The General Assembly’s quest to restrict ballot initiatives could cause a clash between the people’s constitutional rights and the legislature’s constitutional powers.
In addition to general free speech rights, the Missouri Constitution specifically states that people have the right to enact laws and constitutional amendments through initiatives, independent of the General Assembly.
Yet the legislature also has the power to prescribe the details of how that is done.
So on Feb. 28, the House voted 107-41 to pass legislation that would impose several new requirements on the people who gather petition signatures. The bill, H.B. 1763, would:
- Require petition circulators to be Missouri residents and U.S. citizens.
- Prohibit them from being paid based on the number of signatures they gather.
- Bar them from simultaneously collecting signatures for more than one initiative.
- Require them to register with the secretary of state’s office before they start collecting signatures rather than before the deadline to turn them in, as is currently the case.
The legislation now heads to the Senate, where a similar proposal already is pending on this week’s debate calendar.