When Missourians vote statewide in August and November of 2024, there may be several initiative petitions on the ballot to amend the state’s Constitution and/or its state statutes. In recent years, both the public and the General Assembly have placed such ballot issues for voters to decide.
One issue currently on the ballot for next year is a result of Senate Joint Resolution 26, sponsored in 2023 by Sen. Travis Fitzwater (R-Holts Summit) and passed by the General Assembly. SJR 26 is a constitutional amendment that would allow the General Assembly to exempt from property tax all real and personal property used primarily for childcare outside of the child’s home and is intended to make childcare more available.
INITIATIVE PETITIONS THAT HAVE BEEN FILED IN 2023
Through mid-October, 165 initiative petitions had been filed by the public with the Secretary of State’s office for consideration. Five of the petitions have been withdrawn. Seven have been rejected. Comments on 10 petitions have closed. And comments are being accepted on 27 petitions. 116 of the petitions have been approved to circulate for signature-gathering.
Various topics of initiative petitions that have been filed include: Conducting elections; the state minimum wage rate and increases; earned paid sick leave; a 16-year term for members of the General Assembly (now limited to eight years in the Senate and eight years in the House of Representatives); ballot titles for ballot measures shall be unbiased, fair, and sufficient and to the extent possible shall only include language found in the proposed measure; the right to reproductive freedom and reproductive health care; political party nominees and independent candidates; gender identity and sexual orientation; definition of marriage; cannabis and hemp; taxation of massage therapists and massage businesses; regulating the possession, carrying or transfer of firearms in major metropolitan areas of the state; the right to bear firearms; the right to refuse medical injections; sports wagering; background checks required for a person to conceal and carry a firearm; and others.
Initiative petitions that have been approved for circulation to collect signatures may be found at https://www.sos.mo.gov/petitions/2024IPcirculation .
Sometimes controversial topics such as abortion rights of women and the right to bear firearms can be tied up in the Attorney General’s office (which must review legal content and form of the State Auditor’s estimates of a ballot initiative’s cost impact) or in the courtroom for the judiciary to decide before petitions are released for signature-gathering.
When an initiative petition is filed with the Secretary of State and then approved for the collection of signatures, eight percent of the legal voters in two-thirds (six of eight) of the state’s Congressional districts are required to sign the initiative petition before the proposal is allowed to be placed on the statewide ballot.
BETTING ON SPORTS IN MISSOURI
One issue, sports wagering, has attracted Missouri professional sports teams that apparently have decided to pursue an alternative route in addition to the legislature to pass legalized sports betting through the initiative petition process. It was announced by St. Louis Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III that the Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Blues, St. Louis CITY SC, and the Kansas City Current will attempt to get a measure on the November 2024 ballot for the public to decide if Missouri should have legalized sports betting. If approved, fans could be betting on games in Missouri by late summer, 2025.
HOW THE STATE CONSTITUTION IS CHANGED WAS ON THE TABLE IN 2023
In 2023, members of the Missouri General Assembly filed more than 20 joint resolutions (bills) that would affect how changes to the state Constitution occur, and although nothing passed in 2023, more legislation affecting this topic is likely in 2024.
Currently, if a majority of statewide voters approve a Constitutional amendment on the ballot, the amendment passes. In recent years, the General Assembly has attempted to make it more difficult for Constitutional amendments to be approved.
The bills filed in the 2023 session offered many proposed changes to the current process, such as: requiring 15 percent of legal voters in each Congressional district to sign the initiative petition; or eight percent in each Congressional district; or seven percent of voters in two-thirds of the Congressional districts to sign the initiative petition; or 10 percent of voters in each Congressional District to sign the initiative petition.
Also, some bills filed would have required Constitutional amendments on the statewide ballot to receive approval from 60 percent or more of the voters before taking effect. Currently, only a majority of “yes” votes is required.