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Republicans look to change citizen petition process

Missouri Republicans are hoping to make the process of passing initiative petitions, such as the recently passed medical marijuana and ethics reform efforts, more difficult.

Several bills filed by GOP Representatives and Senators would raise the threshold of votes necessary to pass constitutional amendments brought forth through the petition process, or require more of petitioners collecting signatures.

“It’s a very sacred document, and it should be very difficult to change,” said Sen. David Sater (R – Cassville), referring to changing the state constitution through a petition campaign. (If it passes,) “You’re stuck with it for good or for bad.”

Sater filed Senate Joint Resolution 1, which proposes both an increase in the necessary number of votes to pass a petition-led change to the constitution, as well as a raise in the requirement of signatures. Several other bills filed by republicans have similar effects.

Sater, and other Republicans, say some initiative petitions may not accurately reflect the desires of the state.

“During primary elections, in which you may only have 30 or 40% of the voters, it may only pass with 15 or 20% approval (from the entire state).”

Minority Floor Leader Crystal Quade (D – Springfield) pushed back on the idea that the process needs changing.

“Missourians did a whole lot of work under the initiative petition process, frankly, because they didn’t like what we were doing here (in the Capitol),” Quade said, referring to the November’s ballot items on raising minimum wage, legalizing medical marijuana and the constitutional amendment known as ‘Clean Missouri.’

“This is the one avenue that citizens have outside of elections to hold us accountable, and it makes me really nervous that the majority party is talking about changing that,” Quade said.

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