Senate bill would make petition process less cumbersome

Monday, February 22, 2010 | 9:37 p.m. CST; updated 10:03 p.m. CST, Monday, February 22, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — A bill that would make the petition process more efficient passed the Senate Elections Committee on Monday.

The Missouri Constitution provides residents of the state with the ability to propose laws and amend the constitution. To do that, residents must gather signatures and submit their petitions to the secretary of state.

From there, the secretary of state examines the petition signatures, finalizes the wording of the ballot initiative and makes that language public. The proposal appears on the next statewide ballot.

But Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, said he's had several constituents who are aggravated by the petition process.

"I believe that this process is currently being frustrated under our current statutes that allow the process to be slowed down," he said.

Lembke said under the current statute, opponents to an initiative or referendum petition can file a lawsuit against it over aspects such as clarity of a petition's title, preventing petitioners from gathering signatures during the ongoing lawsuit.

Because there's a restricted time frame between the date of filing and the day of voting, any halt in the process quickly diminishes the number of days to collect signatures, Lembke said.

"Every month or every day that you lose impedes upon your efforts to make your voice or the people's voice heard," he said.

Lembke said the bill would "streamline" the petition process for the offices of the secretary of state, auditor and attorney general, who represents the state in lawsuits. The bill would modify regulations for each of the three state offices in order to make the courses of action more efficient.

The bill would also place limits on the number of days the auditor has to create a fiscal note for a bill.

Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Jackson County, opposed the bill, saying she understands the need to address the process but disagrees with details of the bill.

"I think we're taking a look at it from the wrong angle," she said.

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Mark Fold February 23, 2010 | 9:52 a.m.

I thought we elected these people to pass laws? So now we are paying them to have us do their job for them.

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