Date: February 6, 2024
To: Chairwoman McGaugh and Members, Elections and Elected Officials Committee
From: Trina Ragain, Lead Policy Strategist, Empower Missouri
Re: Opposition for Altering the Initiative Petition Process and Requirements through HJR 67 and HJR 93
As the largest and oldest anti-poverty non-profit in our state, Empower Missouri is committed to improving the quality of life for all Missouri residents through advocacy. On behalf of our staff, board, and coalition members, we express our opposition to HJR 67 and HJR 93. We respectfully ask this committee not to advance any legislation which will alter Missouri’s existing initiative petition process, including the two bills before it today.
The initiative petition process is foundational to the Missouri law making process and ensures each Missourian has a voice in the laws that govern our state. The modifications proposed in HJR 67 and HJR 93 only serve to make it more difficult for Missourians to raise constitutional amendments for a vote of their fellow citizens at the ballot box.
- HJR 67 unnecessarily increases the number of Congressional districts in which initiative petition signatures must be collected, from the current requirement of two-thirds of Congressional districts to a full 100 percent of Congressional districts. This modification would drastically increase the time and resources required to complete what is already a resource-intensive signature gathering process, only serving to make the initiative petition process more inaccessible to Missouri citizens.
- HJR 93 unnecessarily increases the voter approval threshold from the longstanding simple majority of 50% plus one to 55% when amending the Missouri Constitution. Additionally, it unnecessarily imposes the state legislative body into the people’s initiative petition process, requiring both chambers to hold committee hearings and floor debate on every certified initiative petition before it can appear on the ballot. This inflicts another roadblock requiring citizen-led initiative petitions to complete the signature gathering and certification process in advance of a newly imposed, arbitrary deadline. Missourians can and should be trusted to utilize the initiative petition process without unnecessary interference from the state legislature.
The initiative petition process is one of the most important avenues for Missourians to directly engage in shaping the laws that govern our state. The bills being considered here today propose changes that will effectively exclude regular citizens from accessing the initiative petition process. Please do not take this important democratic tool away from Missourians. We respectfully request your no vote on HJR 67 and HJR 93.