COLUMBIA — Organizers of a proposed ballot initiative that would make it more difficult for Missouri legislators to tinker with voter-approved laws said Friday they were giving up the effort.
The ballot initiative came after lawmakers watered down laws voters approved with a 2010 ballot initiative to toughen oversight of the dog breeding industry. The initiative sought a state constitutional amendment requiring a three-fourths majority vote of both the state House and Senate to override voter-approved laws.
It was largely funded by the Humane Society of the United States, which also backed the dog breeding initiative. Your Vote Counts! had heavy opposition from Missouri agriculture, with 25 industry groups ranging from the Missouri Pork Association and the state Beef Industry Council to agribusiness heavyweights Cargill and Monsanto organizing against it under the name Missouri Farmers Care.
Dane Waters, campaign manager for Your Vote Counts!, said his group was disbanded because it had accomplished its primary goal: making state lawmakers more mindful of the people's collective voice.
"We made a decision that we're not going to submit any signatures," he said. "What we feel is important is to try and lessen the hostilities in this very partisan environment. It was one of those ballot measures that were going to very contentious between now and November. We got what we wanted — which is the legislature to listen."
Missouri Farmers Care Chairman Don Nikodim issued a written statement saying it was "a great day for everyone that believes Missourians should determine how our state government should operate and not animal-rights activists and Washington, D.C.,-based special interests."
Waters said his group had collected about 75 percent of the voter signatures needed to qualify for the November general election ballot but had been meeting in recent weeks with state lawmakers in hopes of avoiding a pitched political battle. While declining to discuss any specific assurances made, he said the campaign felt comfortable in pulling up stakes.
"We are taking a leap of faith that the lawmakers will hold true to a better environment in Jefferson City," he said. "We feel it's the right thing for us to do."
In recent years, Humane Society of the United States and other animal rights groups have targeted not just Missouri but two dozen states that allow signature-driven petitions to appear on ballots. Farm groups have responded with their own organizing efforts, with the two sides rarely sharing common ground.
Waters said he hopes the latest development in Missouri can help heal some of the mutual mistrust.
"There's nothing to be gained by the animosity that has been created in Missouri," he said.