Missouri House passes HJR 79, critics call it a ‘power grab’

 

Thursday saw the Missouri House of Representatives pass House Joint Resolution 79 sponsored by Representative Mike Henderson, R-Bonne Terre, – a resolution that critics say would dramatically impact the initiative petition process in the state.

Currently, for citizens to organize a vote for an amendment to the constitution 8% of the voters in each of two-thirds of the congressional districts in the state must sign the petition. A cumbersome and expensive process, but Missouri has success with initiative petitions, including Amendment 2 which became Article XIV, the state’s medical marijuana program.

After collecting signatures, voters must choose to enact the measure by a simple majority.

HJR 79 would make significant changes to both sides of the process, changes that many say would make it all but impossible for Missourians to enact change outside of the legislature.

The first change would require the number of signatures to increase from 8% of voters in each of two-thirds of the congressional districts to 10% of the voters in each district. That change means thousands of additional signatures are required to push an initiative to the ballot.

Additionally, the language would require a change that sees even a majority vote fail to implement a proposal. Per bill language, “any measure proposed shall take effect when approved by two-thirds of the votes cast thereon.” The new requirement means more than 66% of voters would have to vote in favor of a change in order for it to be enacted.

 

A joint statement issued Thursday, co-signed by over a dozen member organizations in Missouri, called the proposal “a transparent power grab.”

 

Statement on Thursday’s approval by the Missouri House of Representatives of HJR 79, which would drastically curtail the citizens’ initiative petition process:

“This vote isn’t about reform, or Democrats versus Republicans.  Instead, it’s a transparent power grab by special interests and some politicians trying to fundamentally alter the rules — and limit our freedom to vote directly on the issues that impact everyday Missourians.

“The Missouri ballot initiative process has been enshrined in our state Constitution for more than a century. The practical and financial hurdles to qualifying for the ballot are already considerable. Instead of stripping away the people’s rights, we urge lawmakers to focus their efforts on the core issues and 21st century challenges our state continues to face.” 

Action St. Louis 

Empower Missouri

Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis

    

Metropolitan Congregations United

Missouri Faith Voices

Missouri Healthcare for All

Missouri Jobs with Justice

Missouri National Education Association

Missouri People’s Party

Missouri Sierra Club

National Council of Jewish Women St. Louis

Organization for Black Struggle 

Paraquad

Pro-Choice Missouri

SEIU Missouri/Kansas State Council 

Show Me Integrity

St. Louis County NAACP