No New Changes to the Constitution in Missouri As Senate Passes Bill

Proposed constitutional amendments in Missouri would need to garner support from a majority of the state’s electorate as well as each of the state’s eight congressional districts, according to the Republican plan. Voters in districts with fewer residents would have more influence as a result.

The Missouri Senate first approved a resolution Tuesday that would make it difficult to modify the state’s constitution, following a nearly 20-hour filibuster by Democrats.

Proposed constitutional amendments submitted through initiative petitions would require approval from a majority of Missouri’s eight congressional districts in addition to a simple majority of the state’s voters, according to the plan that the Senate members voted to accept by voice vote.

Proponents of the measure argued that this would allow constituents in congressional districts with lower populations a larger voice in deciding whether or not to approve constitutional modifications.

The current threshold for passing a constitutional amendment that reaches the ballot is a simple majority.

Several Democratic-supported features that would have diverted attention away from the proposal’s primary objective—a higher voter threshold for proposed constitutional amendments—are absent from the resolution.

Among the supplementary provisions was a clause limiting the ability to vote on constitutional amendments to permanent residents of Missouri and citizens of the United States. An additional clause forbade any outside party from meddling in the initiative petitioning procedure.

Citizenship in the United States is already a prerequisite to casting a ballot in Missouri, and it is illegal for foreign organizations to spend money on elections on a national level.

Throughout their filibuster, Democrats voiced their opposition to the so-called ballot candy, arguing that its removal was crucial to the resolution’s passage in the Senate.

According to Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, a Democrat from Independence, “You take the ballot candy out of this, this goes right through because at that point it is a fair fight.” Therefore, the measure passes.

Republican senator from Lee’s Summit Mike Cierpiot offered an amendment on Tuesday afternoon that would have removed any wording in the resolution that did not pertain to the increased voting age.

“This amendment is making certain changes to the ballot language and removing what we are currently referring to as ballot candy. It is returning to the original, straightforward amendment,” Cierpiot explained.

Republican Weldon Spring senator Bill Eigel rebutted Cierpiot’s amendment by challenging Cierpiot to explain why he wanted to do away with the clause that prevented non-citizens from casting ballots.

“Your amendment has my vote,” Eigel declared.

It is already against the law for someone who is not a citizen of Missouri to cast a ballot, Cierpiot told Eigel on multiple occasions. Additionally, he stated that the Senate would not approve the resolution with all of its additional elements.

I may be one of the few here who believes our voters are intelligent enough to grasp the meaning of the underlying rhetoric. To be honest, I have no problem with handing it up to them and letting them decide, Cierpiot stated.

All twelve senators who voted against the amendment were Republicans, and the final tally was 18-12. After that, the resolution received preliminary approval from the Senate. It won’t make it to the House unless it passes the Senate again.

The House’s preliminary approval of its own legislation altering the initiative petition procedure in several ways occurred on the same day as the initial adoption of the proposed constitutional change.

Instead of approving its own law first, the House was waiting for the Senate to act on initiative petitions, according to House Floor Leader Jon Patterson (R-Lee’s Summit).

For a number of sessions, Republicans in Missouri have prioritized making it more difficult to modify the state constitution.

House Speaker Dean Plocher (R-Des Peres) blamed the Senate last session for legalizing abortion through a constitutional amendment, claiming that the House was not to blame.

That was a point that Senate Democrats raised over and time again throughout the filibuster. Missouri Democrat Brian Williams stated, “The reality of it, this is about blocking an effort to restore women’s rights in Missouri.”

Voter approval is required before the law can take effect, even if it passes both houses of Congress.