Missouri House approves significant changes to initiative process

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April 26, 2012

Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri: The Missouri House of Representatives has passed a bill that could bring a series of changes to the state initiative process. HB 1869 was approved by the House on Thursday and now moves to the state Senate. The following is a breakdown of its key provisions:[1]

  1. Bans any person convicted of forgery from serving as a petition circulator.
  2. Requires petition circulators to wear a badge prominently indicating their paid/volunteer status. Violation of requirement is punishable by $100-$500 fine.
  3. Makes it a felony to deliberately sign another person's name to a petition. It is currently a misdemeanor.
  4. Requires the Joint Committee on Legislative Research to hold public hearings on certified ballot measures. Testimony would be given for and against the measure.
  5. Eliminates the role of the State Auditor in reviewing fiscal impact statements pursuant to a March 1 Circuit Court ruling. Expands the statement to include effects on state businesses.
  6. Requires 1,000 signatures to accompany the draft petition.
  7. Expedites the Secretary of State's process for posting and reviewing ballot measures.

Proponents of the bill argue that it will help constrain an out-of-control submission process. In 2012, 143 draft petitions were filed--the first step in circulating a petition. Of those petitions, 61 were submitted by three groups on just three subjects. This approach allows the groups to poll voters and run with the most popular proposals.[2]

However, opponents argue that the changes could ultimately make the process more difficult for grassroots organizations. The 1,000 signature requirement, they contend, could require small organizations to hire signature gatherers before their petition is even approved for full circulation. Other controversial provisions, like the badge requirement could set the law up for a legal challenge. However, a similar law was recently upheld in Nebraska.[3]

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Tony Dugger (R). Several state organizations, including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry have voiced support for the measure. A similar bill, SB 817, has been introduced in the Senate.[2]

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