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Filibuster by Missouri Democrats passes 24-hour mark over constitutional change

Missouri Capitol
Posted at 4:53 PM, May 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 17:53:56-04

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A nonstop, overnight filibuster by Democratic lawmakers in the Missouri Senate passed the 24-hour point on Tuesday as they try to reign in a Republican proposal to make it harder to amend the state constitution.

Lawmakers face a 6 p.m. Friday deadline to pass legislation before the end of this year's session, so Senate Democrats are blocking all work in hopes of pushing Republicans to compromise on the constitutional amendment.

Democrats say Republicans added unrelated sections to the measure to include a ban on noncitizen voting, which is already outlawed.

Democratic Sen. Lauren Arthur described the noncitizen voting provision as a “shiny object” designed to ramp up support for what she believes is an otherwise unpopular change to the constitutional amendment process.

“It’s our priority to make sure that if this goes to the ballot, that voters have a clear understanding of what it is that they’re being asked,” Arthur said.

Currently, amendments are enacted if they get support from 51% of all voters statewide.

The GOP wants to make it so amendments need support from 51% of voters in a majority of congressional districts, in an effort to give more weight to voters in rural areas that trend more Republican compared to the state's big cities.

Missouri Republicans have been trying for years to put stricter limits on constitutional amendments, arguing that policies such as the legalization of recreational marijuana, approved by voters in 2022, should not be included in the constitution.

The GOP faces added pressure to send the proposal to voters this year as abortion-rights advocates work to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall that would legalize abortion.

Senate Democrats and Republicans earlier this year reached a compromise on the proposal, with Democrats ending another filibuster after Republicans stripped the provisions on noncitizen voting.

House Republicans later re-added that language, taking senators back to where they were in negotiations months ago.