As most people may remember, the attempt to make Missouri a so-called “right to work” state was thwarted because Missouri has a petition initiative process under which, if enough petition signatures are procured, laws can be enacted or changed directly by the voter. (A similar process allows amendments to the Missouri Constitution by voters.) Thanks to the many labor leaders, union members, and community activists (such as our friend Kevin Fitzgerald) who literally devoted months of their lives collecting signatures to put the repeal of “right to work” on the ballot, Missouri voters were able to override the state legislature and stop this anti-union law. (A similar process was used to pass pro-worker laws such as increasing the minimum wage and expanding Medicaid in Missouri.)
Unfortunately, this procedure, which is one of the few bright spots for democracy in Missouri, is under attack in the state legislature. Several bills have been introduced in this legislative session to make it harder to use the initiative petition process, by either restricting who can collect signatures, increasing the number of petition signatures needed to place a measure on the ballot, or increasing the number of voters needed to pass an initiative or constitutional amendment. One such bill is HJR 43, which is moving quickly through the legislature. It would increase the number of signatures needed for both constitutional amendments and statutory changes, and would require 60% of votes cast to approve an initiative rather than the current requirement of a simple majority.
Here’s what you can do to help stop these bills and the assault on democracy in Missouri:
- Call or email your Missouri Senator. (If you don’t know the identity of your State Senator, go to Senate.mo.gov/LegisLookup and put in your zip code.) Tell her/him to oppose HJR 43 and any other bill that would make it harder to use the initiative petition process here in Missouri. Consider making some of the following points:
1) The initiative process is among the purest forms of democratic participation.
2) The process already requires a high threshold of signatures from registered voters to get a proposal on the ballot.
3) Missourians across the political spectrum have used and benefited from the citizen initiative process.
- Call or email members of the Senate Committee on Local Government Elections with the same message. Members of this committee are:
Senator Elaine Gannon, Chair
(573) 751-4008; firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Sandy Crawford, Vice-Chair
(573) 751-8793; email@example.com
Senator Jill Carter
(573) 751-2173; firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Mary Elizabeth Coleman
(573) 751-1492; email@example.com
Senator Andrew Koening
(573) 751-5568; firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator John Rizzo
(573) 751-3074; email@example.com
Senator Barbara Washington
(573) 751-3158; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Reach out to groups fighting these bills, such as Jobs for Justice, the League of Women Voters of Missouri (my.lwv.org/missouri) and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition (www.movpc.org).
Please remember that contacting legislators really works. Political scientist and former Missouri legislator Jeff Smith conducted a study which showed that as few as eight contacts to a state legislator in opposition to a bill greatly decreased the bill’s chance of passing.