There is a lot of emotional turmoil within the bubble of the legislature that something should be done to “fix” the initiative petition process. There are “improvements” that can be made to the IP process but none of them require a constitutional amendment to accomplish. None of the needed improvements would result in making the IP process unusable by citizens of Missouri but readily available to those with money as many proposals to “fix” the process do.
This bubble turmoil is not shared by most Missourians. In a recent poll, when asked “Knowing that these proposals are intended to make it harder for citizens to place measures on the ballot do you support or oppose attempts by the Missouri Legislature to make it more difficult for citizens to redress their government?”, 63.8% of the respondents said they would be opposed to those measures.
We are about to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of Statehood. From the beginning, the adoption of our state constitution has only required a simple majority to adopt a WHOLLY NEW constitution and to adopt amendments to the constitution requiring a simple majority. Our constitution only requires a simple majority to call for a state Constitutional Convention.
The SOS often uses the example of a 30% turn-out resulting in only 15% of the people making changes to our constitution. Proposals in the General Assembly would raise the requirement to adopt an amendment to up the requirement to 60% or even 66.7% (2/3’s). Surely those levels would be a significant increase in those approving amendments!?
Not so much.
If the requirement to adopt an amendment were to be increased to 60%, using the SOS’ turn-out number of 30%, a whopping increase of 3% of the voters would be approving amendments to our constitution (18% of the 30% turn-out).
A requirement that 66.7% is needed to adopt an amendment would result in and additional 5% of voters making that decision for all of us (20% of the 30% turn-out).
What these numbers tell us is that it’s not the percentage required to adopt an amendment that is the problem and merely are a “feel good” effort!
BOTTOM LINE: There is no valid justification to raising the requirement to amend a constitution that can be totally replaced with a simple majority vote!
Our state constitution is often compared with the US Constitution and its requirements on how to amend it. Primarily, and especially lately, that comparison deals with how big our state constitution is versus the US Constitution. State constitutions should be larger than the US Constitution as states are the hub by which all government, both Federal and local, are created and supposedly to which both answer!
It is true that there is a lot of things in our state constitution that should be in statute. In many cases, issues like Clean Missouri and medical marijuana got into the constitution due to the inaction of the General Assembly. This fact doesn’t make it right but the people are hardly to blame for it.
Fact is, we don’t have a problem with too many IP’s making it onto the ballot, but “we” do have several IP’s making it on the ballot that “we” don’t like!
Click HERE for a history of Constitutional Amendments from 1910 through 2018. Included is an analysis of the much discussed 2018 IP submittals.
The top half of data sheet clearly shows that the IP process accounts for very few of the Constitutional amendments placed on the ballot much less those that pass.
For example, since 1910, Constitutional Amendments placed on the ballot proposed by the IP process account for less than 25% of the total proposed amendments. And of those proposed by the IP process, over 60% failed!
Contrast that with the Constitutional Amendments proposed by the General Assembly which accounted for over 75% of those proposed with a 53.9% passage rate.
In 2018 there were 371 initiative petitions submitted to the SOS. Five individuals accounted for 53.4% of these submittals. ONE of those initiatives out of 198 submitted by these 5 individuals actually made it on the ballot!
The large number (371) of submittals included many that were very small variations of the same proposal. This can be addressed in a number of ways, none of which require a Constitutional Amendment.
But that’s not the real story on the IP process. Of those 371 submittals, only 148 were approved for circulation. Only 83 of those were proposed Constitutional Amendments.
And of those 148 (83 CA), 5 total (2 statutory and 3 CA) actually made it on the ballot. The 3 Constitutional Amendments represent less than 1% (.81%) of the total number of proposed initiatives submitted.
We hear about the General Assembly’s vetting process. The vetting process is accomplished in the General Assembly, but it is hardly a guarantee that the proposals are correctly written. Every year, there is one or more bills or amendments offered to correct bills adopted in past sessions because the vetting process failed to catch the errors.
I reiterate, there are ways to address some of the administrative issues with IP’s short of all but eliminating the process and can be done without a Constitutional Amendment.
If the General Assembly wishes to eliminate the use of the IP process by citizens, then it should propose an amendment to do so instead of proposing measures that result in the backdoor elimination of it.
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