Missouri could start holding public hearings on proposed ballot measures next year under legislation heading to Gov. Jay Nixon for approval.
The state Legislature passed several initiative petition reforms in a bill before the session ended last week. In addition to the creation of public meetings on the proposals, the legislation sets up requirements so Missourians will be able to access information about petitions online, requires petition circulators to disclose whether they are being paid for signatures and by whom, and enhances penalties for petition signature fraud.
Missouri has seen a large jump in the use of citizen petitions in recent years – from 16 submitted to the secretary of state’s office in 2004 to 143 submitted last year.
In a 32-1 vote late Wednesday, the Missouri Senate endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee that Missouri’s farmers have the right to farm.
The Senate changed the original language in the legislation — House Joint Resolution 7 and 11 — that would have barred voters from passing initiatives that would infringe on farmers’ rights.
That portion of the legislation was removed after opposition from senators concerned about blocking the initiative petition process.
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Lawmakers this year have been supporting proposed changes to the way initiative petitions are proposed and circulated in the state.
“I found, when I got involved with this,” said Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa and chairman of the Financial & Governmental Organizations and Elections Committee that helped write the bill, “there are people who would like to make (the petition process) a lot easier.
“There are people who would like to make it a lot harder.”
Missouri’s Constitution allows people “to propose and enact or reject laws and amendments to the constitution by the initiative.”
Read more from The News Tribune.
People who fraudulently sign petitions for ballot initiatives could face stiffer penalties under legislation given initial approval by the Missouri Senate.
A bill endorsed Wednesday by senators would make the crime of petition signature fraud a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of between $1,000 and $25,000.
Violators currently can face a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The legislation also expands the crime to cover petition circulators who use trickery to obtain signatures or who knowingly submit forms with false signatures.
Read more at BND.com Here
The Missouri House has approved legislation aimed at increasing the transparency of initiative petitions that bypass the Legislature to put proposed laws or constitutional amendments on statewide ballots.
Sponsors of the petitions must gather signatures from registered voters for their proposal to qualify for the ballot.
Under the House legislation, the secretary of state’s office would offer a public comment period after a proposal is submitted. For those proposals that actually qualify for the ballot, the Joint Committee on Legislative Research would hold a public hearing.
Those vexatious legislators in Missouri, irked by a recent ballot measure, are attempting to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, which would limit the people’s power of petition. The proposed amendment –HJR 11 – overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives last week. It would allow only the legislature to create laws regarding farming and agriculture in the Show-Me State.
Still smarting over state voters’ approval of strict dog-breeding rules in 2010, some Missouri legislators want to bar future initiative petition drives from dealing with agricultural issues.
The House voted Thursday to place on the November 2014 ballot a constitutional amendment that would guarantee “the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices.” Under the proposal, only the General Assembly could write laws regulating “livestock production and ranching practices.”
The House passed the amendment on a vote of 110-41. It now moves to the Senate.
Two statewide elected officials seem at odds over the petition process in Missouri. Jason Kander, the Show-Me State’s new Secretary of State, just implemented an online program that displays initiative proposals as soon as they are filed, allowing the public a five-day comment period before the secretary of state and the state auditor must complete their ballot summary and fiscal statement, respectively.
In the past, initiative proposals were not posted on the secretary of state’s website until after a ballot summary and fiscal note were written, so citizens had no comment period at this stage in the process.
Earlier this summer, the City Council in Springfield, Missouri, hurriedly placed two charter amendments on yesterday’s Aug. 7 primary election ballot hoping to make it far more difficult to petition a citizen initiative onto the local ballot. Voters defeated one of the measures, Charter Amendment 2, by a 51 to 49 percent vote, but passed the other, Charter Amendment 3, by 52 to 48 percent.
When Safer Missouri Citizens Coalition called for a petition ceremony for its local control ballot initiative on Monday, they were met with citizens demanding real local control.
The group, sponsored by billionaire financier Rex Sinquefield, had promised the support of more civic leaders and elected officials than it was able to deliver.
Two Missouri organizations are working together to push ballot measures seeking to cap payday loan interest rates and increase the state minimum wage.
Missourians for Responsible Lending and Give Missourians A Raise kicked off the two initiative petition campaigns at a joint event Saturday at the Boone County Commission Chambers. The group Grass Roots Organizing put on the event
Groups on either side of the proposed E-Verify ordinance have begun spending money to woo voters, with opponents so far outspending supporters more than 10-to-1.
In a Jan. 22 email sent to Springfield City Council and others, Grupo Latinoamericano President Yolanda Lorge said opponents of the ballot measure had spent about $20,000, mostly on printed material and a phone campaign.
Missouri’s minimum wage workers could be getting a $1 an hour raise next year if a ballot initiative sponsored by the Give Missourians A Raise coalition makes it to the November ballot. The coalition needs to collect about 200,000 registered voters’ signatures between now and May for the initiative to qualify.
Currently, Missouri’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
“About 290,000 Missouri workers would see an immediate raise if the initiative passes in November,” Montague Simmons told the People’s World. Simmons is the St. Louis minimum wage initiative coordinator for Missouri Jobs with Justice, a key member of the coalition.
While many state legislators shy from the issue, an outside group plans to file an initiative petition this month to place a so-called “right to work” constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot.
Greg Johns, vice president of Missourians for Right to Work,’ intends to file the petition with the secretary of state’s office some time this month, according to sources familiar with the process.
Time and time again, Independence City Council members say they’ve heard their constituents express concern for public safety and for an increased presence of police officers. Come April 3, voters will say whether they are willing to pay extra – as property owners – for that sense of security.