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Protecting Missouri’s constitution from out-of-state interests

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“The [initiative] petition process was originally conceived as a citizen-driven grassroots way for Missouri to change the law. It was envisioned as both difficult and rare. Currently, it is neither. Rather, it has become just another battlefield in the partisan wars driven by national politics and funded by national groups and interests,” said Sen. David Sater at a Senate committee hearing on Feb. 13.

Sater, a Republican from Cassville, went on to introduce his solution: Senate Joint Resolution 1. This legislation would require initiative petitions to be signed by 15 percent of the legal voters in each Congressional district to appear on the ballot. Once on the ballot, petitions would need a two-thirds majority vote to become part of the state constitution.

“Special interest groups or wealthy determined individuals could basically write a new section of our constitution. We need a thorough, yet accessible, process for changing our state constitution, and a two-thirds majority and increasing the signature threshold is an effective way to do that,” he said at the hearing.

The Missouri Chamber supports this modest reform to the initiative petition process to restore efficiency to the system and to help guard against out-of-state interests attempting to alter the state constitution. Matt Panik, Missouri Chamber vice president of governmental affairs, testified in support.

“At the Missouri Chamber we’re always engaged in public debate and public policymaking, and we do think that the General Assembly is best equipped to usually be the main conduit for that process…Additionally, we know that a lot of out-of-state money pours in on all sides of issues that are on the ballot and we need to consider protecting Missouri’s constitution for Missourians,” Panik said.

Two similar SJRs — Sen. Eric Burlison’s SJR 11 and Sen. Mike Cierpiot’s SJR 7 — were also heard on Feb. 13.

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