Initiative Petition Reform Clears Senate Hurdle. Great! Now Stop Wasting Time
In a move that may open the spigot on legislation in both chambers, on Thursday the Missouri Senate finally passed an amended version of a Missouri House initiative petition (IP) reform proposal. The proposal would raise the threshold for the state constitution to be modified at the ballot box. This development is important for a couple of reasons.
The first reason it’s important is the policy itself. IP reform has been a long-overdue priority because in Missouri, the threshold to amend the state’s constitution is practically the same as the threshold to amend a law—only when the constitution is amended, it’s much harder to change later. Raising the bar for constitutional amendments—requiring a supermajority or some kind of concurrent majority of voters for passage, as this bill would do—is a rational move that should have been done last year, if not three years ago.
Whatever your thoughts on the various contentious constitutional ballot items over the last several years, not reforming initiative petitions has had an irrefutably enormous impact on policymaking in the state. Of course, two things still have to happen for IP reform itself to become law: the House and Senate have to agree to and pass the same legislative language, and voters will have to pass it into law.
But the second reason the Senate’s move on IP reform is important is more practical and political in nature. Reports in recent weeks suggested that the Missouri House would no longer advance Senate bills so long as House priorities, particularly the IP bill, languished in the upper chamber.
Keep in mind that the House finished its work on IP reform at the beginning of February; the Senate heard the bill in committee a week later . . . and then sat on the legislation for two months until literally the last legislative day in April. That approach in the Senate—and response by the House—dimmed prospects for all legislation in Missouri, especially as we approached the end of the session in mid-May.
Whatever the IP reform bill’s ultimate fate, it’s my hope that the Senate will take the present legislative opportunity to get its act together in the two weeks remaining in the session and, rather than (for instance) stop attempts to get woke diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and critical race theory (CRT) programming out of government, instead stop making excuses and start keeping the promises legislators made to their constituents over the last six months. Tax cuts, school choice, transparency . . . the Senate is suffocating all kinds of reforms right now. That can’t continue.