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Should initiative petition threshold be raised? Lawmakers begin work on bill changing process

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In a year when election reform measures are expected to drive session, the House has already gotten work on a bill raising the threshold needed for an initiative petition to be passed. 

HJR 79, from Republican Rep. Mike Henderson, seeks to increase the threshold of voter passage of initiative petitions to two-thirds instead of a simple majority. Henderson said he believes changes to the constitution should require broader support from Missourians.

Rep. Mike Henderson

Additionally, the resolution requires signatures for an initiative petition to be placed on a ballot to be gathered from each congressional district with a 10 percent requirement. Henderson said the measure would bring more citizens into the process and give rural areas a greater voice in the process. 

“I think we should keep [the initiative petition process], but maybe right now the threshold is too low,” Henderson told the committee. 

The Republican from St. Francois County said the U.S. Constitution has only been amended 27 times. In comparison, Missouri’s constitution has been changed 119 times since the version adopted in 1945. 

Republican representatives on the committee — including Bishop Davidson, Jeff Coleman, and committee Chairman Dan Shaul — indicated their support of the resolution, citing constituent concern about the current process.

However, Democratic committee members were disquieted by the potential for the resolution to make it more difficult for citizens to influence public policy successfully. 

“It is unnecessary, unwarranted, and gets rid of rights,” Rep. Joe Adams said.

Henderson filed similar legislation last year, but it stalled in the upper chamber. The proposal was part of a group of Republicans’ issues they wanted to see the governor call a special session to address.