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Missouri Democrats’ filibuster breaks the state record in attempt to block initiative petition reform


A filibuster from Missouri Democrats past the 41-hour mark on Wednesday morning, as they continued to block Republicans in the Missouri Senate from passing legislation that would make it harder for voters to amend the state constitution.

Currently, initiative petitions only need a simple majority of more than 50% to pass. However, Republicans want to make the process more difficult as an initiative petition on abortion that is poised to go on the ballot in November. Initiative petitions were used to legalize medicinal and recreational marijuana and expand Medicaid in Missouri

An initiative petition is a form of direct democracy that allows voters to amend their state constitution or state statute without going through the legislature or governor. About half of the states in the U.S. have some form of initiative or referendum.

The measure would require future amendments to have a majority vote in at least five of the state’s eight congressional districts, as well as a majority vote statewide. Democrats oppose the measure, but the bill passed the House in March.

“We are more than happy to let this SJR out of this chamber without the steroids of politics, otherwise known as ballot candy that has nothing to do with the initiative petition process,”  Senate Minority leader Sen. John Rizzo D-Independence, said during his Tuesday night shift of the filibuster. 

Rizzo added that he would even vote for it if the ballot candy was removed, even though it would be a “horrible vote for him” to end the deadlock. 

Despite passing the bill in March, the Missouri House added the so-called “ballot candy” that would add language to the ballot asking residents if they want to ban non-citizens from voting and ban foreign entities from sponsoring constitutional amendments. 

However, the Missouri Constitution and federal law already prohibit non-citizens from voting. Democrats argue that Republicans only want this language on the ballot to “deceive” voters. 

“There’s a group of people in the majority party that are dead set on making sure that people are misinformed about what they are voting on so that they lose their rights to be able to bring things forward to the ballot box,” Rizzo said. "They cannot be honest with you. They cannot tell you the truth. They will put you in fear because fear motivates them to get to the polls. Fear makes sure that you vote for them. Fear tells you that they are right and we are supposedly wrong," he later added.

The Democrats have vowed to continue the filibuster until the non-citizen voting question is removed or Republicans force them to stop using a rarely used procedure known as previous question. During media avabilty earlier this week senate majority leader Cindy O'Laughlin referred to the previous question as the “nuclear option” for Republicans.

The filibuster reached the 42-hour mark just before 9 a.m. Wednesday. Throughout the filibuster the stalling topics ranged from the St. Louis Battlehawks, the Kendrick Lamar and Drake rap beef and the movie "All Quiet On The Western Front." Democrats have been operating in three hour shifts with Rizzo taking the floor Tuesday evening.

The legislature is set to adjourn at 6 p.m. Friday, and the Missouri Senate is still on Monday’s business. The filibuster began around 2:40 p.m. Monday and Democrats have insisted on blocking all actions in the Senate until the session adjourns. The record for the longest filibuster in the Missouri Senate was set by Republicans in May when they stalled for 41 hours.

Check back for updates.

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Mitchell Kaminski

Mitchell Kaminski is from Wheaton, Illinois. He earned a degree in sports communication and journalism from Bradley University. He has done radio play-by-play and co-hosts a Chicago White Sox podcast.


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