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Sponsor hopes to hammer out differences in House, Senate initiative petition reform after record filibuster


The sponsor of an effort to change how Missourians amend the state constitution sought a compromise as the Missouri Senate reached 50 hours of filibuster Wednesday afternoon.

It was the longest filibuster in history, having broken the record earlier in the day.

In the end, Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R-Arnold) took the bill off the floor and into a conference to hammer out differences between the House and Senate versions. Identical bills must be passed to go to the governor for his signature.

"What I know is that it keeps the issue alive," Coleman said of her motion.

The motion was approved.

Senate Democrats had been taking shifts holding the floor in an attempt to stall an initiative petition reform bill from passing. The bill would make it more difficult for Missourians to make changes to the state constitution through petitions. If passed, Missourians would have to vote on whether to implement the changes.

The bill in question would raise the number of votes needed to pass an initiative petition from a simple majority to a majority of voters plus five out of eight of the congressional districts. Critics say that could lead to a small minority of rural voters deciding elections, diluting the voting power of people in urban areas.

Democrats are mostly standing against part of this bill that's been dubbed "ballot candy." It asks voters whether it should be illegal for non-U.S. citizens to vote in Missouri elections. This "candy" supposedly aims to attract voters. It is already illegal for non-citizens to vote.

"Including that language in this provision is simply an attempt to distract and deceive voters. So just worth repeating that. Yes, that that is the ballot candy that people have settled on, but it only applies to initiative petition and it has nothing to do with other kinds of local elections," said. Sen. Lauren Arthur (D-Kansas City).

Coleman called the citizenship question "ballot candy" as well, the last time the bill was in the Senate.

A version of this bill passed out of the Senate a few months ago without the ballot candy part. However, the Missouri House of Representatives added it back in, sending it back to the Senate.

With about two days left before the Missouri legislature constitutionally has to adjourn for the year, the filibuster is blocking anything else from moving forward.

Items put on the back-burner include a bill that would have Medicaid cover hearing aids, a bill that would clarify some points on the senior property tax breaks for seniors and a tax credit for child care providers.

Denise Lieberman with the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition is opposed to the reform. Lieberman said reforming the initiative petition process would eliminate "one person one vote" in Missouri.

"The citizen initiative process is really important, but it's particularly important when citizens believe that their lawmakers are not focusing on the issues that they care about," Lieberman said.

Initiative petitions have been used to pass things like medical and recreational marijuana and Medicaid expansion. Several initiative petitions were filed with the hopes of getting on the November ballot, including one that would restore access to abortion in Missouri, if passed by voters.

Susan Klein with Missouri Right to Life said the anti-abortion movement supports efforts to reform the initiative petition process. When asked whether it's because of the petition to restore abortion access, Klein answered, "We're looking at this as a way to protect our constitution. Our constitution is being changed too many times."

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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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.


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