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Initiative petitions related to abortion, prison sentences filed with Secretary of State’s Office


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Secretary of State’s Office has received a bevy of initiative petitions recently, including one related to abortion.

Petition 2020-071, from Damien Johnson, would change Article 1 of the Missouri Constitution to nullify any abortion restrictions passed after January 2019. It would add to the state constitution, “The Right of reproductive freedom [and] to terminate a pregnancy shall not be infringed. … All future abortion restrictions shall originate by a citizens initiative.”

Mary Anne Sedey filed nearly 20 petitions — with four already withdrawn — that would amend Article VIII of the Missouri Constitution, instituting a bevy of changes in an effort to increase voter registration. In particular, the petitions task the Department of Revenue with providing weekly updates of eligible citizens who have applied for, applied to renew, or changed addresses related to driver’s licenses to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Additionally, Petition 2020-092 would amend Chapter 558 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, changing criminal sentencing guidelines.

The initiative petition seeks to require offenders who have been found guilty of a dangerous crime and jailed multiple times to serve a minimum prison sentence of at least 85 percent of the sentence imposed by the court or until the individual reaches 75 years old and has served at least 40 percent of the sentence.

If an individual has once been imprisoned for a dangerous felony offense, the minimum prison term he or she must serve is at least 50 percent of the imposed sentence — or until the person reaches 75 years of age and has served at least 40 percent of the imposed sentence.

The first-time conviction expectation of the section is applicable to all dangerous felonies occurring on or after August 28, 1994, except for rape or child molestation.

“If an offender has maintained the best possible institutional score for the year prior to the scheduled parole date, then parole shall be granted,” the petition stated. “If parole is denied, a hearing shall be scheduled every two years until the offender is paroled.”

To date, the Secretary of State’s Office has received 92 initiative petitions for the 2020 general election ballot. Of those, 23 have been approved to circulate, 19 are open to comment, 14 have been withdrawn, and 34 have been rejected.

Before circulating petitions for signatures, state law requires groups must first have the form of their petition approved by the Secretary of State’s Office. Every proposal received by the Secretary of State’s Office is sent to the Auditor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office.

The Attorney General’s Office reviews the petition and forwards its comments to the Secretary of State’s Office within 10 days after receiving the proposed petition. The Auditor’s Office prepares a fiscal note and fiscal note summary and forwards it to the Attorney General’s Office within 20 days after receiving the proposed petition.

Comments are taken pursuant to Section 116.334, RSMo. This provision allows Missourians to offer their observations on the submitted proposal online, by mail, or phone. Missourians can provide their comments online.

More about the initiative petition process can be found on the secretary of state’s webpage.

This article is part of a periodic update on the initiative petition process. Other stories in the series can be found here