, and the ACLU was unable to gather the 100,000 it needed in time. The ACLU sued, and in December that year, Cole County Judge Jon Beetem determined certain laws regarding Missouri's referendum petition were unconstitutional and should be ignored moving forward.
The state constitution provides the referendum as a tool voters may use to force public votes on new laws before they take effect. However, laws requiring people to wait to gather signatures until after the Secretary of State certifies ballot language hamstrung voters, Beetem ruled.
The ACLU was left with less than two weeks to gather necessary signatures. The organization later sued and got the law suspended in federal court.
The court battle brought about a change that makes the referendum somewhat different than the petition process. The Secretary of State spokesperson said now that the latest referendum — the third in about four years — is in the public comment process, organizers may begin gathering signatures.
Following the comment period, the Secretary of State's Office will review the comments and draft ballot language. After that, the state Attorney General's Office reviews the language and sends approved language to the Secretary of State.