Missouri legislators trying to repeal parts of laws enacted by voters
Puppy mill bill among targets
Associated Press , Posted by Caroline Rooney
4:24 PM, Feb 27, 2011
5:01 PM, Feb 27, 2011
JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri - Missouri voters elect 197 people to make the state's laws. But
sometimes, voters make a law directly themselves. And when that
happens, it doesn't sit too well with some of their elected
That clash is being borne out this year in the Missouri Capitol,
where some lawmakers are attempting to repeal key parts of
high-profile laws enacted by voters in recent statewide
The House is expected to debate legislation this week that would
prohibit Missouri's minimum wage from exceeding the federal minimum
wage -- essentially negating a 2006 voter-approved initiative that
allowed Missouri's minimum wage rise above the federal level based
on annual infl ationary adjustments.Committees in the House and
Senate also have advanced legislation that would repeal parts of an
initiative approved last November by statewide voters that
toughened laws for dog breeders. If lawmakers act soon, they could
revoke parts of the dog law before it even takes effect this
Some lawmakers contend the initiatives weren't thought out well
enough or weren't fully and appropriately described to voters. They
also contend the voter-approved measures could drive up business
costs, potentially leading to closures or layoffs.
"We have to make sure our state is competitive," House Speaker
Steven Tilley said while explaining his support for capping the
state's minimum wage. "When you have a (cost of living adjustment)
on there, it could lead to a point where our state minimum wage is
higher than the federal minimum wage, which I think puts us at a
competitive disadvantage for jobs."
Yet the minimum wage measure -- with its annual inflation
adjustment -- was approved by 76 percent of voters.
The new restrictions on dog breeders passed by a slimmer margin,
getting a little less than 52 percent of the statewide vote thanks
to a strong showing in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas that
offset opposition throughout much of the rest of the state.
Recent history suggests lawmakers have few qualms about
overturning voter-approved laws.
In 2009, the Missouri Legislature undid a school-funding method
included in a casino-tax initiative that voters passed in November
2008. Legislators said they need to fix the new law so that all
public schools could benefit from the new casino tax revenues.
In 2003, the Missouri Legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto
and enacted legislation allowing people to obtain permits to carry
concealed guns. The action reversed the outcome of 1999 statewide
election in which a concealed weapons measure had been defeated by
52 percent of the vote, due largely to opposition in urban
Bucking the trend toward reversing voter-approved initiatives,
freshman state Rep. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis, has proposed a
constitutional amendment that would make it harder for legislators
to tinker with voter-approved measures. His proposal would require
a two-thirds majority for the Legislature to repeal a measure in
the first two years after it was passed by voters, or a
four-sevenths majority in the third and fourth years after voter
Sifton's proposal has not yet received a legislative committee
But it doesn't appear to have much chance of passing the
Asked if it should be harder for lawmakers to repeal
voter-approved laws, Tilley responded: "No. But I would say let's
make it more difficult to put stuff on the ballot."
True to that goal, a House committee heard testimony last week
on a proposed constitutional amendment that would require
initiative supporters to gather petition signatures from each of
the state's congressional districts, instead of the current lesser
threshold of two-thirds of the districts. Another proposed
constitutional amendment filed in the House would roughly double
the number of initiative petition signatures needed from each
Political activist Ron Calzone, who has led initiative drives on
private property rights and other topics, told lawmakers this past
week that expanding signature requirements to cover all
congressional districts makes sense -- but only if the total number
needed remains the same.
If more signatures are required, "I think for most grassroots
efforts that I'm familiar with, it would knock them out of the
running," Calzone said. "For the big, moneyed interests, it
wouldn't even faze them. They'd just spend another two or three
hundred thousand dollars."
Calzone compared the right to bring citizen initiatives granted
by the Missouri Constitution to that of the right to bear arms in
the U.S. Constitution. Both help people protect themselves from the
government, he said.
Unlike the state constitution, the U.S. Constitution contains no
initiative provision for people to place proposed laws on a
Tilley stopped short of calling for a repeal of Missouri's
But "I think that's why you have a legislative process -- so you
can have public hearings, so you can work out the pros and the cons
and the unintended consequences of passing the bill," Tilley said.
"I think it gets a little unnerving when it's so easy to put stuff
on the ballot.