Press "Enter" to skip to content

Opinion: True IP reform: Ratification by concurrent majority

For years “IP reform” bills have crashed and burned in the General Assembly, but now there is finally an “IP reform” solution that not only solves the problem, but also has a real chance of being accepted by voters. It’s Rep. Bill Kidd’s HJR 132.

It uses the concurrent majority principle to prevent tyranny of the majority while still respecting the right the people have “reserve[d] for themselves” to rein in government with an initiative petition “independent of the General Assembly.” Mo. Constitution, Article III, Section 49.

The principled solution — HJR 132 and concurrent majority

HJR 132 is the first piece of legislation I’ve seen in a decade and a half of “IP reform” bills that actually addresses the real problem in a principled way.

The real problem is not that it’s too easy to get a measure on the ballot; the real problem is that it takes only a simple majority popular vote to ratify a proposed amendment.

HJR 132 establishes a new threshold for ratifying any constitutional amendment, including the adoption of an entirely new constitution proposed by a constitutional convention, which we could be in the middle of as early as next year. (No other bill addresses a constitutional convention.)

HJR 132 does not touch the initiative petition process, which is already difficult enough, and it applies a core principle of an American constitutional republic: the concurrent majority principle.

The ratification threshold proposed by HJR 132 requires BOTH a majority popular vote (like we have now) AND a majority vote in more than half of the 163 state House districts.

This sort of concurrent majority requirement to establish law is designed to ensure that the laws of the land are based on common ground and the rights of minorities are protected. It prevents the sort of tyranny of the majority that can result from a 50 percent + 1 system.

A concurrent majority typically requires a geographic consensus — something near and dear to the founding generation and necessary for people with diverse views to enjoy peaceable association. 

Most American laws are made by concurrent majority

Requiring a concurrent majority for ratification of amendments to the Missouri Constitution would not be a departure from the norm. In fact, the current simple majority process is the departure.

The concurrent majority principle is behind American mechanisms like:

  • The electoral college — states elect the president, not a popular vote.
  • The ratification of proposed amendments to the US Constitution by 3/4 of the states, rather than a 3/4 popular vote.
  • Even the idea of representation based on districts in the state House and Senate is designed to make sure the voices of people from all over the state are heard. Every law coming out of the General Assembly requires a concurrent majority vote.
  • Two U.S. senators in each state, no matter the size.

HJR 132 respects and protects the most fundamental principles

The Federalist Papers identify seven characteristics of the American Constitutional Republic. 

The two most fundamental of those principles are the understanding that all political power resides in the people (Federalist #39 and Article I, Section 1 of the Missouri Constitution.) and the understanding that the people have the right to “alter and abolish their constitution and form of government whenever they may deem it necessary to their safety and happiness.” (Federalist #78 and Article I, Section 3 of the Missouri Constitution.)

Those sentiments are understandable coming from former colonists who had declared themselves free from the oppression of King George just a dozen years before Hamilton penned Federalist #78. And it is understandable why Missourians added that declaration of right to their Constitution in 1875, after years of federal occupation and martial law.

The problems with almost all of the IP reform legislation

“IP reform” proposals that unduly hinder the right of Missourians to rein in government are an insult to our heritage, self-governance, and everything America stands for. The right of the people to build constitutional fences around the powers of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government must be respected if we expect our republic to endure.

Bills that double (or more) the signature requirement will hardly be a speed bump to the George Soros type-out-of-state interests from which they claim we need protection, while at the same time a true grassroots petition will be virtually impossible.

And a requirement to qualify all eight congressional districts results in any one of them having a veto over even “asking the question,” a sobering thought when you consider that typically 60-70 percent of the signatures collected in CD 1 are thrown out as invalid.

Any legislation that proposes to both raise the signature count and the ratification threshold to a two-thirds vote is even more short-sighted.  

As the Framers understood, government power left to its own devices ALWAYS grows, and as our Canadian neighbors are experiencing right now, it grows to unconscionable proportions. These bills effectively eliminate the power of the people to shackle government with constitutional amendments when government invents new devices to oppress them.

Although not intended as such by the bill sponsors, they are anti-liberty proposals.

A two-thirds ratification requirement would make it virtually impossible to remove the bad constitutional amendments its supporters say are evidence of the need for IP reform.

What’s more, proposals that make it unduly hard to amend either legislatively or by petition also result in a huge power shift to the courts, which regularly “amend” the Constitution by judicial fiat.

HJR 132, the concurrent majority resolution, is the principled solution. Let’s put it on the ballot this November.