Missouri Senate Republicans commit to using procedural tactic to place voting reform on ballot

The last week of Missouri’s 2024 legislative session could begin with Senate Democrats initiating a filibuster, while Republicans might employ an uncommon procedural tactic.

The week will kick off with the start of the debate on a bill proposing a change in the method of vote counting for amending the state constitution. Senate Majority Floor Leader Cindy O’Laughlin, R-Shelbina, shared this update with reporters on Thursday.

O’Laughlin announced that they plan to bring it back up on Monday at noon.

Senate Joint Resolution 74, known as initiative petition reform, aims to present a ballot proposal to voters, seeking to modify the approval process for constitutional amendments. The proposed change would require a simple majority and a majority in five out of the state’s eight congressional districts. This resolution was successfully passed in the House with a vote of 104-48 on April 25.

Republicans prioritized IP reform in the previous session, but unfortunately, it did not pass in the Senate. They expressed concerns that unless voters changed the majorities for approval, the groups aiming to codify abortion in the constitution would succeed. Just last week, a significant milestone was reached as more than 380,000 signatures were submitted to include the abortion amendment on the November ballot.

House and Senate Democrats voiced their criticism of the language used to describe the proposed change, which has been referred to as “ballot candy” by members of both parties. They expressed concern that the ballot does not initially highlight the fact that a majority vote would be required both statewide and in a majority of congressional districts in order to pass the initiative. Instead, the ballot emphasizes that it would grant only U.S. citizens the right to vote on constitutional amendments and prohibit foreign countries from funding such amendments, which are already covered by existing state laws.

John Rizzo, the Senate Minority Leader from the Independence Party, stated that Democrats are determined to filibuster in order to prevent the passage of the legislation. He emphasized that there is no room for compromise in this matter.

According to Rizzo, reversing the negative effects of adding ballot measures to the initiative petition process would be a challenging task. He expresses concern that once these measures are included in the Constitution and the threshold is raised, it would be difficult to undo the damage caused. Rizzo believes that there is no genuine discussion happening on this topic. He suggests that instead of deceiving voters, it would be more appropriate to engage in a conversation about the potential consequences of enshrining abortion rights in the constitution after collecting signatures for the abortion issue on the ballot.

A motion known as the previous question (or PQ) is seldom utilized in the Senate to maintain order and ensure a vote takes place. However, Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, and a candidate for the GOP nomination for treasurer, stated that O’Laughlin has conveyed the plan for the upcoming week.

“We have received confirmation from the floor leader that we will continue discussing the Intellectual Property (IP) topic until one of three possibilities occurs: either the PQ (procedural question) is utilized, we conclude the discussion without a PQ, or the session comes to an end,” stated Koenig, a member of the Freedom Caucus. He further emphasized, “Rest assured, we have no intention of disregarding the issues at hand.”

According to Mary Elizabeth Coleman, a Republican senator from Arnold and a candidate for the GOP nomination for secretary of state, she did not anticipate utilizing the procedural maneuver when the resolution was approved by the House.

“I am not currently planning to motion for moving the previous question,” Coleman stated. “There is still plenty of time in the session and many conversations to be had. I am hopeful that we can find a resolution through this chamber.”

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