Missouri officials try to change initiative petition process
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s top election official is asking lawmakers to overhaul the initiative petition process by charging fees to file them and verifying collected signatures.
The number of initiative petitions filed in the hopes of making it on the statewide ballot went from 15 a decade ago to 330 so far this year, the Kansas City Star reported .
The process is getting out of hand and is dominated by special interests, said Jay Ashcroft, the Republican secretary of state.
“Right now, we have individuals who are spending millions of dollars because they can’t get the laws that they want and they want to bypass the Legislature,” Ashcroft said. “I think that’s inappropriate. We shouldn’t be subsidizing that with taxpayer dollars.”
Ashcroft is proposing a $500 fee to file an initiative petition. The fee would be refunded if enough signatures are collected to place the question on the ballot.
He also wants to collect a 40-cents-per-signature fee to help county clerks cover the administrative cost of verifying signatures. The fee would apply only if the people collecting the signatures were being paid.
“I believe strongly there should be an initiative petition process in Missouri,” said Republican Sen. David Sater, who is sponsoring legislation that would enact Ashcroft’s changes. “Over time, though, the process has been distorted to the point where it no longer works for the people, and works sometimes against the people.”
Opponents such as labor unions see the proposed changes as an unconstitutional attempt to limit citizens’ ability to create change in state government.
Changing a state law in Missouri requires at least 100,000 signatures that must come from six of the state’s eight congressional districts. To change the state constitution, nearly 160,000 signatures are required.
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com