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Missouri senators end second day of ‘ballot candy’ debate on initiative petition reform with no vote


After a combined total of over 10 hours, the Missouri Senate ended its second day of filibustering debates on initiative petition reform with no vote. Senators will not return to the chamber until Monday because of the Kansas City Chiefs parade.

Missouri's Senate returned to the Capitol on Tuesday morning to continue its debate from Monday night on reforming how constitutional questions make the ballot. The debate quickly turned into a filibuster by Democratic lawmakers who hoped to kill the bill. The resolution, introduced by Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R-Jefferson County) would ask Missouri voters to decide whether to change some election rules, including increasing the threshold for initiative petitions to pass.

Those petitions go on a ballot for a statewide vote. Under Missouri law they can pass with a simple majority of votes but some Republicans in the legislature want to make that bar higher.

The debate is expected to last into Tuesday night.

The proposed ballot question reads:

"Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to: 

  • Allow only U.S. citizens to vote on constitutional amendments; 
  • Forbid foreign countries from funding constitutional amendments; 
  • Ban constitutional amendments allowing lobbyists’ gifts to lawmakers; and 
  • Pass constitutional amendments by a majority vote in a majority of congressional districts?” 

Coleman's resolution was criticized Monday as "ballot candy" to attract voters because of the part asking about foreign citizens voting in U.S. elections, which is already illegal. Coleman said there is "absolutely" ballot candy in her resolution.

“Everyone knows why this resolution is loaded with ballot candy,” said Liz McCune, executive director of Progress Missouri. “Missourians hate these plans to end majority rule. Politicians are going to try every trick they can to distract and confuse us from their real agenda.”

Republicans have prioritized initiative petition reform for the past few years but failed to get a bill across the finish line each time. The party wants to raise the threshold for passing a ballot referendum -- it's currently a simple majority. The Freedom Caucus, which has largely been the group to stall Senate work this year, has also identified initiative petition reform as a priority.

Many Republicans have expressed concern that an initiative petition currently gathering signatures on reproductive rights would pass and allow abortions in Missouri once more if the process is not changed.

"They're scared that voters are going to make their voices heard and restore abortion rights. Rights that were taken from them in 2018. And I have not seen an issue in my lifetime, or at least my political lifetime, that has been as catalyzing as the Dobbs decision," Sen. Lauren Arthur (D-Kansas City) said on the Senate floor.

Ahead of debates, Sen. Nick Schroer (R-St. Charles County) spoke at a rally supporting changes to the initiative petition process in the Capitol rotunda. Dozens gathered for this rally specifically hoping that changes to the process would block the abortion petition from passing.

"We'll hopefully put an end to out-of-state billionaires coming in to our state telling us how to live our lives," Schroer said.

Article Topic Follows: Missouri Politics

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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